You can use this information to improve your teamwork skills, and/or to teach your students or others. There is also a self-assessment and an ethical dilemma you can use for reflection or class discussion. This information is taken from my Management Fundamentals: Concepts, Applications, and Skill Development 7e, SAGE 2017.
Let’s start with a self-assessment to better understand how much of a team player (vs individual) you are.
Self assessment: Are You a Team Player?
Rate each of the following statements by placing a number from 1 to 5 on the line. Use the scale below.
Describes me Does not describe me
5 4 3 2 1
____ 1. I focus on what I accomplish during team projects.
____ 2. I don’t like to compromise.
____ 3. I depend on myself to get ahead.
____ 4. I prefer to work alone rather than in a group when I have a choice.
____ 5. I like to do things my way.
____ 6. I do things myself to make sure the job gets done right.
____ 7. I know that teams do better when each member has a particular contribution to make.
____ 8. I’m more productive when I work alone.
____ 9. I try to get things done my way when I work with others.
____ 10. It bothers me if I can’t get the group to do things my way.
Add the numbers you assigned to the statements, and place the total on the continuum below.
Individual Team Player
50 45 40 35 30 25 20 15 10
Team performance if based on the model shown in the Exhibit below. If any of the model team variables are low, so will performance.
Exhibit: Team Performance Model
Group Performance Is a Function of:
|Organizational Context||Group Structure||Group Process||Group Developmental Stage|
We are going to focus on group process, which refers to how the team members interact as they complete the work—not on the actual task. The better team members interact in relationships, the high the level of performance can be achieved. Let’s discuss each of the six variables of group process.
Three Group Roles. The three primary group roles are group task roles, group maintenance roles, and self-interest roles. Group task roles are played by members who do and say things that directly aid in the accomplishment of the group’s objectives. Group maintenance roles are played by members who do and say things to develop and sustain the group process with cooperative behavior to benefit others or the entire team. Self-interest roles are played by members who do and say selfish things (often hidden agendas) that help themselves at the expense of other members or the entire group
How Roles Affect Group Performance. To be effective, a group must have members who play task roles and maintenance roles while minimizing self-interest roles. Groups that have only task role players may suffer performance problems because they do not deal with common conflict between members effectively, and because the job will be boring if there is no maintenance. On the other hand, groups that have a great time but do not have members playing task roles will not get the job done. Any group whose members are mostly playing self-interest roles will not produce to its fullest potential.
Implications. If you are a manager or team member, you should be aware of the roles the group members play. If no member is playing the task or maintenance role required at a given time, you should play the role. As the manager, you should also make the group aware of the need to play these roles and the need to minimize self-interest roles.
How Norms Develop. In addition to policies, procedures, and rules, all groups form their own unwritten norms that determine what is socially accepted as appropriate behavior. Rules are formally established by management or by the group itself. Norms are not developed by management or explicitly agreed to by a group; they develop as members interact. Norms are also called unspoken rules of a group that shape behavior and attitudes. Norms develop spontaneously as the members of a group interact and compare themselves to the other members. For example, the group decides, without ever actually talking about it, what is an acceptable level of work. If the group members develop a shared expectation that a certain level is desirable, members will produce it. Or, for example, norms develop about whether the use of certain words (such as swear words) or unethical behavior is considered acceptable. Most of us want to be liked and fit in with the group, so we tend to follow group norms, even when we disagree with the behavior. What have you done to fit in, or when didn’t you try to stop group member from doing unethical or illegal behaviors? Norms can change over time to meet the needs of the group.
How Groups Enforce Norms. If a group member does not follow a norm, the other members try to enforce compliance—in other words, peer pressure. As we have all faced group pressure, we can understand how it is a powerful influence over our behavior.
Implications. Be aware that we tend to adjust our behaviors to try to match that of our team norms, so be careful not to be led into illegal or unethical behavior. Group norms can be positive, helping the group meet its objectives, or they can be negative, hindering the team from meeting its objectives. You should be aware of group norms and work toward maintaining and developing positive norms and try to eliminate negative norms. Managers should be positive role models of desired norms, and they should confront groups with negative norms and try to work out solutions to make them positive.
