Groups vs. Individuals

Essay title:

‘Individuals will complete a task more efficiently and effectively than a group. And training in group dynamics, whilst interesting, has no practical value as a means of increasing the standard of group performance’ (Mullins, 2007, p296).


This essay is going to examine the main differences between the work of individuals and the work of a group. The perception of the author of the essay title basically states that there are more benefits than drawbacks in the individual work when comparing to the group work as well as that a given task can be completed more efficiently and effectively by an individual.

The other part of the title discusses that there is no increase in group performance even though training in group is more interesting and appealing. In order to examine these two statements it is essential to consider every effect that might have an impact on the work of both individuals and groups.

What often comes to people’s mind when discussing the advantages and disadvantages of working in a group is that the more people you have the more ideas you have and that the more people you have the faster the given task is completed. T

his essay will reveal that it is not as simple as many of us might think and that there are many complex elements of people’s behaviour that might have both positive and negative effect on the final task result. In what follows, we’ll have a look at these factors and give reasons why should the work of individual be more effective than group work or why not.

In this part of the essay we are going to have a look at how various individual differences affect individual behaviour in the workplace. Individuals in the organization explore five topics which are personality, perception, learning and motivation at work. All these five psychological aspects are very closely related to each other and they help us to understand behaviour in general as well as in particular but also to analyze the performance of work and the quality of working life.

We have chosen to focus on one of these five topics – Personality. Firstly, it is required to comprehend what actually personality is. Despite of the fact, (Bratton, 2007) that any universal definition of personality has not been accepted yet, we define personality as a relatively resistant way of thinking, feeling and acting which characterizes a person’s response to his or her environment.

However, (Buchanan & Huczynski, 2004) there are some properties, which restrict our definition of personality, that are both stable and distinctive, depending on different situations and over time. In the case of stability, we are not interested in properties that are occasional and transient. For example, changes in person’s behaviour caused by the consumption of drugs or caused by some kind of illness are not considered as personality characteristics, unless they become permanent. However, there is one serious issue and that is the fact that personalities appear to be flexible.

For example, a manager who appears to be very loud and emotionless in the office could be a caring and supportive parent in family life. In the case of distinctiveness, we must know that personality theory is related to properties that are unique to the individual and not to those that all or most other people share. For example, a man may be aggressive towards taxi drivers, friendly with waiters, loud at concerts and terrified of spiders.

But the thing is that he may share some of these dispositions with a friend who breeds spiders. We also must know that, (Buchanan & Huczynski, 2004) the theory of personality relies on two main propositions. One of them is that behaviour does not change frequently even though is has both stable and distinctive features. The other one is that it must be accepted they only way how to compare the distinctive properties is by comparing them to the properties of others.

One of the many theories of personality is Eysenck’s three-factor model of personality. Hans J. Eysenck (1916-1997), a well-known British psychologist born in Berlin, Germany, used factor analysis to originate his theory of personality.

His theory declares, (Bratton, 2007) that a normal personality can be understood in terms of three basic factors : introversion ( a personality dimension that characterizes people who are territorial and solitary ) – extroversion ( a personality dimension that characterizes people who are outgoing, sociable and talkative ), stability – instability and self-control – psychoticism. Introversion is the opposite of extroversion, stability is the opposite of instability and self-control is the opposite of psychoticism.

Eysenck created a two dimensional model which he believed captured the most important aspects of person’s personality ( see Figure 1.0 ).

Figure 1.0 points out the effects of various combinations of the three dimensions and relates them to the four personality types (Bratton, 2007) originated by the Greek physician Galen in the second century AD. The fact that the two basic dimensions intersect at right angles ( in the sense that they are independent ) should be noted.

Therefore, when we know what level of extroversion personality has it does not show us how emotionally stable the personality is. The level of person’s stability could be anywhere along the stability dimension. The other thing which the diagram reveals is that various combinations of the two primary basic dimensions make different personalities. For example, as we can see, an extroverted unstable person is touchy, restless and aggressive an extroverted stable person is sociable, outgoing and talkative.

Eysenck’s theory puts in our mind that the type of personality might have a vast effect on an individual completing a given task. Therefore, a company should be very careful when hiring new employees. But on the other hand, hiring a suitable type of personality would bring a great effectiveness and efficiency into the company’s performance.

