Group dynamics is a term coined by Kurt Lewin, a social psychologist. He observed that people who work in groups usually adopt certain behaviours and roles. Group dynamics refers to the impact those behaviors and roles have on other group members, as well as the group as a whole. Groups with good dynamics have several characteristics. The members trust each other, hold each other accountable and find it easy to reach a collective decision. However, a group with poor dynamics experiences disruption in their work and find decision making difficult.
So, what are the main causes of poor group dynamics?
- Weak leadership – If the leader of a team is weak, someone else in the group is likely to take charge of affairs. This is likely to result in loss of focus as well as infighting
- Free riding – This is where some group members relax and leave all the work to their workmates.
- Groupthink – Here, people are not willing to take time exploring different options before reaching a decision. Instead, decisions are simply made based on group consensus
- Evaluation apprehension – This happens when individuals perceive that other group members are judging them harshly. As a result, they choose to hold back their contribution
- Blocking – This is where group members assume roles that end up disrupting the flow of information. Some of these roles include:
- The negator – This person usually criticizes others ideas
- The aggressor – One who is usually in disagreement with others
- The attention seeker – This group member has a tendency to dominate discussions
- The withdrawer – This individual doesnt get involved in discussions
- The joker – This group member has a tendency of injecting humour at the wrong time
Here are some suggestions for improving group dynamics:
1. Know your team
Every team goes through several stages before it becomes a strong group. Here are the group formation stages according to psychologist Bruce Tuckman:
- Forming – This is the stage where groups have just been formed and members are getting to know each other. At this point, people are still not sure of their roles
- Storming – This phase is characterized by conflicts as different personalities and working styles clash. Team members might also begin challenging the leadership and questioning the teams objectives
- Norming – This is where team members begin appreciating their diversity and respecting their leaders. There is a stronger commitment to the groups objective
- Performing – Here, the hard work of team members results in attainment of the groups goal. Conflicts are minimal and the groups processes and structures are established
2. Define roles and responsibilities
When people dont understand their role in the team, the group will end up developing poor dynamics. To alleviate this, you need to ensure that team members first understand the groups mission and objectives. In addition, the specific responsibilities of every individual should be clearly outlined
3. Break down barriers
One of the best ways of breaking down barriers is through team building exercises. Such activities allow group members to know each other better, thus enhancing relationships. Team building is especially important when new members have joined the team.
4. Emphasize communication
Clear communication is very important for good group dynamics. Encourage members to use all forms of communication including emails, social media and shared documents. This will help reduce ambiguity among the team. Any updates should be shared as soon as possible with all the team members.
As a leader in the workplace, take time to observe how your team members interact. Look out for signs of poor dynamics and deal with them early to alleviate further problems.