Group Development and Conflict Management in Business

Executive summary

The report looks at the group development, conflict management, and group leadership of a team of five band members whose main function is to perform concerts. A group development analysis by Tuchman’s model shows that the team is currently at the performing stage. The dynamics of the group were done through Foy’s model for team roles and it was found that the team had no chair so it needed to work on that. Group conflicts were analyzed by John and Mannix diagnostic. It was found that the group was doing relatively well in this area. Lastly, the suggestions for group enhancement include feedback, good job design, effective communication, and counseling.

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Introduction

There are various types of workplace groups that cut across all phases of our lives. Workgroups are formed when there is a need to perform a given task or role as a team. Various dynamics need to be addressed as people work together to achieve their objectives. Hatch (1993) has found that lack of effectiveness or control can cause a workplace group to weaken or to fail altogether.

Teams have been known to improve the performance of an organization and at the same time nurture the leadership skills of team leaders and members as a whole. However, they can only work well if all team members are satisfied with the arrangement of the team. Maund (2001) notes that the effective management structure and culture of an organization affects teams’ performance. In the group, the team leader has created several roles for all the team members in various aspects of the food industry who have the task of achieving their given assignments.

Teams have a high level of independence. Maund (2001) further explains that A leader of a team is anticipated to stand apart from the team about his/her position and assists his/her team in explanation of issues, advocates for team members where justice seems not to be done. A team leader is supposed to clearly understand issues and find their solution.

Murray (2003) holds the view that disciplinary issues at the workplaces are a very major problem in employee relations and they are also the most distinguished source of conflict in any organization. Companies should have formal disciplinary arrangements that have rules and procedures which should be followed in taking disciplinary action against an employee.

Any workplace group must endeavor to achieve team effectiveness. Dyer (1995) defined team effectiveness as the productive output of employees coupled with a favorable working environment for all members of a team. In this case, workplace groups can only be deemed as effective when two functions have been fulfilled; the social aspect and the technical aspect of the team.

Overview of a workplace group

The workplace chosen for review is a team of musicians or band members. This group is a combination of various responsibilities and duties all working towards satisfying the objectives of the team and maintaining the good name of the group. I worked in this group as a band member. Each member of the group had to play a particular musical instrument, sing (even though there was the lead singer) and they also had to give their contributions when we were trying to compose a song or when we were trying to prepare for a performance. It was not only a team that was technical i.e. playing instruments but it also involved a high level of brainstorming and creativity where every member of the group had to contribute. Some team members were assigned the task of coming up with costumes while others were expected to focus on choreography and sound.

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The type of group which will be reviewed in the subsequent sections is a work team. Its function was to perform songs and pieces in concerts. It was made up of the following members:

  • Team members
  • Rudy Yap
  • Kee How Gen
  • Caroline Yeap
  • Ahmad Zaharuddin
  • Faisal

Analysis of group development using Tuck man’s development model and critical events in its history

The group was first formed by two members. These members then spread the word that there is a band that needs people who can play and sing very well. The responses were overwhelming as the announcements were made around the college. This meant that the two members had a wide choice and settled for three people who they felt had the right personality, talent, and attitude to join the band.

Tuck man, W. & Jensen, A. (1977) came up with five stages of group development; these stages are as follows: forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning. The forming stage is normally characterized by frequent arguments and emotional conflicts, lack of commitment from group members, and poor communication. At first, the group had a rough time trying to define everyone’s tasks. Because some members of the team thought that they could be able to do everything. Most of the time people were quarreling and very little work was getting done. All the characteristics of the forming stage were witnessed here. The second stage is the storming stage characterized by the formulation of rules that will guide members of the group conflicts and resentments are common at this stage. For the group, this stage was characterized by learning each other’s personalities after a couple of weeks and realized that some people were better at certain tasks and responsibilities than others. For example, we realized that Yap was a team builder and organized the group’s activities.

Tuck man et al (1977) explain the norming stage of reviewing objectives and rules made by the group. For the band, this was visible when eventually some work started getting done. We did our first performance at a birthday party for one of our friends and we got very good responses. This is then followed by the performing stage. Here, group members are almost approaching an end and they implement what they have decided on. There is a high degree of confidence and commitment at this stage of development. This stage was seen when we began meeting more frequently and composing more songs. This meant that we interacted more than we had before. The last stage is adjournment is characterized by disbandment because the group’s activities have come to an end but this has not been done by the group yet. The current stage in which the band members are in the performing stage. This is because there are relatively few cases of conflict between us; we care for each other and spend most of the time working rather than arguing.

