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The purpose of this assignment is to discuss how working in a group can be psychologically rewarding as well as individually tasking for members in a group and this will be done by reflecting on my past experience working in a group and also some theories that supports group work.
Firstly, it is best we define the key term in the question and for this assignment the key term is group work. There are so many definitions that can be given for group work and for the purpose of this assignment; we shall look at a few of them as defined by different authors. Konopka (1963) as cited by Sean Harte (2001:N/A) defined group work "as a method of social works that is utilized in order to help individuals to enhance their social functioning through purposeful group experience , and to cope more efficiently with their personal, group or community problems". Mullins (2007:229) defines a group "as any number of people who 1) interact with one another 2) are psychologically aware of one another 3) perceive themselves to be a group". From my own point of view, i will define a group as the coming together of a set of people with the collective aim of getting a particular or set of work done together with every individual in the group bringing up ideas and suggestions in order to get the work done successfully.
According to Greenberg and Baron (2008), there are five stages of group formation and the stages are as followed:
- Forming: Greenberg and Baron (2008) believe that it is at this stage that members get acquainted with themselves and also at this stage, people are not sure how being a member of the group will benefit them.
- Storming: according to Greenberg and Baron (2008), it is at this stage that conflict occurs and members tend to resist control by the group leader. Greenberg and Baron (2008) believe that once group leadership is being accepted and welcomed by the group members, this stage is over.
- Norming: Tuckman as cited by Smith (2005) sees Norming as a cohesive stage where people are getting along well with one another and personal opinions are expressed. Greenberg and Baron (2008:295) also have a similar thing to say and their view is that "close relationship develop, shared feelings become common, and a keen interest in finding mutually agreeable solution develops".
- Performing: according to Greenberg and Baron (2008:295) it is at this stage that group members are ready to work together as one and get their task done. "The group is now able to deal with complex and handle internal disagreements in creative ways. the structure is stable and members are motivated and are generally satisfied" (Schermerhorn et al, 2008:269)
- Adjourning: it is at this stage that the group may cease to exist simply because goals have been met and the group might not be needed any longer (Greenberg and Baron, 2008). Schermerhorn (2008:269) discussed that "their willingness to disband when the job is done and to work well together in future responsibilities groups or otherwise, is an important long-run test of group success".
Types of group
Formal groups: a formal group is the type of group that is formed in an organisation by the management of that organisation for a certain purpose which could be the completion of a certain task or project (Schermerhorn, 2008).
Informal groups: this is the type of group that springs up in organisations without the consent or participation of the organisation's management simply because of the relationship between group members or similarity of interest of a set of people (Schermerhorn, 2008).
My experience of group work
Working in a group can be rewarding psychologically as well as demanding potentially and i would love to reflect on this with my own personal experience. Throughout my B.SC programme which in completed in 2008, I had to work in groups which were either created by the lecturer or formed by ourselves for the purpose of assignments or some sort of group discussion. Most times, the group doesn't last for long and it would be dissolve after about a week when the task assigned must have been completed. I worked in a group of five for my final project in which five students in my class including me, were assigned to a group to collective choose a project topic and complete the project as a group. This was a formal group because the group was formed by the school management and the purpose of the group was to complete a final project. The five group members were to be accessed from this singular project. If the project was bad, we all fail as a group and if good, we all pass also as a group. I was concerned over this because I definitely did not want to fail the project, and those that were put in the same group with me were not my friends although we were class mates.
This posed a great challenge for me because i know that i have to work together effectively with the other group members if I wanted to succeed. As we went on to introduce ourselves in order to form some kind of familiarity, we started to get along bit by bit. There were some two group members who were not willing to have any contribution to the success of the final project. When this was noticed by other members, we decided to set some rules and regulation to which all group members most abide by and any drift from these rules would be punishable either by the payment of some penalty or expulsion depending on the weight and frequency of the rules breaking by that member. Working in this group posed some negative effect on me at the beginning stage because I was wondering how I could get along with my group members in order to pass the project. I would have just preferred to do the project on my own and be scored based on my individual effort but that wasn't the reality. As time pass by, the group started to integrate an every group member started to behave accordingly and ready to get the project done and done very well.
For the purpose of this assignment, I will want to discus my point from the following areas:
- Social support: According to Cobb (1976) as cited by EUPHIX (2009:N/A) social support can be defined as the believe of an individual that he/she is loved and valued by other fellow group members. Social support is one factor that can psychologically motivate people to work well in a group. In my group which I worked, we saw ourselves not only as a group trying to finish their final project but also as friends who there for one another. This gave me a boost and I always felt welcome when in the group or had contributions to make. According to House (1982) as cited by EUPHIX (2009:N/A), there are four major type of social support and they include "emotional support, informational support, appraisal support and instrumental support".
- Social facilitation: "Social facilitation is the increased likelihood that someone will perform better at a task because of the mere presence of others" (Science aid, 2008). Social facilitation is the way people behave when they are being watched by other people (Greenberg and Baron, 2008).
Drive theory of social facilitation:
A theory that supports social facilitation is the drive theory of social facilitation Greenberg and Baron (2008). "According to the drive theory of social facilitation, the presence of others is arousing. This in turn enhances the tendency to perform the most dominant (i.e. strongest) response. If these are correct (such as if the task is well learned), the performance will be improved. However, if these are incorrect (such as if the task is novel), then performance will suffer" (Greenberg and Baron, 2008:303).from my experience working in a group, I happened to be a subject to social facilitation. I was making lots of researches and doing lots of reading before every meeting merely to impress my fellow group members. Being in a group was psychologically rewarding for me because it made me develop the drive to read widely in order to have something new to say to my group members so they could praise me and recognise me as having a major impact on the progress of the project. It was also physically demanding for me because i had to work extra hard and spend some money in the cyber-cafe to get some information from the internet and sometime read at midnights sacrificing my sleep so as to be prepared for the next group meeting.
