Metaphors and meaning: An intercultural analysis of the concept of teamwork

Cristina B. Gibson, Mary E. Zellmer-Bruhn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

209 Scopus citations


This paper develops a conceptual framework to explain different understandings of the concept of teamwork across national and organizational cultures. Five different metaphors for teamwork (military, sports, community, family, and associates) were derived from the language team members used during interviews in four different geographic locations of six multinational corporations. Results indicated that use of the teamwork metaphors varies across countries and organizations, after controlling for gender, team function, and total words in an interview. Analyses of specific relationships between national cultural values and categories of metaphor use and between dimensions of organizational culture and categories of metaphor use revealed patterns of expectations about team roles, scope, membership, and objectives that arise in different cultural contexts. We discuss the implications of this variance for future research on teams and the management of teams in multinational organizations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)274-303
Number of pages30
JournalAdministrative Science Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2001


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