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Group Dynamics

Group dynamics is about thinking in innovative ways about human behavior influencing not just the individual but also the bigger systemic and reciprocal dynamics between individuals. Functioning in large groups involves a completely different set of intuitive filters whereby individuals can make sense of the goings on in their surroundings. Rather than paying attention to one person a practitioner must be aware of greater number of people, different intercommunications and the complete process events occurring in between.

One might wonder what exactly Group Dynamics is. It is the social mode by which individuals act and behave in a group environment. Group dynamics refers to the impact of individual personality, power and conduct on the Group’s behavior and development; it is also vice-versa, the impact of the group on the individual members of the group.

Purpose of studying dynamics of a group is to study whether the relationship between group members is conducive to attaining the group’s aims. It is also observed whether the formation and size of the group is an asset in striving for the joint task and preservation functions of the group? Another consideration is whether the formal and informal capability of the group is to be used to build an agreement or come to a decision; thereby understanding the group’s decision making process and behavior.

The group’s culture is individual and unique to each group, irrespective of the group being formal or informal, or the duration or purpose of its existence. What needs to be observed and understood from the group dynamics perspective is whether the coming together of people brings about the right culture?

Depending upon how people, cultures and inner forces collaborate, practitioners can analyze and have a finer understanding of group effectiveness. The effectiveness of the group is closely linked, rather dependent, on how the group development happens. Group Development is an important aspect for which the group dynamics are attempted to be understood and the knowledge about the group dynamics is applied to enhance the group development, thereby the efficiency and effectiveness of the groups.

Group Development

The appointment of people to a group based on criteria like their compatibility, the diversity they bring in or their expertise does not ensure any kind of efficacy in attaining group aims. A group can be termed as an amalgamation of personalities who have different kinds of characteristics, requirements and influences. To become effective as group members, the individual members must acclimatize themselves to the group environment, the task at hand and also other members of the group.

Stages of Group Development

Experts and practitioners of organizational methods have made an observation that new groups undergo various stages before they can give optimum performance. At every stage members are confronted with different challenges that they must overcome to move on to the subsequent stage. The different stages are forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning.

  1. Forming: This is the stage of development when members are concerned with acquainting themselves with the job at hand and also to other associates of the group. For this reason this stage is sometimes called as the dependent stage, as group members are inclined to bank on external expertise for advice, job-definition and task analysis.
  1. Storming: This is the stage when the group comes across internal conflict as members accost and condemn each other and the approach of the group to their task. Concerns that arise are recognition of roles and obligations, operational norms and procedures, and the person’s requirement of acknowledgement of his or her competence and abilities. This stage is also known as the counterdependent stage where group members “flex their muscles to establish their identity. At times the group may face problems going beyond this stage. The reason why this may occur is that the group may face problems in elucidating their task, coming to a consensus on their mission or their mandate, or deciding in what manner they will proceed. Any lacuna in skills or aptitude can add to the member’s inability to go past this stage.
  1. Norming: This is the stage when members begin to resolve the concerns that are a cause of the conflict and start forming social groups by agreeing socially. Members start realizing that they are interdependent and develop cohesive bonds and come to an agreement on norms within the groups that will help them perform in an effective manner in future.
  1. Performing: Once the group has classified its social formation and each member understands their goals and member roles, it will move in the direction of fulfilling its task. The understanding that surfaces within the group makes mutual assistance and expression of creativity prominent themes in the group. The group becomes independent as at this stage it can sense its growth and maturity, it also begins to rely on its own resources.
  1. Adjourning: At this stage the group will begin to indulge in some kind of winding up activities which may include certain rites and rituals that suit the event. These events may involve social gatherings and parties or ceremonial activities that reflect the ethos of the group such as its emotional support to celebrate the group’s success.

Functions of Group: there are three functions which are always operating within the group that influence the effectiveness and productivity of groups. These functions are task functions, maintenance functions and self-interest functions.

Task functions: This is one of the reasons for the formation and establishment of a group. To ensure that they achieve their task the group must have members who can accomplish some or all of the laid out roles:

  1. Initiating: This demands the proposing of tasks or aims, outlining issues and suggesting ways to find a solution.
  2. Information seeking: This is done by appealing for facts, searching for pertinent information and soliciting ideas and suggestions.
  3. Information giving: This is done by offering facts, contributing information, stating beliefs and providing ideas and suggestions.
  4. Clarifying ideas: This is done by decoding and making explicit inputs, giving alternatives and providing examples.
  5. Bringing closure: This is done by providing a summary, restating facts and providing solutions.
  6. Consensus testing: This is done by looking for agreements and sending trial balloons in the sky.

Maintenance Function: It is an established fact that to be effective each group requires socio-emotional support. Such socio-emotional support enables maintenance of the group in various situations and stages the group moves through. Some members take the initiative in administering this support, which includes:

  1. Encouraging: This is done by showing respect for other members of the group and contributing positively towards their contributions
  2. Improving the group by initiating group response and feelings, sensing temper tantrums, the environment and sharing feelings.
  3. Harmonizing: This is done by reconciling differences within the group and also reducing tension in the group.
  4. Compromising: This is done by admitting to mistakes and looking for suitable alternatives.
  5. Gate-keeping: This is done by ensuring that there is a good flow of communication, aiding participation of all group members and suggesting sharing of dialogue within the members.
  6. Standard setting: This is done by laying down norms and rules within the group and reminding group members about it.

Self-interest function: Self-interest function operates in the groups overtly as well as covertly. When individual members are more focused on their individual interest than the group’s collective interest then the self-interest is being manifested. Such behavior from individual members takes away from the performance of the group and affects job completion at the cost of the group. Activities that point towards self-interest behavior include:

  1. Dominating and displaying a lack of regards for the feelings of others, cutting them off, exhibiting control, not exhibiting effective listening and interpreting the suggestions of other members differently.
  2. Blocking: This is done by confining a line of thought and ensuring that the topic revolves around the individual’s self-interest.
  3. Manipulating: This is done by providing information that is self-serving or providing a point of view that is designed to get a consensus in his or her favor.
  4. Belittling:  This is done by putting-down others either by , sneering at their  point of view, or cracking  jokes about another member’s contribution;
  5. Splitting hair: This is achieved by nit-picking, looking for insignificant details that cause a delay in solution.

Several theorists, psychologists and behavioral scientists have researched and propounded elaborate theories about the approach to group dynamics and group behaviors. Discussions and deliberations are still on in the area of Group Dynamics applied in organizations and social settings.

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