People encounter group work so often in their academic years that they forget that it is a component that can be found in their careers. Team and group work are tactics that many business love to use because it builds upon the cohesiveness of their employees and can present more complete results than individual work. The strength of the group outweighs the strength of the individual, and is this held to a high esteem. It is so valued that potential and new employees who cannot work well in a group setting are often at a great disadvantage compared to their peers who do.
This article will look at the value and role of group work and teams in organizational behavior, focusing on its impact and what can be done to identify and prevent problems. Additionally, the articlewill also look at some of the reasons behind the negative associations with group work and what methods can be done to foster positive team efforts.
Organizational behavior in business frequently features a focus on teamwork equaling success and balance. Instances of group work are one of the best ways that business leaders can analyze a sample of their employees' organizational behavior in action. Many of the other components of organizational behavior are tested in group work, and it can be an opportunity for employers to see what is working and what isn't.
Teamwork isn't just a means of measuring the aspects of organizational behavior, as it is a method of actually completing tasks in the business. In cases where the workload is vast or complex, the members of a team can easily divide the work based on the number of members and their strengths in order to properly complete it.1 Employers look at the skills and strengths of applicants with that in mind; those who are able to fulfil a need in the company and are able to contribute to it in any situation are usually they ones being offered the position.
There are also some benefits that business and employees can get through teamwork, which may not be possible without it:
- Support-Some of the tasks that employees are faced with can be a challenge to deal with solo. In a group setting, there are other members who can assist and support that individual in their efforts.2 Even if the only support the person gets is in the form of encouragement, it's still more than what they would get on their own. Support from team members can help build trust and get fully formed ideas out of a rough draft of thoughts. The team will also help support each other in staying on task, thereby meeting deadlines on time and staying productive in the interim.
- Efficiency-Group work tends to seem more efficient than solo work because of how the assignment is addressed. In theory, each member of the team has their own strengths and weaknesses that are supposed to complement each other; where one person is lacking, another excels. This balance means that there is less room for error in the actions of the group and they're going to be able to put out a solution or product faster than they would on their own. The better the cohesion of the group, the more likely it is that that final product will be of a good quality.
- Improved Communication- Communication is a necessary component in teamwork and those skills can thrive in a united group. After all, employers and managers will usually try to put together groups of employees who are going to get along well and won't get combative with each other. Instances of teamwork are times where members can test out their communication skills in real time in a setting where they can quickly get feedback. Issues regarding communication can be identified in a practical situation such as a group assignment, so long as everyone is allowed or willing to contribute.
- Problem Solving Skills-The reason(s) why the members of a team are together in the first place is usually because they are trying to find a solution to a problem. Teamwork boosts a person's problem solving ability because they get to 1) practice in real time, and 2) engage with others who may use different methods and perspectives to reach a conclusion.3 It's new ideas and strategies that they are being exposed to that they may never have encountered before. The contribution of two team members may not be functional on their own, but they become successful when they are combined. It's a unique learning experience to have and it's one that can be continuous if the teams in a business are reshuffled after one or two projects.
Why Do People Dread Working In Groups And Teams?
There are some people that do not see team and group work in a positive light, and it's an understandable sentiment. In many cases, bad group experiences-mostly through school assignments-tend to sour the entire concept. Even the most social people can probably name an instance where they had group members let them down or a teamwork produce lack-luster results.4 Not everyone is born naturally inclined towards group work and most people need to learn how to effectively collaborate before finding success.
It is also possible that there are some teams that are destined to fail from the start. Group work isn't inherently bad, per se, but it can turn out rather disastrous if the wrong elements are combined.5 It's like a recipe; if you don't put together the right components, the final product isn't going to turn out right. Unfortunately, there isn't a clear-cut set of instructions for how to build the perfect-or just a functional-team or work group. For many employers and managers, learning how to put together a good team involves some degree of trial-and-error. Even then, they may still make mistakes and occasionally put together a team that was supposed to be fantastic but turned out to be a dud.
So why do teams and group work fail? Is there some unforeseeable flaw that worms its way into the group dynamics that turns things toxic? Do people just hate group work? Or each other? There's no single answer, as every group is going to be unique in its successes and failures. While there are no traits that can guarantee a group to fail, there are some that may be disadvantageous.
