In the Human Resource Management course last term, I learned many theories in team working, leadership and conflict management. I had a great opportunity to work as a team with people from different cultures such as Vietnam, Hong Kong, China and Japan. In my group there were 7 members including me from Thailand. It was not easy to work together with people from different backgrounds and each member had different cultures, opinions and religions. Several times we had an unsolved discussion and hardly to find a solution, and sometimes the conflict in the team occurred but we passed through it by using an appeasement. However the task could not be accomplished without teamwork as we cannot do all things on your own, as Aristotle stated about the important of teamwork "The whole is more than the sum of its part" (Aristotle, Metaphysica). In this essay, firstly I will discuss the process of group development, how the group was formed and establishment of ground rules. Secondly I will talk about team effective and analyze team performance. Finally conflict and problems in the team will be discussed. In each section consists of the combination of example, theory and discussion.
My group was consists of seven people from different nationalities. In the first class teacher divided people into a group and we needed to set up a ground rules which everyone agreed. The purpose of ground rules is that in the future when conflict occurs, ground rules will be an effective tool to solve the problem (Levin, 2005). At that moment, we started to form a group. According to Tuckman (1965) stages of group development, there are four stages of group development.
Forming â†’ Stormingâ†’ Normingâ†’ Performing
We were at forming stage as we introduced ourselves to each other and started to talk to each other. I noticed that students from Hong Kong were a bit shy and less talkative, while others from Japan, Vietnam, China and Russia seemed to speak confidently. In my perspective, the students from Hong Kong were likely lack of confidence in their English skills which lead to communication problem in the group afterward. This problem affected the performance of the group when we had discussion in class as only five students had involved in activity, so we were not able to collect all of member's opinion. Hence, the result of discussion did not represent the whole idea of group. This situation which atmosphere in group were strained and discussion were not effective would cause a dysfunctional teams ( Katzenbach and Smith, 1993)
Next step we moved to next stage which is storming, each member tried to find their own role for example C who is Chinese wrote the rules, D who is Vietnamese helped C to write, B who is Japanese, E who is Russian and the writer provided ideas to the group. The role is divided smoothly as C was a starter and others member then find their own role to help her. In this stage two Hong Kong students played little role and accepted others' opinion without argument, it was likely that they adopted attitude and behavior called "Pluralistic Ignorance" which is the behavior that when most people do this, they accept it for fear of rejection whilst they do not actually accept ( Prentice and Miller, 1993). Despite a long discussion, we shared the common opinion and reached consensus in the end. In Norming stage everybody accepted rules and the moving to performing stage when we presented our ground rules to other groups.
After all these stages I observed that during the group work, subgroup was established including me. I was willing to work with every group members; however I preferred to work with the members who come from the same English group. Other members also behave in the same way, this was linked to the concept of "Propinquity Effect" which stated that the more we meet and interact with people, the more likely we are to become friends with them (Festinger, 1954). However subgroup performing did not create a major teamwork problem. It created the diversification in the group and produced a positive effect in cooperative way as when one member discomforted with another, s/he could communicate with the one in the subgroup to help in confronting with the discomforted person.
Effective team or not
A team is a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals, and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable (Katzenback and Smith, 1993). According to McGregor (1970), an effective team will have an informal relaxed atmosphere which is linked to motivation theory Y which explains that people are likely work to the best of their capacities under the right condition and interested in work. Discussion and high level of participation are required and members in the team should understand tasks and objectives clearly. Tasks and objectives are committed and they respect each other's view and listen to each other. Decisions are reached by mutual consent. In an effective team leadership is shared according to nature of tasks.
In my group, each member had the same goal which was gaining knowledge from Human resources class and passing the assessment of this course. We shared leadership role in different tasks. Each member respected each other, encouraged opened-ended discussion. However in this short time, we did not have many tasks to do together outside the class. We did not have a meeting outside the class enough as we had different time table for class and time was too short to know each other well. Without meeting we did not have an opportunity to review and check the performance of our tasks, hence, we did not perform at our best level. As a result, we missed an opportunity to exchange information and support each other which would lead to ineffective teamwork (Adair, 1979).
