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Objective

This research addresses the effect of interruptions on task groups; interactions and individual group members’ feelings about the task and the group itself. The interruptions that we consider are not generated from within the group, but have their source outside the group. Emphasizing the theories of structural ritualization, relational cohesion, and productive exchange, we predict that interruptions that have positive, negative, or neutral effects on the group all cause problems with the resolution of routine.

Methods

We design and conduct a four-condition experiment to test our predictions.

Results

There was more stability in group procedures when there was no interruption than when there was any kind of interruption. There were no differences in efficiency or activities between positive and negative interruptions. However, there were more agreements in positive interruption groups than in negative interruption groups. Additionally, group members’ perceptions varied by the type of interruption: those in positively interrupted groups reported higher levels of competence and feelings of success.

Conclusions

We find that interruption, in and of itself, creates problems with resumption of group processes. Whether the interruption is positive or negative, however, does create interaction differences and differences in group members’ perceptions and affect related to the group and each other.