The advantages and disadvantages of group work

With reference to academic work on groups and teams provide a review of 500 words which outlines the advantages and disadvantages of working in a group

The aim of this essay is to show how group work can be very useful with many benefits; however, it does have downfalls which can prove individual work to be more satisfying. The dictionary definition of a group is a number of persons belonging or classed together, they come about in a psychological sense because people realize they are in the same boat (Brown 1988: 28), whereas the definition of work is a task to be undertaken. This means working in a group allows many individuals to tackle a task to the best of their ability, however, is working in a group actually the best option?

Firstly, we’ll explore the upside to group work. Working with other individuals allows a task to be divided and the work load to be reduced consequently, saving time towards completion. A reduction of problems is attributed to the validation members receive in groups as well as their opportunity to ventilate (Northen, 1987; Shulman, 1999). This therefore allows the individual to focus on a subsidiary area with more effort and complete it to a higher standard.

On the other hand, working in a group can also be frustrating and cause conflict. A common disadvantage that is found within group work is that "free-riding" within the team may occur (Medsker and Campion 1992). This is when certain members of the group do not contribute yet still gain recognition for the remainder of the group’s efforts.

This instigates dispute and irritation to the rest of the group as firstly they must carry out the work the ‘free rider’ has failed to complete, and secondly the free-rider can potentially achieve a high grade without contributing. Furthermore, this can then lead to lack of motivation and failure to complete the task. Additionally, another advantage is that the input given from different people allows the ideas produced to be of a better standard.

This is due to cross fertilisation and reduced bias views. The exchange of ideas can act as a stimulus to the imagination (Gary Hadler 2005) this can generate a greater a level of input and give confidence to other members to contribute and discover new ideas. These varied ideas can provide a high standard of work due to the different perspectives used. Within the group there may be members of different cultures and backgrounds allowing a range of opinions and facts to be bought forward on each topic of discussion.

Conversely, the group might concentrate on issues outside the remit of the training and forget it’s actually mission (SME Risk management toolkit 2002). Sometimes, during a group meeting discussions can be diverted to social interactions and the task in hand could be dismissed.

If control is not taken then the completion of work could be delayed potentially causing the members to forget previous ideas and even wasting time due to the lack of motivation created to do the work. We have explored the different aspects and impact of working in groups and can argue that it is more beneficial than it is disadvantageous. Groups are extremely important in the lives of all individuals (Johnson and Johnson 1975 p1-2) and if organised and lead correctly, group working can prove to be very useful towards the completion of a task. It means more ideas, more input, and more perspectives. References and recommended reading:

Gary Hadler (2005) Solving Problems using a group - advantages and disadvantages. Available: http://www.tuition.com.hk/groups.htm. Last accessed 23rd Nov 2010.

Julia Swannell (1986). The Little Oxford Dictionary. 6th ed. Oxford: The Chaucer Press. p240, 654 Johnson, David W. and Frank P. Johnson (2003) Joining Together. Group theory and group skills. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Medsker, G.J., Campion, M.A. (1997), "Job and Team Design," in Salvendy, G., Handbook of Human Factors and Ergonomics, pp. 450 - 489, Interscience, Northen, H. (1987). Selection of groups as the preferred modality of practice. In J.Lassner, K. Powell, and Finnegan, E. (Eds.). Social group work: Competence andvalues in practice. New York: The Haworth Press, Inc., pp. 19-34. Rupert Brown (1999). Group processes: Dynamics within and between groups 2nd ed. Oxford: WileyBlackwell

Shulman, L. (1999). The skills of helping individuals, families, groups and communities. (4th ed.) Itsaca, IL: F.E.Peacock Publishers, Inc. SME Risk management toolkit. (2002). Group Work in training.