From The Economic Journal:
Leonie Gerhards, Michael Kosfeld
The Economic Journal, Volume 130, Issue 627, April 2020, Pages 716–739, https://doi.org/10.1093/ej/uez067
We study the effect of likeability on women’s and men’s team behaviour in a lab experiment. Extending a two-player public goods game and a minimum effort game by an additional pre-play stage that informs team members about their mutual likeability, we find that female teams lower their contribution to the public good in the event of low likeability, while male teams achieve high levels of co-operation irrespective of the level of mutual likeability. In mixed-sex teams, both women’s and men’s contributions depend on mutual likeability. Similar results are found in the minimum effort game. Our results offer a new perspective on gender differences in labour market outcomes: mutual dislikeability impedes team behaviour, except in all-male teams.
Baseball teams seem to get along okay without the players liking each other much, although I can’t think of how to test this question with data. To cite my go-to example, the late 1970s New York Yankees were constant tabloid fodder of public feuds among owner George Steinbrenner, manager Billy Martin, and stars Reggie Jackson and Thurman Munson. (Donald Trump learned a lesson about no-such-thing-as-bad-publicity from Steinbrenner’s 1970s Yankees.) The Los Angeles Dodgers’ brass tried to keep locker room tensions hushed up, but they were, apparently, pretty bad too. But the two teams made it to the 1977 and 1978 World Series.
That history helps explain the otherwise curious vote to give Willie Stargell, age 39 and fat, the National League Most Valuable Player award in 1979 (in a tie with Keith Hernandez). By modern stats, Willie was only the 9th best player on the World Champion Pittsburgh Pirates that year, but he was a good team-building influence in the clubhouse, famously playing “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge on his boombox. Stargell’s MVP award only makes sense as a reaction by sportswriters to the poisonous atmosphere on the previously dominant teams.
The Pirates faded after that season, in part due to cocaine problems. Maybe the team that parties together drops down the standings together?
There have been a lot of players who were disliked by teammates because they let their bad personalities interfere with their play on the field. They usually don’t last that long, at least not with one team. On the other hand, there have been players who were not nice guys who always played at the highest level of individual achievement, such as Ty Cobb and Barry Bonds. Perhaps Reggie Jackson won the most World Series, five, while being obnoxious.