The Hawthorn experiment can also be used to support social facilitation. According to Health service research (2002), "the Hawthorn effect refers to a phenomenon where a study subject's behaviour and/or study outcome are altered as a result of the subject's awareness of being under observation". Studies were conducted at the Hawthorn's plant between 1924 and 1932 so as to identify how to increase productivity of the employees in the plant. Health service research (2002). In the relay assembly test room experiment, it showed that the production level of the six women that were keep in the observatory room increased simply because they were been watched by the researchers and this made them feel important to their organisation (Mullins, 2008).
Conflict: conflict can simply be defined as a clash of interest or understanding between two or more people. A more refined and standard definition is given by Wilmot and Hocker as cited by Mitchell (2008) that "conflict is an expressed struggle between at least two inter dependent parties who perceive incompatible goals, scarce resources, an interference from others in achieving their goals". According to Schermerhorn et al (2008:284), role conflict is a type of conflict that occurs in a group "when a person is unable to meet the expectation of others. The individual understands what need to be done but for some reason cannot comply."
There are several ways a group conflict can be resolved/managed. Lesmeister (1992) identified ways of dealing with conflict as avoidance, accommodation, compromise, competition, collaboration. From my experience, conflict occurred in my group when two members of the group were not participating in final project and they come to meetings without any information that could help move the project forward. The other group members including me felt cheated as we were the ones doing the whole work while they just sit around expecting to get the same marks as us. the conflict was resolved us reporting the situation to the lecturer who threatened to replace them if they didn't change and start to contribute to the group work. The two group member changed their attitude after this warning and started to make some contributions to the final project.
- Group norms: Group norm can be defined as the beliefs of how members of a group are to behave (Schermerhorn et al, 2008). From my experience, i was challenged by my group norm because one of the norms involved having meetings every working day of the week at 8pm and i didn't like being outside my room by 8pm but every other member of the group were fine by this night arrangement so i had to abide by the timing as well although i dint like it but there was nothing i could do about it because majority did. When a group member violates a group norm, other respond by enforcing the norm by criticising the members behaviour, rebuking the person, excluding the member from the group or total expulsion of the member (Schermerhorn et al, 2008).
The hawthorn experiment of bank wiring could show the effect that group norm can have on the performance of a group. The bank wiring experiments that was carried out by Elton mayo and his team showed that despite the incentives that was attached to the productivity of the workers, the workers were producing at a level that was set by the group of workers and this level was low compared to their capability(Mullins, 2008). The workers formed an informal group among themselves and they had their own group norms which stated the conduct of the workers and the level of production was set low as part of the norm in order to protect the workers from management increasing the standard of work (Mullins, 2008). The group norms of workers in the experiment were stronger than the performance incentives set by the organisation.
- Peer-pressure: peer pressure can be defined as "the strong influence of a group, especially of children, on members of that group as everyone else does" (Cambridge dictionary online, 2010). Peer pressure does not only occur among children, it also applies to adults as well. Peer pressure can have both negative and positive impact on individuals working in a group for example if you have a member of a group always coming early for group meetings and he always has to wait for some hours before other start to arrive, this could discourage he/she from coming early to meeting and so adopt the late coming attitude of other members. Peer pressure could also have positive impact on individuals in a group if the situation was turned around and you have a group member coming late and every other person are always early, he/she might change the lateness attitude and start to come early to meetings.
- Role ambiguity: this is simply when people in a group are not sure what their roles are because it has not been set out straight for them. (Schermerhorn et al, 2008). If roles are not properly set for group members it may cause confusion among individuals in the group because each person may not know what exactly what his/her role in the group is and therefore fail to do them. when there is ambiguity in roles, blames can easily be pushed around therefore nobody will take responsibility when things go wrong or when a certain thing is done badly and also everyone will want to take the credit for thing/jobs that are done well. Role ambiguity can also cause misunderstanding between group members (Schermerhorn et al, 2008). From my experience, role ambiguity caused a major problem in the group. Some members of the group were spending their money and time to get information from books and from the internet while others were just coming into group meeting with blank heads and without any useful information written down in form of collected information. When this became frequent, the workload of the project was shared among group members with every member assigned their own share of the work. This yielded a positive change as everyone knew that no one would carry their own weight of the work for them, so everyone worked towards the completion of the task assigned to them. Role ambiguity is common groups and it can be resolved once leaders identify this and set the role expectation from group members (Schermerhorn et al, 2008). Also when role expectations are being set for group members, group leaders have to be careful of role overload and role under load (Schermerhorn et al, 2008). Role overload is when too much work is given to an individual, and role under load is when too little job is given to an individual in a group work. (Schermerhorn et al, 2008).
Working in a group can be both psychologically rewarding and physically challenging as it has been discussed in this assignment. There are some factors that tend to hinder the smooth operation of a group e.g. conflicts, unclear individual roles, etc. Also there are there are some benefits and advantages that individual working in a group can derive. Some advantages and disadvantages of working in a group are outlined below.
Advantages of group work includes "greater output, cross fertility, reduced bias, increased risk taking, higher commitment, improved communication, and better solution"( Hadler , 2005).
Disadvantages of working in a group include "competition, conformity, lack of objective direction, time constraint" (Hadler, 2005).
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