In this part of the essay we are going to examine some problems that might occur in the work group. When speaking of groups we must understand what actually a group is. A group could be people waiting at a bus stop for a bus, audience in a theatre, people sheltering in a shop doorway from the rain or members of a football team. However, only one of the mentioned groups can be regarded as a work group and that is the football team.

It is very significant to recognize a distinction between mere aggregates of individuals and psychological group. Consequently, we must know what characteristics a group must meet to become one. Firstly, (Buchanan & Huczynski, 2004) it is a minimum membership of two people.

No ‘official’ size has been accepted, and different authors describe groups that range from two to thirty individuals. However, the more members a group has the more relations within the group there are. This fact might have a huge effect on the group performance whereas the bigger the group is the better level of communication is required and the more complex it is to operate the group effectively and successfully.

Secondly, (Buchanan & Huczynski, 2004) every single member of the group must be able to communicate with every other member. In case of not meeting this criterion there might be some very serious problems in completing a given task. For example, if there was a group of three members and one member would not communicate with one of the other two members, the efficiency of the group performance would be hardly decreased.

Thirdly, (Buchanan & Huczynski, 2004) members must have a shared sense of collective identity. Each member must be associated with the other members, not see him or herself as a individual working independently and at the same time all members must believe themselves in order to distinct the group from other groups. Failing to meet this criterion might cause a very negative impact on completing a task.

For example, if one group member do not believe in some of the other member it might cause a tension between the members or it might make the disbelieving member work independently and again decrease the efficiency of the group performance.

Fourthly, (Buchanan & Huczynski, 2004) members must have complementary goals. Each member of a group may have different goals which can be achieved only by membership of and participation in the group. Fifthly, (Buchanan & Huczynski, 2004) a group must have a structure. Every member of the group will have a different role, for example initiator, suggestion-provider, compromiser and etc.

These roles tend to become fixed and indicate what members expect from each other. This criterion can be met only by following certain norms or rules. We believe that this is the most fragile part of work groups. Some people believe that rules are made to be broken and tend not to follow them. This can as well as the other criteria have a vast impact on the group performance.

This part of the essay is going to be related to the statement that training in group dynamics, whilst interesting, has no practical value as a means of increasing the standard of group performance. First of all, we must gain knowledge of the term group dynamics. Group dynamics (Bratton, 2007) is the study of human behaviour in groups.

The nature of groups, group development and the interrelations between individuals and group, other groups and other elements of formal organizations are included in this study. We have four major factors (Bratton, 2007) that influence group dynamics, but be aware that these factors does not attempt to create a theory of group dynamics, nor these factors can be applied to every type of group. These four elements are group context, group structure, group processes and group outcomes.

We will have a closer look at the group structure. The group structure has a crucial role in group dynamics. It influences the way members relate and interact with each other and it also enable us to explain individual behaviour within the group. Without any doubt all of us have at least once found ourselves in a group. We know that group members within a group are not equal, do not have the same knowledge, have different perceptions and have different skills and abilities.

This is where the differentiation takes place and where social relations are formed. According to Bratton (2007, p.303) the group structure is the stable pattern of relationships among the differentiated elements in the group. Size of the group along other factors such as roles, status and leadership plays very important role in differentiation of a group. As we have mentioned earlier the more people you have in a group the more relationships there are and the more relationships there are the more likely a conflict might occur.

For example, a group of three has three relationships, a group of four has six relationships and a group of seven has however 21 relationships. A big problem that might occur in a group is when a group has numerous members coalitions might intervene which means that some members align themselves against other group members.

In conclusion, we agree

Reference list

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Clegg S., Hardy C. and Nord W. (1999) Managing Organizations, Thousand Oaks, CA, Sage publications

Cottrell S. (2003) The Study Skills Handbook, 2nd edition, Hampshire, Pelgrave

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Houston G. (1993) The Red Book of Groups, Norfolk, The Rochester Foundation

Huczynski A., Buchanan D. (1991) Organizational Behaviour, 2nd edition, Hertfordshire, Prentice Hall

Huczynski A., Buchanan D. (2004) Organizational Behaviour, 5th edition, London, Prentice Hall