The limitation of the Tuck Mann model is that sometimes groups do not undergo these rigorous stages in their development. Instead, they may jump back and forth between the various stages and it, therefore, becomes difficult to place all the group’s events in a given category.

Dynamics in conflict management

Thomson et al (2003) examined the People’s small group development theory initiated by Marshall Poole. In this group development theory, three main issues govern group interactions. These are;

  • Topic/process
  • Relations
  • Task

Here, groups jump back and forth through these three issues. Sometimes, workers can be dealing with the task at hand or they may leave their task to solve a certain concern in their relationship. The topic can be defined as the point under discussion by the group at any one time.

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In the group’s case, tasks involve composing songs, playing instruments, and singing. The relations path deals with the relationships of members of the group. This implies that there are times when members of the group leave tasks aside and center on relationships or the opposite may occur. In the group, there is unity only when all the three paths intertwine, that is when the group members agree on the three tracks. The team members tend to do more work when all three paths intertwine. These three aspects of relationship conflict are the ones that received emphasis during the group diagnostic.

The dynamics of the workplace group were analyzed in terms of a diagnostic based on Jehn and Mannix (2001). The diagnostic was done using a questionnaire that every member of the group had to fill. This was then tallied using instructions that had been tallied. These questions were concerning the type of interactions that had occurred between members of the band we went about doing our work. The answers that were supposed to be filled in indicated the number of times in which the kind of interactions that were being examined in the diagnostic had occurred. These interactions could either have occurred frequently, sometimes, never, once in a while, or fairly often, one of the latter mentioned times could be filled in.

Some of the areas that received emphasis in the diagnostic how frequently members felt that there was tension between them. Members also had to reveal whether they felt angry towards each other. They also had to give information regarding the number of times they didn’t agree concerning a given idea. Members were to determine the frequency of disagreements between them. Other issues that team members had to give details about in the questionnaire were the frequency of arguments concerning different actions between them, the frequency of friction, disagreements about responsibilities when they were completing projects when members had incompatible opinions when members were uncertain about who should perform a given task and lastly team members had to disclose how often they many times there was emotional conflict and resource allocation.

All the above questions had answers that had been assigned numbers between zero and four. These numbers correspond to the number of times that the given interactions had occurred between the band members.

When the results were analyzed, they were averaged and a conclusion was made about the group. All the questions either fell in one of the three categories mentioned below; relationship, task, and process. Members were to add up all the ratings under the three categories for each member of the group. These subtotals were filled into a table that is provided. The table is divided into the three categories governing group interactions. This is then followed by adding up all the amounts of the group members under each category. Lastly, one is supposed to add up all the totals of the group and then divide by the number o people in the group to get the total. If the team scored between twelve and sixteen for a particular conflict, then this indicates that there is a high level of conflict in the group. If the group scored five to eleven, then there is a moderate level of conflict in the group, also when the group gets below four, then there is a low level of conflict.

It was found that the band members scored 3.6 for the relationship aspect of the group. Because this was below four, it indicated that there was a low level of conflict and this meant that the group had to make sure that they keep doing what they were doing to keep the relationship at the level where it was at this point. The result indicated that the group had a relatively strong bond between them.

The diagnostic also indicated that there are relatively moderate levels of task conflicts between members of the band. This means that it is relatively difficult to get work done. Members of the band ought to work on this aspect because it is hindering them from achieving their full potential. If this situation is left unchanged, it could become something worse and something must be done to prevent that.

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Lastly, the questionnaire also found that there were moderate levels of conflict when it came to processes. This meant that the group needs to re-examine how they go about tasks. This meant that there are low levels of consensus and members of the band need to focus on methods used to perform duties. This can most easily be done by comparing what each member of the band is good at and then assigning tasks depending on those abilities. There should also be frequent meetings where members brainstorm and agree on paths to be taken in processes.

Overly, the group is not doing too badly relationship-wise and conflict-wise. However, there should not be complacency on the part of the team members. They need to focus on how they go about performing team projects. (Process conflict). Members of the group also need to work on their task conflicts. They should clearly define who needs to perform certain tasks and one needs to know exactly what they are supposed to do to minimize on time wastage and achieve full potential for the group.