During the course my group had performed quite well because in the class we delegated work well and everybody in the group contacted each other when they had a problem. Additionally, there were not many difficult tasks that required a meeting. We had 2-3 times meeting during the term for difficult tasks, performed quite good in role play and change management. To become an effective team we still have a lot to learn and practices, for example, the team need to have a leader in each task to guide others in the same alignment, more meeting should be set up, each member need time to build relationship and communication must be improved.
Conflict in team
As stated above, my team was likely to be a good team. However there was a conflict in the team occurred in some tasks throughout this course.
Poor communication was a problem in the team. Since the first class I noticed that B who is a Japanese student spoke confidently and he had an excellent idea, though his accent and volume in English was hard to catch and understand clearly for other members in the group. So we asked him to repeat his idea and listened to him carefully, sometimes I and some members in the group got bored and ignored the rest of his speech. This situation would be called "Perceptual Errors" as we assumed that the right and enough information had been collected ( Pettinger, 2002). This poor communication affected team performance as the task could not reach its best quality due to perceptual errors.
In other case, F who is a student from Hong Kong, sometimes she pretended to listen to other but when we discussed the task she never participated and shared her idea with us. Personally I thought the reason behind was her confidence in English language skills so she hardly expressed her idea and rarely participated in our group discussion. Possibly she might feel uncomfortable with new people, normally when we meet new people everybody set their own boundary at first and then flexible it after they become closer. In her case I suggest she need longer time to open her mind. After the task in our first week, other members in team including me realized this problem. Hence, we tried to ask her opinion and listen to her response in the next task. However many times when time was limited, we ignored her opinion because she shared only little information at the first task. This would link to the negative called "halo effect" which is a negative suggestion put on someone as the result of one (supposedly) negative characteristic ( Pettinger, 2002).
In my opinion, in order to be an effective team, the leadership role is very important. Teamwork should have a leader to create a clear direction to all members .I noticed that my team without leader lacked shared value and inspiring visions which were the keys to team success ( Hooper and Potter, 1997). During the class my group performed in every task quite good but it looked like sum of individual works instead of real teamwork. It might have been better if we had had a leader. As sometimes we did not know the clear direction to go through the task. Especially when we discussed in the class and the discussion were never have an ending.
It was not easy to work without the leader. For example, in the role play and change management tasks after the task had been assigned to team, nobody mentioned about the plan and how we were going to meet after the class ended. Then I discussed with some members who studied in the same English group to arrange the meeting later, each member in the team seemed to have their own schedule so I and two members who are C and D tried to match the meeting with the free time of others member. In role play tasks only three of us were discussed with the task and told the other members before the class began. If we have a leader who can be a center of the group and delegate work to each member efficiently, we could performed much better in the class ( Adair, 1979). As leader enable the direction planning, distribution and co-ordination of activities (Salas, Burke and Bowers, 2000). Nevertheless in change management tasks which we had to create the solution for the change in business, our team members were more cooperative and shared ideas with each other assertively.
After this course, I gained knowledge and experience through the tasks of group work in variety ways such as role play and group presentation. At first we formed the group and established ground rules to set boundaries for everybody in the group. In this stage we encountered problems such as communication, strained atmosphere, and subgroup forming which were caused by culture difference, difference in English language skills. As a team we passed this stage together. Later more difficult tasks were assigned to the group we realized that it was impossible for individual to do everything alone. With team working, we obtained a wider opportunity to achieve many tasks that we were unable to complete individually. As we did more tasks, we were able to know the strengths and weaknesses of our team.
In my team we shared the same goal and had a discussion in the class, our performance was good. We had a chance to make friends with new people, understand the culture difference and practice to listen to others. We also learned to deal with the conflict and problems which happened in the group, the relationship in the group was built step by step. In limited time the team was unable to work out every problem, Leader and group meeting problems were hardly retrieved. However communication and atmosphere problems had been improved in a good progress. Through this course I am very glad that I was selected to this group because I had a chance to know new people from different countries as my group consisted of six nationalities. It provided me a great chance to handle problems that arose from people in different background. In the future I think group experiences in this class will definitely give benefits to everybody in team and support each individual performance when working in the workplace.
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