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Group Behavior in Organizations

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Jack Welch, the former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of General Electric once said, “We know where most of the creativity, the innovation, the stuff that drives productivity lies – in the minds of those closest to the work” (Welch, J., 2012). In every work environment there seems to always be some detractors from reaching the end result or end product. In a working world of a hundreds of millions of different personalities, different motivations, and different work environments, not one will ever be the same, with billions upon billions of variables to affect the environment. Work is what makes the world grow, and ultimately makes the world function. The dynamics that are presented in the work environment we come into, as well as the dynamics that we create and become a part of, set the stage for the workplace health and well-being both now and in the future.

This assessment will look at the production work setting, and identify role conflicts within groups, communication problems among group members, lack of cohesiveness in groups with diverse members, and excessive intergroup conflict. This assessment will further evaluate how each problem could impact a group’s productivity, and will make recommendations to resolve each of the problems, and how it applies to the situation. The work environment is a complex environment to begin with especially in production. The dynamics between the individuals can further provide a challenge for the employees, managers, and leaders alike, but if that challenge is met head on and ascertained promptly, it can be a happy, healthy, productive workplace for many to enjoy. It takes a concerted effort to ensure sustained productivity in a production environment, and needs to occur at all levels in order to be successful.

In any work environment, there is always the potential for a conflict in the role he or she is assigned to. This conflict may be with a supervisor, a subordinate, or even the rare chance it be with the individual themself. The source of the conflict may be minute, or it could be on a larger level, to involve management and possibly even senior leadership. Often times the conflict stems from an initial perception, it is the purest example of the old saying, “first impressions are the lasting impressions.” Sometimes the hardest challenge for managers to overcome is to separate themselves from the baseline workers and from the senior leadership and establish themselves as management to the organization. One of the challenges lies in maintaining the subordinate relationship to the leadership echelon, while maintaining a professional, yet approachable position to his or her subordinates.

Saumya Bhattacharya wrote in an article in Business Today about a situation that happened at Cognizant, an Information Technology services consulting firm about a negative experience that some subordinates had with a manager. “The manager was ‘highly unapproachable and indifferent,’ the team told people managers in the company. On his part, the manager continued to make key decisions because he assumed the problem lay with getting accepted in the new organization” (Bhattacharya, S., 2010). The manager in this situation managed to distance himself with his employees by pushing for more stringent deadlines than the employees were capable of, often overworking the employees by having them work on weekends. This had a crippling effect on the employees, as this caused decreased productivity and caused a conflict between the manager and his staff. This example is only one of many that happen in many different production settings around the world.

The manager in a situation where there is a conflict in roles has the ultimate control, as he or she is the pivot point between leadership and the baseline staff. The manager can ultimately chose to work with staff and work out a solution to any issues, or offer suggestions up the chain to resolve any conflict. As with the manager at Cognizant, a meeting was organized with Human Resources, and ultimately he began to see that it was a combined lack of effort on both sides, as the staff did not see the manager as part of the team, as a sort of newcomer, and conversely he made little effort to involve the team, which caused them to dislike the manager. The two just more or less co-existed in the work environment. Discussing these feelings began to work out the issues between the manager and the team, and with behavioral skills enhancement training and an open mind, the manager has opened up and has been working much more fluidly with the team ever since the meeting.

Communication in any aspect of life, especially the workplace, is key to the success of the production team. Conversely, lack thereof is instrumental in the demise of a project, group, or possibly even a company. Fluid, effective communication lends to a healthy environment, and begins to break down potential or already pre-existing communication barriers. It allows thinking and working together seamless, and potentially leads to a happier, more productive work environment. As was stated in Eva Ferguson and Linda Page’s article in the Journal of Industrial Psychology, “the more that all members of the organization adhere to common sense rather than private logic (Adler, 1939), the more likely the communications will be effective”. (Ferguson, E., 2011). This logic is based upon observation that has taken place over many decades. Lack of communication leads to incomplete tasks, fails to get a product to the end user, or notify the end user of any issues or complications. Altogether, communication is a sort of mortar that holds the production setting together. Without it, the production setting completely deteriorates, inevitably leading to its demise. Susan Losh stated in Group Behavior in Organizations, “Communication between team members, valuing the efforts of every team member, leadership, and clarity of task and standards are key to performing additive, disjunctive, and conjunctive tasks well” (Losh, S., 2011).

There are many means of working through communication barriers. Sometimes the best way to overcome these barriers is by establishing a communications map, or plan. There are methods such as the Circle, the Chain, the “Y” method, the Wheel, and the Common (open) Channel, or Comcon. (Losh, S., 2011). These methods seem to be the most widely used, as many different organizations utilize this format to promote communications within the organization. The method that appears to be the most useful is the Common Channel, or Comcon. This allows for maximum communication transfer between various different points and individuals, through many different channels. Some of the best means of communication could be through informal communication, such as an email, a message on a board, a letter sent through intra office mail, or even as primitive as a Post-it note. It is better to say too much when it comes to work in the production environment than nothing at all. In today’s society, the workforce is ever expanding, and tapping into channels all over the world to recruit good talent. The United States for example has some of the best opportunities for work and growth than any other nation in the world.

With that, we are ever expanding and becoming such a diverse workforce. So many differing backgrounds may make for a challenge to overcome in a production environment. Sometimes there may be a communication barrier that impedes the flow of work. In an electronics production environment, there is almost a different spoken language to understand what is happening in an electronic circuit. Since many different individuals have varying different levels of understanding of electronics, this knowledge is a potential barrier that may impede productivity. Even in today’s diverse society, there are still of specific characteristics and diffuse characteristics. These two seem to categories seem to differentiate individuals from each other into expectation states. Following of these trains of thought tend to create a distorted perspective on the workforce, and could cause a conflict within the production environment. This is a detrimental means of productivity, as it breaks down the chemistry of a team within the production environment.

To be the most productive production firm, all employees should be made to feel that everyone involved is treated as equals, regardless of education, background, or any other variable. This is the point at where groups are supposed to shine, as the collaborative efforts of people with such varying backgrounds can come together and create something positive and productive. The manager in this situation should ensure that individuals in the group do not feel as such, as they should be feeling like a part of a team working towards a collective goal. A good means to ensure free flowing ideas is to offer diversity training, which may help individuals understand different influences other than their own. Susan Losh stated that, “By ensuring that all employees feel comfortable expressing their ideas, by soliciting ideas from a wide variety of members, the ultimate result can be a unified team poised to perform at its peak” (Losh, S., 2011).

A harmonious work environment working together as a team is the single most important asset to an organization. A truly harmonious work environment seems to be difficult to find in today’s society, as with an ever expanding work force tends to make the workforce dynamics even more complex. With that complexity comes differing views on many different arenas, from management, to coworker interaction, to any number of different variables. This complexity could potentially lead to conflict in the production environment, be it between entry level assembler or technician, engineer, manager, leadership, and in some rare instances there has even been conflict between an individual and material goods. According to an article published by Karen Jehn, there are two different types of conflict that apply to intragroup dynamics, and they are relationship and task conflict. Relationship conflict occurs when there are interpersonal incompatibilities among group members. Some examples of these incompatibilities may include tension, animosity, and annoyance amongst group members. Task conflict stems from disagreements by group members about the nature of the tasks being performed. Examples of task conflict may include differences in viewpoints, ideas, and opinions (Jehn, K., 1995).

Conflict could be originated from any number of different occurrences, series of events, or preconceived notions, and sometimes could even become aggressive or violent in nature. This negative, hostile work environment tends to wear on staff, and almost certainly, those involved in a conflict, and “even witnesses usually only quit after a series of attempts to end the abuse and usually only after their productivity declines substantially or they find another job” (Kisamore, J., et al., 2010). While this form of conflict may be on an extreme end of the spectrum, it nonetheless happens in the workplace, and is crippling to productivity, especially in a production driven environment. In the instances of such excessive intergroup conflict, the negativity not only affects the individuals involved directly, but weighs on those that surround them, as it can take an emotional toll on co-workers. It can also cause others to have to pick up the extra work that may be caused by a detractor such as conflict amongst employees.

Conflict at times seems healthy, as it allows individuals to vent concerns and frustrations with coworkers and management. If those that are involved in such a conflict are individually worth retaining, there may be the option of separating the two into different departments, different shifts, or even different buildings. These may all be extremes, but sometimes the individuals work best in a different climate than the one he or she is working in in order to maintain a satisfactory level of production. This separation may not be the most productive or ideal, as it may require some retraining, but if an individual is worth retaining, it may be well worth the change of scenery for the individuals involved. At the far extreme, if there is no means for resolution to a conflict, and the individual or individuals involved are at odds, the termination of the individuals involved may be necessary in order to preserve the integrity and the positive behavior that the rest of the team brings to the production workplace.

Within a production oriented work environment, it takes a collaborative effort on many different levels to ensure the completed product arrives to the customer or end user in a timely manner and in proper working order. A role conflict, poor communication skills, lack of diversity training, and excessive intergroup conflict can be deteriorating to morale, welfare, structure, and ultimately lead to decreased productivity amongst the workforce, a human factor to the workforce that can be corrected with proper management. As it is, the work environment is one of the most complex and diverse environments to begin with, and the dynamics between the individuals can further provide a challenge for the employees, managers, and leadership alike. It takes a concerted effort at all levels to ensure a fair and balanced work complement, which in turn leads to sustained productivity in a production environment. The production environment should work harmoniously like the electronic circuits that they create. Every component, every solder run, every data communication line, and every board must work together to achieve the desired end result, a working product ready to be put into service for many years to come.


Bhattacharya, S. (2010). Resolving Conflict at Work. Business Today, 19(19), 127-129. El-Shinnawy, M., & Vinze, A. S. (1998). Polarization and Persuasive Argumentation: A Study of Decision Making in Group Settings. MIS Quarterly, 22(2), 165-198. Ferguson, E. (2011). What Adlerians Consider Important for
Communication and Decision-Making in the Workplace: Mutual Respect and Democratic Leadership Style. Journal Of Individual Psychology, 67(4), 432-437. Jehn, K. A. (1995). A Multimethod Examination of the Benefits and Detriments of Intragroup Conflict. Administrative Science Quarterly, 40(2), 256-282. Lau, R S M. (1996, June). A Survey of Competitiveness and Manufacturing Practices. South Dakota Business Review, 54(4), 1. Retrieved July 5, 2012, from ProQuest Newsstand. (Document ID: 10118317). Losh, S. (2011). Group Behavior in Organizations. San Diego: Bridgepoint Education, Inc. ISBN: 9781935966319. Kisamore,J.L., Jawahar, I.M., Liguori, E.W., Stone, T.H., and Mharapara, T.L. (2010). Conflict and Abusive Workplace Behaviors :The Moderating Effects of Social Competencies. Career Development International, 15(6), 583-600. Retrieved July 6, 2012, from ProQuest Central. (Document ID: 2177984481). Welch, J. (2012). Retrieved from http://creatingminds.org/quotes/business.htm

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