Cooperation and Competition in Project Teams


Joanna Cewinska and Anna Krasnova

University of Lodz

Lodz, Poland



The topic of cooperation and competition in the workplace is the subject of discussions between representatives of social sciences, including sociology, psychology and management. Among researchers there is no clear position on the superiority of one over the other. Either concept can in certain circumstances be effective, or on the contrary, it might have an opposite effect. Although there have been many studies on cooperation and competition within various groups and between them, there is no research available on cooperative and competitive behaviour in project teams. For this reason, authors decided to take a look at the relationships between members of such groups in order to find answers to our questions: how do respondents define the concepts of cooperation and competition (what words do they use to describe them?), have they experienced cooperation and rivalry, and if so, which do they think occurs more frequently: what promotes cooperation and teamwork? Why does competition occur, and how does it manifest itself?

The aim of this article is to present the results of our study on cooperation and rivalry in project teams. The subjects of authors study are individuals working in project teams who are also students of the Faculty of Management at the University of Lodz. Authors used the biographical method to collect the data. Authors asked respondents to describe a situation from work within the scope of relevant information according to our instructions. The presentation of the results of study is preceded by a brief literature review, and a description of the methodology used (introduction). At the end of author’s presentation a summary of author observations included. Although the results of this study are not subject to generalization for the entire population, it shows that employees working in project teams more often cooperate than compete with each other. Their attitude is largely due to keeping the focus on the goal of the team, and the belief that each member has specific skills, which may affect the results of the team’s work. The results of the preliminary study will be used to prepare the tools for use in complex research: a survey and interview questionnaire.

Key words: project team, cooperation, competition.

JEL code: M54      Labor Management


The topic of cooperation and competition in the workplace is the subject of discussions between representatives of social sciences, including sociology, psychology and management. The question of which of these concepts is more effective in the workplace seems to remain without a clear answer. In some situations, cooperative attitude might dominate, while in others, the competitive approach has an edge. The issue of cooperation and competition is of particular importance when it comes to the new, more flexible organisational structures where project teams are utilised.

A project team is a unit composed of employees who, on a daily basis, work in different organisational units, but for the duration of the project are given specific tasks associated with it, and are responsible for completing them. (Дедова В.Е. 2014, Дроздова В.А, 2016). Project teams are characterised by their temporary nature – they are appointed for the duration of the project and dissolve after its completion. They function on the basis of subject specialisation, selecting participants based on their expertise, which is often specialised and unique. It is also important to direct the focus of all team members to the goal of the project, and ensure the complementary knowledge and skills of all participants.

Project teams constitute certain communities, in which interactions occur between their members and reveal a variety of behaviours, such as “they may seek to maximize their dominance over their partner (rivalry, competition), or to gain mutual benefits for both themselves and their partner (cooperation)” (Pajestka G., 2012). In the first case authors are dealing with actions aimed at individual success, that is the attitude of “it’s most important that I win”, we are enemies”, while in the second case we see a different attitude: “we are here for each other, we need each other to achieve the goal”. Although subject literature presents views on cooperation and competition in teamwork within the organization, there is no discussion regarding these issues in project teams. Due to the subject and purpose of this article we have concentrated on inter-team cooperation and competition.


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Editor’s note: Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English. Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright. This paper was originally presented at the 6th Scientific Conference on Project Management in the Baltic States, University of Latvia, April 2017. It is republished here with the permission of the authors and conference organizers.

About the Authors

Joanna Cewi

Lodz, Poland


Joanna Cewińska,
Ph. D., Associate Professor, Head of the Department of Human Resource Management, Faculty of Management, University of Lodz, Poland.

She has over 20 years’ experience in research, teaching and international cooperation, including: Sweden: Örebro 2001 – scientific cooperation, Portugal: Porto 2009 – Erasmus, lecturer, Germany: Karlsruhe 2014 – Erasmus, lecture.

Participant in different projects in positions:

  • expert and recruiter – „Science as a way to business – scholarship program for doctorial students from region of Lodz”, EU funded;
  • coach and expert – „System support management processes in public administration”, EU funded
  • expert – „The dialogue of generations”, „Graduates in business”, „The art of management – postgraduate course for the staff of the labour market”, EU funded; „Ear – Coalition for breaking social resistance: project carried out with the participation of the European Social Fund under the EQUAL Community Initiative”;
  • lecturer and expert – „Human Capital Operational Program” 2010-2013;
  • researcher – „Dysfunctions in human resource management”, funded by the Committee for Scientific Research (Poland); „Personnel management in the Polish business”, funded by the Committee for Scientific Research (Poland)
  • consultant – „The activity of women in the labor market”, project implemented by the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy in Warsaw, co-financed by the European Social Fund

Research interests: human resource management, strategies and programs for HRM, virtualization of HRM, human resource development, development of interpersonal skills, human resource management in sport, dysfunction in human resource management tendencies of development of labor markets, appearance of new professions, knowledge management system in student’s education process. Prof Cewinska cane contacted at [email protected].


Anna Krasnova

Lodz, Poland


Anna Krasnova
, MSc, has few-years’ experience in organizing and conducting integration and motivation training, business events, career development lessons and soft skills development workshops.

Anna Krasnova is Russian, who was born and grew up in multicultural Kazakhstan. After high school, she obtained a scientific grant for studies in Poland. She graduated “Management” study with the specialization “Human Resources Management” at the University of Lodz, where she is currently working on her PhD dissertation. Since 2014, she has been employed as an assistant professor in the Department of Human Resources Management at the University of Lodz.

She is co-author of a book devoted to adapting students to the academic environment and author of a few publications in the field of human resources management, including employee recruitment and selection, employer branding and decruitment. Her scientific interests are centered on:

  • Modern forms of recruitment and selection of employees
  • Business tourism and incentive trips as tools of human resources management
  • Employer and employee branding
  • Decruitment as a human resource management function

Anna can be contacted at [email protected]