We Want a Team Player: A Formative Cross-Cultural Investigation in the United States, China, and South Korea
team player, cultural difference, team, team member roles
The term “team player” originated in a Western cultural context and can be summarized in the form of five task and two social roles. Yet, can these roles be replicated outside of a U.S. context and will their endorsement vary across cultures and employment status? To answer this exploratory question, we collected data from a total of 483 participants comprising 269 U.S. Americans, 110 Chinese, and 104 Koreans. Participants were asked to describe a team player in their native languages. Three coders per cultural group found more than 3,000 coding units based on the seven predetermined team player roles. The results, based on chi-square tests, show that participants from all three cultural groups consider a team player’s responsibilities to be multidimensional, possessing both task competencies and social skills. Nevertheless, the extent to which each culture emphasizes these two dimensions differs. Both U.S. American and Chinese participants prefer a balance between task roles and social roles, whereas Korean participants prioritize task roles over social roles. These findings provide empirical evidence that across the three cultural groups, broadly the same roles are expected of a team player; however, the U.S. and Chinese understandings were more similar than across the two Asian samples, questioning the often simplistic view of Asian cultures as being homogeneous and of Western and Asian cultures being at different ends of a spectrum of difference. Finally, findings suggest that incorporating explicit discussion about what being a team player entails is a necessary step in multicultural workplaces.
Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology