Group Dynamics


Group Dynamics Essay, Research Paper

The group I have decided to closely examine, is the group I encounter every day at work Altogether there is only four of us; David is our boss (he is a lawyer), Paul who is also a lawyer but works under David, Mary is the paralegal and Erica is the secretary. We have been together a little shy of a year. Over the course of this past year there have been many changes. I was hoping to look closely at the structure of this group and the changing aspects of it, mainly the cohesion.

To start I would like to explain how the group first worked, the individuals in this group and their roles. Most of the roles have prevailed, but because of the development of our group, and the increased cohesion, some of our roles have changed.

David should defiantly play the role of task orientation, and for the most part he does. He has this fear of being too bossy and tries not to demand too much. He leaves the details up to Mary, and however we wants to accomplish something he tries not to interfere. David is one of the stronger information givers of the group, but that is why we are a team, no one in the group knows how to do everything necessary to finish a project. David knows the law and the rules of the court. He isn’t too big on details because both Mary and Paul will pick up where he leaves off. Anything that is related to the client’s information, Erica has the appropriate information for doing that. David rarely plays any socioemotional roles. He tries to play the gatekeeper by attempting to keep equal participation, but the truth of the matter is that he is not usually around. Most of his mornings are spent in court and his afternoons consist of work in the field (he is a real estate lawyer so he often goes out to look at property or over see homes he or one of his client’s are having built) or desk work which he gets so engulfed in, he doesn’t know what is going on in the office. Every now and then though, he plays the playboy role and just spends the day “out in the field” or home.

Paul is the information seeker and information giver. He has no time for any socioemotional roles, although he loves to be recognized for his work. He has no interest in the other people or their roles, until he wants something. Unfortunately, he played the dominator for quite some time. He was happy to pick up where David left off, in as far as authority, but his lack of interest kept him at a far enough distance so as not to create any enemies.

Mary is the recorder. She is the last person to see the legal documents before they leave the office and must make sure everything is correct and all the necessary people have a copy. I think that just being a woman and a mother lead her to play a few socioemotional roles. She is big on encouraging the group through tough projects and setting standards.

Erica, I feel, has played the most roles. Not all at one time, but through the course of the year she has fit into a couple roles. The biggest factor being that she was the last one to enter the group. Erica played a lot of socioemotional roles because that is where the lack was. Initially she played the follower role, just accepting the environment and observing the details, kind of “going with the flow”. She slowly came to play the harmonizer and the compromiser because she could. The other three were set in their ways and didn’t want to hear otherwise, among themselves or with her.

Most of the socioemotional roles became descriptive norms. It was Erica’s responsibility to mediate when a problem arose between people in the group. As a result of David not usually being in the office, somewhere along the line, lunch became one and a half hours. No one would ever say anything to an individual who came back late from lunch because they knew they too wanted a longer lunch. This would never go if David was in in the morning. That is where this becomes an injunctive norm. If someone did come back late after David had been in work that morning, there would be obvious hostility between the three members directed toward the late person. Anything that was acceptable when David was out, was not when he was in the office. For example, when David was out, no one really spoke, everyone would tend to their own work. However, when David came in you would find Paul talking to Mary (usually not even about the task on hand) just to look as if he were interested.

It has been very clear how we have worked through the five steps of group development, which is so necessary for our survival as a group and keep production on a high enough level.

The orientation (forming) stage seemed to last the longest because we were almost always missing one member of the group. That is why Erica played the follower at first. She was put into a situation that has already existed without her. Even though she was an important part of the group, she still needed to see how the group worked and work her way in. Everyone was very polite and worked very nicely together. Even Paul was interested in the others work. During this time David was usually around, he worked diligently but kept an open ear of what was going on in the office. He made sure everyone knew what their job was and that they were happily on task. Mary stayed by Erica’s side to make sure she understood her responsibilities. She worked very closely with Erica until she knew the flow of the office. Showing her where all work ended up, how we filed all the clients, how the information was stored on the computers, and so on. Paul took time to explain to Erica and Mary what cases he was working on and some of the interesting facts he had unvailed. He would bring Erica with him to the courthouse so she could witness the process of the papers they would file in the future. Everyone seemed to want to work together.

It wasn’t until the conflict (storming) stage took place that true colors started to show. David started to disappear through out the day, and when he was in he didn’t have much to say unless he needed something. It was too early for the others to start going to him with problems. Paul and Mary could not get along. Paul decided he wanted Mary as a personal assistant, and Mary wanted no part of it. She worked for David and worked with Paul. Paul wanted to get the material necessary and put it into the correct order but he wanted Mary to perfect it. He didn’t want to be bothered by little details like sentence structure or courtbacks. Mary was left, at first, with role ambiguity. Her job was to take care of little details but things that were missed not things purposely not done. Mary started to refuse to do his work for him. She would get herself so overwhelmed with this increase of work that she would just not do it. This is when Erica tried to play the mediator. She would work with one and than the other trying to keep the away from direct contact. Work had become very isolated, Mary didn’t know what Paul was working on until he gave her his work. This was wasting a lot of time. Eventually, David had to be brought into the situation to clear up responsibilities (clarify group goals).

