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Faculty & Research


Caught Between a Clock and a Hard Place: Temporal Ambivalence and Time (Mis)Management in Teams

Journal Article
This paper examines how teams manage temporal ambivalence, or the simultaneous and conflicting perceptions of time as a resource, including how much time has passed and whether there is enough of it left. Team members’ time perceptions influence how a team manages time; thus, effective time management requires some collective resolution of temporal ambivalence. To study the effects of temporal ambivalence on time management processes and performance in teams, the authors conducted a laboratory study in which they manipulated perceptions of time by engineering a wall clock to run at different speeds (normal, fast, or slow) to instantiate different types of temporal ambivalence. Using both quantitative and qualitative analyses, the authors found that managing temporal ambivalence effectively is essential for teams to appropriately allocate time to different phases of work. Specifically, teams often misallocated their time by either transitioning too late or too early between phases of work, both of which were associated with worse team performance than transitioning closer to the temporal midpoint. Teams with heightened temporal ambivalence were more likely to manage time poorly following one or more of three dysfunctional patterns: bypassing comments, glossing over contradictions, and following passively. By contrast, teams that managed temporal ambivalence effectively did so through time management huddles, in which team members briefly and collectively took time away from the main task to explicitly discuss how to allocate their time. The authors discuss the implications of these findings for research on team process, ambivalence, and time management in organizations.

Associate Professor of Organisational Behaviour