The extent to which members of a group abide by and enforce the group norms depends on the degree of loyalty and cohesiveness. Group cohesiveness is the extent to which members stick together. The more cohesive the group, the more it sticks together—bonds—as a team. It is challenging and takes time and effort to get a diversity of people and put them together and expect them to be a cohesive team.
Factors Influencing Cohesiveness. Six factors influence group cohesiveness: The stronger the agreement with and commitment to the achievement of the group’s objectives and the more success it has at achieving its objectives, the higher the cohesiveness of the group. Generally, the smaller the group size, the more homogeneous the group members are, and the more equal the level of participation among members, the higher the cohesiveness. Generally, teams that compete against external teams tend to be more cohesive than those with members that compete against each other.
How Cohesiveness Affects Team Performance. A classic study found that cohesiveness is associated with performance in the following ways:
- Groups with the highest levels of productivity were highly cohesive and accepted management’s level of productivity.
- Groups with the lowest levels of productivity were also highly cohesive but rejected management’s level of productivity; they set and enforced their own level below that of management. This can happen in organizations where employees and managers have an “us against them” attitude.
- Groups with intermediate levels of productivity were low in cohesiveness irrespective of their acceptance of management’s level of productivity. The widest variance of individual group members’ performance was among the groups with lower cohesiveness. Members of such groups tended to be more tolerant of nonconformity to group norms.
Implications. As a team member or leader, you should strive to develop cohesive groups that exhibit a high level of productivity. It is important to play maintenance roles to make sure every team member feels welcome, respected, and valued for their contribution. Try to avoid having members break in to cliques of insiders that exclude outsiders—you’ve seen it haven’t you? Implement the six factors above that help develop team cohesiveness by helping the team set and achieve objectives. Try to keep the team size small, get everyone to participate, focus more on external competition, and be sure to be inclusive to maximize diversity.
Status Within the Group
The more respect, prestige, influence, and power a group member has, the higher the status within the team. Status is the perceived ranking of one member relative to other members in the group. It’s common to strive for high status within the team.
The Development of Status. Status is based on several factors, including members’ performance, job title, wage or salary, seniority, knowledge or expertise, interpersonal skills, appearance, education, race, age, sex, and so on. A group is more willing to listen to a high-status member and to overlook such a member breaking of the norms. High-status members also have more influence on the development of the group’s norms and the decisions made by the group. Lower-status members’ ideas are often ignored, and they tend to copy high-status members’ behavior and to agree with their suggestions in order to be accepted.
How Status Affects Team Performance. High-status members have a major impact on a team’s performance. If high-status members support positive norms and high productivity, chances are the rest of the group will, too. Another important factor influencing group performance is status congruence; the acceptance and satisfaction members receive from their group status. Members who are not satisfied with their status may not be active participants of the team.
Implications. To be effective, you need to have high status. As the manager, maintain good human relations with the group, particularly with the high-status informal leaders, to be sure that they endorse positive norms and objectives. Be aware of and try to prevent conflicts that may be the result of lack of status congruence. Ideally, status should be about equal among group members. But in reality, be sure to listen to and include low-status members in the group process to ensure cohesiveness so they are not outsiders of the group.
Decision Making and Conflict Resolution
The decisions made by teams have a direct effect on performance. There are advantages and disadvantages to group decision making. Decision-making authority can be held by the manager, or by the members through empowerment. However, the level of participation in a decision should be based on the decision and level of capability in decision making of team members. Also, for group decisions to be successfully implemented, the group must unify behind the decision, even if some members vigorously disagreed with it.
Conflict is common in groups and teams, and unresolved conflicts can have a negative effect on performance. Unresolved conflict often leads to members’ withdrawal from the group process and hurts cohesiveness. So you need to prevent disruptive conflicts and resolve conflicts to maintain productive working relationships.
Note: In a future blog I will present how to effectively resolve conflicts.
Join the Discussion Ethics & Social Responsibility–Norms
Team members influence each other’s behavior through the development and enforcement of norms—that is, essentially through peer pressure. In general, this process is positive, as it helps get the job done. On the other side, complying with illegal or unethical norms can lead to disasters, as it did at Enron and more recently at Wells Fargo Bank.
1. Should employees be able to “do their own thing” without group enforcement of norms?
2. Is it ethical and socially responsible for groups to develop and enforce norms?
3. If yes, what type of ethical standards should a team have?