People are an organization’s most important and valuable resource. How they interact and communicate can be one of the most important aspects of an organization’s success. The knowledge, skills, and abilities people of today possess offer limitless opportunities to maximize work center effectiveness.
People not only come in all shapes and sizes, but they come with different motives, values, and personality types as well. They are individuals, with as many similarities from one person to the next as they have differences. It’s these similarities and differences that make up a group’s dynamic. Group dynamics are the interactions that influence the attitudes and behavior of people when they are grouped with others through either choice or circumstance. Group dynamics is impacted by individual needs or goals which affect interpersonal relationships within the group.
One of the realities of organizational behavior is that we must work in and with groups to accomplish objectives. No matter how much we value and protect our individuality, almost everything achieved in organizations is accomplished as a member of a group. Group dynamics is inherent within any type of organization or team. Individuals are grouped together to achieve an objective or goal and these individuals bring their own motives, values, and personalities to a group. Individual behavior affects group dynamics. Sometimes these behaviors cause friction within a team and other times further a team.
Positive interdependence is an important part of a cooperative work group which can help to achieve a group’s mutual goal. When created correctly, positive interdependence results in people recognizing that their individual success is linked to the success of every other member of the group.
Research about groups is not always valid. This is due to the fact that it must be decided if the decision of a group is of high or low quality. It is also hard to objectively measure the success or failure of groups.
The greatest campaigns and battles were not won by individuals, but by teams made up of individuals. The same goes for a work center. As leaders, we must understand why developing a cohesive team is so critical to maximizing work center effectiveness. How cohesive teams are developed depends on a couple of factors. First, a good understanding of the types of teams you can use to perform the task is essential.
Second, the five stages every team experiences must be understood in light of the interaction that occurs as team members work on accomplishing their tasks. Third, filling the role as a leader and knowing how to deal with team roles and responsibilities to accomplish goals and objectives. Finally, knowing how to identify influences impacting team needs is a must.
A group’s cohesiveness depends on three things; task needs, individual needs, and maintenance needs. Task needs deal with what it takes to get the job done. These needs drive certain behaviors toward the task at hand. In order to meet the task needs of the team, team members assume or take on specific roles. These roles involve certain behavior patterns and are referred to as task behaviors. This is where informal leadership arises helping the team to satisfy the task needs of the team. For example, individualteam members step up and perform unassigned functions directed toward goal accomplishment. Task needs must be the focus of the team, but individual and maintenance needs can’t be overlooked because they influence the task needs.
Being part of a team often requires individuals to work with people they normally wouldn’t associate with. This dynamic can often cause feelings and emotions ranging from excitement to fear. Fulfilling an individual’s needs will be helpful, depending on how effective interaction is between team members. When individuals needs are addressed and met, a team can move forward to accomplish the goal they been tasked to complete.
The last category that a group’s cohesiveness depends on is maintenance needs. This refers to what it takes to strengthen and maintain the team. Maintenance needs manifest themselves in individual behaviors of team members referred to as maintenance behaviors. In most cases, these maintenance needs drive behaviors that must occur in order to keep individual needs from disrupting task needs.
Simply put, maintenance needs prevent individual feelings and emotions from interfering with the goals of the team. In order to meet the maintenance needs of the team, team members take on various informal leadership roles, just as they do to meet task needs. Cohesive teams have people fill these roles, helping to meet the maintenance needs of the team.
In addition to the cohesiveness of a group, social interaction plays a major role in decision-making. When people interact in social settings, conflict is a natural part of discussions and social settings. Historically, conflict has been considered to be negative since we tend to associate conflict with wars, divorces, feuds, etc. However; conflict exists because of two overlapping dynamics: people and processes.
According to Erik Van Slyke, in his book, Listening to Conflict, conflict is the competition between interdependent parties who perceive that they have incompatible needs, goals, or ideas-they can’t agree or create harmony with each other. Conflict arises when people feel strongly about something and their ideas, opinions, or values are opposed. Conflict can also arise when individuals in groups have diverse goals. Finally, conflict involves emotional awareness, decision making, social interaction, communication, and feedback.
There are two types of conflict: relationship and task. According to Stewart, Manz, and Sims, authors of Team Work and Group Dynamics, “relationship conflict occurs when team members experience interpersonal incompatibility; task conflict occurs when team members disagree about the tasks that should be performed and how they should be accomplished.” Relationship conflicts are usually harder to resolve within groups because of the many interpersonal traits that make individuals unique. Interactions between individuals are influenced by personal preferences, opinions, personalities, values, cultures, etc. When this type of interpersonal communication surfaces, it often doesn’t benefit the interests or goals of the group.
Task conflict focuses on the interests and goals of the group and revolves around what and how the tasks should be accomplished. A balanced amount of task conflict can be an advantage because it leads groups through a critical thinking process. Many experts agree that conflict within and among groups has desirable effects. For instance, when deciding what and how tasks should be accomplished, individuals often brainstorm procedures and suggestions and consider diverse solutions.
Task conflict prevents stagnation, stimulates interest and curiosity, and provides a medium through which problems can be aired and solutions arrived at. Groups successfully accomplish tasks when their personality differences are insignificant and they’re allowed to collaborate.
Leadership is an important aspect of groups. A leader significantly affects the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of their followers. Leaders are motivated and they motivate their people to achieve the desired goals. Leaders are people that make things happen. They challenge normal routines and tend to be risk takers. Leaders focus on their people and put them first. A leader operates best in a trust based environment and this means that employees have empowerment due to the trust given to do the tasks assigned.
Leaders also provide a healthy and stable work environment that people need to be productive. When a leader has a vision, it is a passion within to see things through to the end result. The vision can reflect the leader’s emotion about an issue and involves all members of the organization, which makes it personal for them as well. This is where empowering people comes into play and people’s trust levels increase. Good leaders have open lines of communication. When workers know the leader is there and willing to listen, it makes for a better work environment. As stated earlier, people are an organization’s most important and valuable resource. Knowing that, we need to understand the relationships and how people communicate in order to harness people’s skills to maximize work center effectiveness.
Van Slyke, Erik J. Listening to Conflict: Finding Constructive Solutions to Workplace Disputes. New York, NY: American Management Association Publications, 1999.
Stewart, Greg L., Charles C. Manz, and Henry P. Sims. Team Work and Group Dynamics. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1999.
Yukl, Gary. Leadership in Organizations. Prentice Hall; New Jersey. 2010.
Johnson D. W. & Johnson, F. P. (2009). Joining together: group theory and group skills. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson. Shockley-Zalabak, P. S. (2009). Fundamentals of Organizational Communication; Knowledge, Sensitivity, Skills, Value. Boston: Pearson Education, Inc.