Norms can be seen as informal standards of appropriate behavior prescribing how the members of a group should act (Argote, 1989). Social norms both catalyze and direct action in significant ways (Aarts and Dijksterhuis, 2003; Cialdini et al., 1991; Darley and Latane, 1970; Kerr, 1995; Terry and Hogg, 2001). Thus, social norms can be seen as the most influential control mechanism regulating self-managing team behavior (Hackman, 1992). However, norms are multidimensional: they can be described through different content and structural dimensions related to the many ways and situations they give evidence of themselves (Gibbs, 1965; Jackson, 1966; Jasso and Opp, 1997; Marini, 2000; Opp, 1982). Consequently, different conceptualizations of norms are equally legitimate (Gibbs, 1965; Jasso and Opp, 1997). Beyond the dimension of content, norms can be determined based on their structural aspects where the structure (or “strength”) of norms is defined in terms of intensity and consensus (Jackson, 1966; Jasso and Opp, 1997). Intensity is related to how firmly team members adhere to, and the degree of relevance members give to these norms. Consensus refers to the extent to which norms are diffused among team members and show their collective agreement with and acceptance of them. The closer the adherence to and stronger acceptance of norms among team members, the more intense is the motivational force guiding behaviors (Hackman, 1992; Marini, 2000).
Norms can be voluntary and spontaneously created within the team (Barker, 1993) or they can be induced and originate externally to the team (Feldman, 1984; Flynn and Chatman, 2003; Opp, 1982). In many case management plays a crucial role in building team norms (Annosi et al., 2015; Ehrhart and Naumann, 2004; Feldman, 1984).
Induced and spontaneous norms are qualitatively different in their functionality, idiosyncrasy, and specificity of content (Marini, 2000). First, management in an attempt to align the team with the organizational goals may impose norms that are more functional than voluntary norms (Celani et al., 2010; Doherty et al., 2004; Ehrhart and Naumann, 2004; Hoegl and Gemuenden, 2001; Munroe et al., 1999; Wageman, 1995). Second, organizationally induced norms deriving from a single source (i.e., management) rather than from each team, are less team idiosyncratic in their content than voluntary norms. Third, organizationally induced norms are general (i.e., less specific) than voluntary norms, in the range of the behaviors they prescribe.