Success of a Team Depends on a Collective Hormonal Profile

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Testosterone should be high while cortisol level should be low.

Hormonal level, team work, team effectiveness, testosterone and cortisol

Being social creatures people always interact – either in big or small groups, or in corporations and society. Teamwork becomes crucially important in the workplace due to rising competitiveness and higher technological demands, being placed on a group. Research on cooperation, and how to make it more effective, has been going on for decades. Big companies regularly hold team-building trainings and attach special importance to the role of team leaders.

Most of the prior research on the ability to work in a team, socialise and communicate effectively was concentrated on demographical and psychological profiles of a test group. The focus of the research was on cooperation depending on participants’ skills and educational background, their age and ethnic origin, the ration of men to women in a group. However, personal biological peculiarities and hormone balance of team members remained out of focus. Researchers used to take into consideration only a leader’s profile since it is well known and is beyond question that hormone level of an individual impacts their character, behavior, and emotional state. Mood swings during pregnancy or after a surgery, ageing processes are all caused by changes in hormone levels. Scientists from the USA and Canada researched how collective hormonal profile influences team performance: “Just as individuals have a hormonal profile that affects their individual performance and social status, we suggest that groups likewise can be characterized by a particular hormonal profile—their collective hormonal profile—which will influence group performance.” People participating in a research were divided into 74 groups and given a group task – they were to work in a medical lab and compete with other labs. Before the start of the experiment participants underwent hormone tests. Researchers compared group performance to hormone levels of its participants and calculated a correlation. Groups with higher testosterone collective profile proved to be more productive. 

Testosterone is the primary male hormone (male body produces 10 mg of testosterone per day while female body produces 0.4 mg). It controls the development of male reproductive organs and secondary sexual characteristics, growth of bones and muscles.

Cortisol is commonly known as the stress hormone. It is released in stressful situations to tonify our organism and make it react swiftly and appropriately.

The crucial point here is that hormonal profile plays its role in individual cases as well, i.e. a person with high testosterone and low cortisol usually performs well. Testosterone is connected with social dominance, readiness to compete and fight to attain a higher status. Humans and animals with high testosterone levels as a rule oust others and fight their way up the social hierarchy.

The optimal effect can be achieved when high testosterone is combined with low cortisol. Researchers explain that otherwise high cortisol negates the effect of testosterone by putting an organism into a stressful situation, preventing from acting reasonably and rationally. Numerous studies prove that people with high testosterone and low cortisol are able to manage more employees, more often viewed as leaders, enjoy greater respect of their colleagues, more popular in their social networks, better prepared to compete and take risks when fighting for social status. For a teamwork it is important to take into account levels of both hormones, because low cortisol makes us less prone to conflict and teaches to negotiate, while testosterone does not let us relax, as well as helps sustain a healthy competition.

The effects of testosterone and cortisol are still being studied. Researchers plan analysing scenarios when a group’s collective hormonal profile changes its status compared to other groups. Researchers are convinced that neurobiological factors are to be taken into account when putting together a successful team and creating company’s hierarchy.