What impacts a team’s performance? Professor Rafael Chiuzi from the University of Toronto Mississauga’s (UTM) Department of Management set out to answer this question during his Lecture Me! Talk, titled “Exprocity! The Surprising Science Behind Effective Team Performance.”
Professor Chiuzi’s expertise in team performance comes from his 15 years of experience as an organizational psychologist. He has delivered two Ted Talks and is a professor of organizational behaviour and human resource management at the UTM.
Psychological contracts have the power to frame long-term relationships. This is why it’s important to understand expectations. “Expectations happen every day, but they don’t all impact us the same,” notes Professor Chiuzi. In his talk, Professor Chiuzi references one of his own studies on workplace relationships, which found that once employees understood their manager’s expectations, team performance improved. Employees felt they had more autonomy at work. “Teams that didn’t have a clear understanding of expectations found that employees waited for their boss to make decisions,” shares Professor Chiuzi. These teams had the lowest level of satisfaction with their leaders and experienced competition between co-workers.
“Most people think having good communication is what makes team performance optimal, but teams with lower level performance actually communicate very often. It wasn’t that [employers] didn’t communicate; it was that they didn’t communicate the expectations to team members. Employees did not understand their contribution to performance,” stresses Professor Chuizi.
Reciprocity is an underlying factor affecting team performance. Team members expect favours to be returned. Reciprocity has a major impact on social life—it keeps relationships stable and creates long-lasting social ties.
Exprocity is a combination of the words “expectations” and “reciprocity.” Professor Chiuzi shares an equation to measure exprocity: reciprocity multiplied by expectations equals perceived obligation. In this case, perceived obligation represents the opportunities given to an employee for their good work, such as promotions, pay raises, autonomy, and respect. The higher the expectations, the greater the team member’s perceived obligation.
“Managers thinking they should be respected because of job titles are mistaken,” argues Professor Chiuzi. Team members expect leaders to reciprocate. This helps employers build credibility. High-performing teams operate in a system of give-and-take. Some may ask why some managers don’t exercise exprocity. This is because these employers may not know that reciprocity leads to great team performance or are afraid to try, which can lead a team to become transactional.
“If you want to include exprocity within your team, discuss expectations with team members. People aren’t mind readers,” emphasizes Professor Chiuzi. He advises discussing aspects of a team that people usually don’t talk about before the issues come up, such as how to deal with conflicting opinions or how to communicate with each other.
He also recommends that the leader gives first, especially when empowering a new team member to go beyond expectations. When taking on a new role as a leader, always get to know your team. New leaders should find out what their employees’ relationships with their previous manager were like, whether the relationship was transactional and why, and so on. Asking questions will take being vulnerable and brave, which will be worth your team’s performance in the long run. Professor Chuizi advises team members who want to bring up exprocity with their boss to question whether the leader knows about the concept. He stresses that we must acknowledge that some people will never engage in relationships relying on exprocity. In that case, the team member has two options: quit or become transactional.
But for Professor Chuizi, exprocity is what leads to amazing team performance. His talk illuminates that exprocity does not just affect teams in a work setting. Rather, it applies to any case that involves building excellent relationships, including class projects.
“Expectations are much more than what might happen—they shape reality,” he finishes.