This brings us to the structural (norming) stage. At this point David had to layout the rules and responsibilities. From there, the rest of the group made their own. For example, David had broken down the work and told everyone what they were responsible for, when they would take lunch and how he was going to deal with a problem like this if it occurred again. The group stuck to his order quite closely at first, but we slowly brought it to a level that we were all comfortable at. David had told Paul that he was to give Mary his best work, that she was there to catch David’s mistakes not Paul’s. He told Mary that whether Paul is actually a good writer didn’t matter because it was her responsibility to make sure the courts will accept the material. Erica was given the responsibility of getting everything necessary to client’s and keeping the office organized, but without saying it, she was given the duty of keeping Paul and Mary in-line. After about a week of following his orders, they started to settle into their own regime, knowing that if they step on anyone’s toes they could lose their jobs. Mary started picking up some of Paul’s slack and Paul made sure his work was up to a certain level before it left his office. Now they were overlapping, doing a little extra on each end which was bringing them together. When Erica was added to the mix, a friendly tone appeared. They were now doing work at the same time. If Paul started a project he told Mary and Erica what he was doing to they could all work on it. This way they would finish about the same time and one project could be finished in less than a day. The communication level increased as well as the comfort level.

As a result of this ability to work together, the group was clearly at the working (performing) stage. Now that everyone was working together and on the same project, there was more added to the group. They could discuss any problems with the project and move on. While working through the project, I noticed everyone working on a personal level. There was small talk at first, than more personal conversation. Before long they were able to discuss life and issues in their everyday lives as well a finish a project in a third the time it would have taken them during the conflict stage. Without any intentions, the work group was meeting up outside of the office at different functions, and enjoying each other’s company. However, the most important aspect was never lost, production. Because production was so high, both Mary and Erica had the opportunity to really learn about the law. Everyone started gaining in so many different ways.

They haven’t really reached the dissolution (adjourning) stage, mainly because they make such a good team. There had been a few different Erica’s and Mary’s within this group, but they seemed to reach the dissolution stage too soon.

Since cohesion is multidimensional, I wanted to examine the different aspect of cohesion and how they apply to this group. Cohesion, in this case, is definitely a social force. Cohesion is the aspect that was keeping them together, and helping them work with one another.

It was obvious that they were working in group unity. They constantly spoke of themselves as a team. If one was out for the day, the entire office seemed to go on hold. Everyone’s job was important to the group and its production. The had working as a team down to a science, where they could reach new levels between each other without hindering their production. Which would also apply to the teamwork aspect of cohesion.

I think the group had both personal and social attraction between its members. Everyone seemed to have their own relationship with each member after sometime. As a group we all had relationships with one another. Their separate relationships were possible because they had developed a liking for each other as a part of a group. This was the point where I had the courage to do a sociogram. If you look at appendix A you can see that I asked two questions (at separate occasions). First I asked who you feel you work the best with. Than I asked who you liked the best. I found it very interesting that everyone felt they worked the best with the person closest to their level. Paul chose David, and David chose Paul, likewise, Erica chose Mary and Mary chose Erica. Take into consideration that David and Paul do very similar work and a Mary and Erica also work on a comparable jobs. As far as the person everyone liked the best, was the most interesting of all. Everyone seemed to choose the person right above them. Erica chose Mary, Mary chose Paul, and Paul chose David. I thought this may be so because everyone saw how the person above them had to adjust to work with them. Although, David chose Erica, and I think that has to do with the fact that Erica was the lightest of the group. She didn’t have stress the other individuals in the group had, which is why she was able to mediate in the beginning.

This cohesion has brought the group to a level where their task work never really falls below disjunctive. More often than not they work with results of additive or compensatory. They work at everyone’s best level and pull the others up with them. They work as a group, considering and needing everyone’s input. They also have their size in their favor. Because the group is so small they really aren’t affected by the Ringelmann effect, although I can see where that would apply if the group did increase, mainly because there would not be enough work for more people so someone would have to loaf a little. At this point, there is no room for social loafing. Everyone is needed to do their specific job.

I’m sure they could use some work on motivation, but I don’t see their motivation as a problem. As of now they work nicely together, and keep each other motivated. I feel that if they set higher standards they may produce more, or if they increase their unity a little more they may perform a little better. Altogether though I think the five stages have brought them to a level where they preform close to their best.

While observing this group and applying it to the concepts we have learned in class, I am definitely seeing how and why the five stages to developing cohesion are so important. The orientation stage is inevitable. Whenever you are thrown into a group you have to feel the members out and be on you best behavior until you become settled. To become settled you have to have some sort of conflict. The problem come when a group doesn’t leave either of these stages. If you don’t ever conflict with anyone else, you will be stuck on an impersonal, unreal polite stage. Once you conflict, it is important to work though that so you can reach a point where you can really work with the other members in the group. This structural stage is very important so as to acquire trust and relationships, and develop roles that everyone can work with. All of which is important for the development and production of the group. With this worked out the group can then move to a level of pure performance. Then when the group is finished it will dissolve, breakdown and eventually finish up. Even though this group has not reached this level, I

think it was a great representation of the importance of each step toward cohesion and eventually outstanding production.


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