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When two people work closely together to perform a task interdependently, do the emotions they elicit in each other matter for their joint performance? If so, which emotions matter most, and does performance itself affect which emotions arise? Our study discovers the unique role of relational tension in dyads as an antecedent and an outcome of joint task performance. We analyzed longitudinal archival and survey data on surgeons working in dyads to execute visceral surgeries, with a sample including 1,315 surgeries conducted before the relational survey, and 475 surgeries afterward. Of all forms of relational affect we considered—how relaxed, excited, alert, nervous, tense, or lethargic surgeons felt when working with each other—we found that only relational tension predicted subsequent surgery performance. Regarding the antecedents of relational affect, the past performance of a surgeon dyad explained only relational tension. But not all forms of past performance mattered. Only having experienced performance peaks lowered relational tension, while performance valleys and averages had no effect. No form of positive relational affect had a discernible role as either an antecedent or an outcome of joint performance. These findings chart new territory on the affect–performance link, with implications for management theory and practice.

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