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Group Dynamics

A group is two or more persons who are interacting with one another in such a manner that each person influences and is influenced by each other person (Shaw 1971)[1].

For a collection of people to be defined as a group, the members must:

  • interact with one another
  • be socially attracted to each other
  • share goals or objectives
  • have a shared identity which distinguishes them from other groups

The social mixing of a sports club is termed "Social Cohesion" and a group with shared formal goals who are normally successful as a group (e.g. the 8 rowers in a boat race) is referred to as "Task Cohesion".

Group development

The development of a group normally goes through the following stages (Tuckman 1965)[3]:

  • Forming - the group gets together and a level of formality is common
  • Storming- heightened tension associated with competition for status and influence
  • Norming - rules and standards of behaviour are agreed
  • Performing - group matures to a point where it is able to work together as a team

There are many different forms of interaction in a group. We have social interaction (formation of friends) and task interaction (the way the members co-operate to achieve goals)

Cohesion

This is the extent to which members of a group exhibit a desire to achieve common goals and group identity. Research (Townsend 1968)[5] tends to support the view that high interaction teams need high task cohesion to be consistently successful, whereas for moderate or low interaction teams cohesion is less important to success. Again, we have social cohesion, extent to which members of the group get on with one another, and task cohesion, the extent to which members cooperate to achieve the group's goals. The following factors affect cohesion:

  • Stability - Cohesion develops the longer a group is together with the same members
  • Similarity- Cohesion develops when the more similar the group members are in terms of age, sex, skills and attitudes
  • Size - Cohesion develops more quickly in small groups
  • Support - Cohesive teams tend to have managers and coaches who provide support to team members and encourage them to support one another
  • Satisfaction- Cohesion is associated with the extent to which team members are pleased with each others performance, behaviour and conformity to the norms of the team

Carron (1980)[2] defined a cohesive group as having the following characteristics:

  • a collective identity
  • a sense of shared purpose
  • structured patterns of communication

Loafing

Loafing is the tendency for individuals to lessen their effort when they are part of a group - also known as Ringelmann effect (Kravitz 1986)[4]. Causes of loafing in a team have been attributed to individuals:

  • perceiving others to be working less hard than themselves thereby giving them an excuse to put in less effort
  • believing that their own efforts will have little effect on the outcome
  • disliking hard work and assuming that their lack of effort will not be noticed
  • feeling "off form" and believing team mates will cover for their lack of effort

Performance

For a group to perform at its highest level of performance, methods and strategies need to be applied which will improve group productivity and reduce loafing. The subsequent effect will be to improve cohesion and develop positive group dynamics.


References

  1. SHAW, M.E. (1971) Group Dynamics: The Psychology of Small Group Behavior. London: McGraw Hill Publishing
  2. CARRON, A. (1980) Social Psychology of Sport. Mouvement Publications
  3. TUCKMAN, B.W. (1965) Developmental sequence in small groups. Psychological Bulletin, 63 (6), p. 384-399
  4. KRAVITZ, D.A. and MARTIN, B. (1986) Ringelmann rediscovered: The original article. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 50(5), p. 936-941
  5. TOWNSEND, A. et al. (1968) Virtual Teams: Technology and the workplace of the future. Academy of Management Executive, 12 (3), p. 17-29

Related References

The following references provide additional information on this topic:

  • BROWN, R. (1988) Group processes: Dynamics within and between groups. Basil Blackwell.
  • FORSYTH, D. (2009) Group dynamics. Cengage Learning.
  • LUFT, J. (1970) Group processes: An introduction to group dynamics.

Page Reference

The reference for this page is:

  • MACKENZIE, B. (2004) Group Dynamics [WWW] Available from: http://www.brianmac.co.uk/group.htm [Accessed

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