- Loyalty-While many people would think of loyalty in a group as a good thing, it can actually be very damaging. There is such a thing as group conformity, where members of a group become so loyal or focused on a single one-sided idea that anything that goes against it doesn't stand a chance. This means no one is willing to provide alternative ideas or challenge the thinking of the group, and anyone who does is treated as an outsider.6 In extreme cases it can be similar to mob-mentality, where nothing outside of the group's loyalty can get through. This can be dangerous depending on what or who the group is loyal to, as they may break rules in order to comply with the leader.
- Conflict-Probably one of the primary issues that comes to mind when thinking of reasons for team dysfunction, conflict can throw the entire group dynamics out of whack. When people who don't get along are forced to work together, tensions can rise and things may turn confrontational. According to a 2013 University of Phoenix national survey, about 40% of people who have participated in workplace teams before stated that verbal confrontations have developed, with 15% of those escalating into a physical confrontation.7 The survey results also stated that members would blame each other for failures or errors about 40% of the time and suggested that moments of conflict did not necessarily end when the team's work did.
- Unbalanced Power or Leadership-Even when a team is attempting to work together equally, one member usually takes on the role of the team's leader. While this is mostly good-leaders keep people on task and can delegate when there's conflict-it can backfire. Someone who acts as the leader in the group, whether they actually are or not, can go overboard and abuse the power they have. These instances can play out similar to when loyalty takes over, or it can result in that person terrorizing or sabotaging the rest of the group. They can try to take over the entire project and prevent any true cohesion from developing (except maybe against them).
Warning Signs Of Problems In Groups And Teams
In addition to the disadvantages listed above, there are a few ways that managers can keep an eye out for problems in group work and teams. Some of those listed here may not be something that a supervisor can pick up on at first glance and may require a member of the team to inform them of it. Of course, the members of the group will be able to identify these problems as they experience them.
- Withdrawn Members-As the group's dynamics and behavior turn toxic, members will try to withdraw from the others and contribute less.8 In some cases, this is simply because that particular member isn't interacting well with the rest of the group due to things like comfort levels or exclusionary practices. Poor engagement in the group could also push its members into their own individual corners, cutting down on things like communication, creativity, and support. Managers and group leaders should attempt to re-engage these members and try to be more inclusive: give them chances to contribute, ask for their opinion, give them a different task, etc. If a member is withdrawing because they simply do not get along with the rest of the group, they may need to be reassigned for future projects and/or the current one.
- Inappropriate Behavior-Misuse of team resources, wasting work time, rude comments, or blatant disregard for the other members of the group could act as a precursor that something bad is about to happen. A member or members of the group who are acting according to their own interests and not those of the group could signify that things are not as harmonious as they should be. There is usually some reason as to why behavior changes, either because something happened (i.e. an argument) or because of triggered stressors. The behavior or personality of a member of the group could also be a contributing factor for the changes. If it escalates, conflict could arise and the entire group could implode on itself.9 When such behavior develops, attempts should be made to remedy the situation. Neutral parties-those outside of the group like managers-may need to get involved to act as a moderator as the situation is addressed and any conflicts dealt with.10 Managers should take note if the inappropriate behavior repeatedly returns or continues even with resolution. This may be a sign that the group members need to be separated and that there may have been an error in putting them together in the first place.
- Slowed Productivity-While a group may slow down if they hit a snag in their work, slowed productivity in teams should be cause for concern. There could be multiple reasons why things are not progressing, but not all of them are going to necessarily be bad. Some groups may have exhausted their combined ideas and creativity. Others may simply have given up or are too busy doing things on their own to work together. When productivity slows down, there is less time being dedicated to completing the group's objective. This may mean that they miss their deadline or that they will scramble to put together a finish product that isn't as great as what they should have. Each group should set goals points along their progress as mini-objectives that they should be hitting. Managers should also check in on groups to see where they are at and if they have any problems.
- Tattling-It's one thing to report a genuine problem to a supervisor, but constantly telling them about every little thing that is going on in the group is a different situation entirely. Group members who tattle tend to have another agenda going on and may be trying to curry favor with management or to gain power within the group by getting them in trouble for minor things. This is basically spying and can destroy the trust built within the group and within the business as a whole. It should be discouraged as soon as it's recognized, and the supervisors that are being tattled to should not encourage such behavior.