The method used for the evaluation of the team’s dynamics has several limitations, the first being that the method of evaluation does not look at other aspects of the conflict. There is more to teamwork than the three areas that received emphasis in the questionnaire; task, process, and relationship.

The other problem with this type of analysis is the fact that the questions asked are limiting. It would be more effective if the questions asked were more open-ended and allowed members to express their feelings. These questions were also few in numbers and may prove to be limiting. If the number was increased to address the deficiencies seen in Jehn and Mannix’s (2001) methods, then the method would have been more effective.

The answers given in this type of diagnostic are imprecise. Most of the answers were not very specific. This meant that group members could not address issues head-on. Answers like ‘frequently’, ‘sometimes’ and ‘fairly often’ could not give members of the band an exact indication of the level of conflict. This means that the basis upon which the results were tallied could not be considered precise because the answers themselves were not.

Dynamics in team roles

In this group of five members, an analysis was done by Foy’s model to determine the dynamics of team roles. It was found that certain members fell into various categories. The first category is the chair. No one got this title in the group. But this is a member who is supposed to stand out as the overall leader of the group. This team member should give most people motivation to proceed with their tasks and also ensure that the rest of the team members do tasks that corresponded to their interests. This person should also have a strong sense of discipline and ensure that people in the group meet their obligations; however, this type of group member is not forceful in their undertakings. This is in contrast to the ‘Shaper’ who is more aggressive. This type of group member is not afraid whether his ideas are rejected or accepted but is more focused on the result. There was the ‘contractor’ who was Ahmad. The main characteristic of this type of person is that they like to interact with people and may not necessarily be focused on results for the group. This was then followed by the ‘innovator’. This was the brains of the group. This kind of person comes up with most of the ideas of the group and also ensures that most of the problems within the group are solved. This role was not taken up by anyone on the team. There is also the ‘critic’. This type of group member ensures that an analysis is conducted on any situation faced. This member is not always fast but convinces people about his decisions. There was also no person attributed to this role in the group. Also, there was the finisher. This was a position that was taken up by Caroline and Kee. This kind of person was the one that completed tasks within the given group and also ensured that any omissions were corrected. Lastly, Rudy Yap and Faisal were team builders. These are members of the group that enhances cohesion and teamwork (Foy, 1999).

Some flaws were viewed in Foy’s diagram when establishing team roles, the first being that one member could score similar points in two categories. This means that it is difficult to place that member of the team in a certain role. This was why there were two cases when members both had the same roles. The group has a problem in this area because it has no Chair and lacks someone to give the group direction. When a team member’s role is not clearly defined then it becomes very difficult for them to proceed smoothly with a given task.

Foy’s development model is also inadequate because some team members got the same score and landed in the same role. This could bring problems in the process of achieving given tasks because two members may find that they both want to do something common. This may result in tensions and disagreement.

Dynamics in group leadership

According to Foy, (1999) it was found that the group did not have a clearly defined group leader. There was a need for this to be formalized as the group members needed a headstrong leader to take charge of the group. Some of the conflicts that arose in the team were because there was the poor delegation of duties which is a responsibility that could be given to one individual. The team should organize itself and allocate the group leadership role to someone who can be identified as a ‘chair’.

Changes that improve group performance and member satisfaction

Several changes have been suggested through the behavioral theory that can improve group performance. These include:

  • Managerial counseling
  • Goal setting
  • Providing feedback
  • Improving job design
  • Effective communication

How to improve group performance and satisfaction

Megginson (1972) believes that there are deeper levels of connectivity that occur when group members attend counseling sessions. These help members of the group to air out their fears and expectations. Likewise, counseling helps team leaders to understand their team members more and to ensure that they help them in the best way possible. Counseling also assists in the elimination of inadequacies and limitations. This is a view held by Kamdar and Van Dyne (2007) who believe that counseling is a form of social exchange and is beneficial to both parties involved. Counseling is also an avenue used to express intangible feelings that may not be easily articulated during other forms of interaction. These kinds of emotions include respect, acceptance, and trust. The organization needs to stick to ideas and issues related to the workplace and performance during these counseling sessions.

Organizations and teams should use the idea of ‘stretch goals’ as put forward by Luthans (2005). Stretch goals simply mean attainable goals and those that challenge team members to improve their performance. A team leader should ensure that it challenges its team members by setting goals that require high input. This will inspire them to be better. At the same time, a team leader must ensure that she does not overdo this. Goals must not be too high as this discourages the team. Leaders should understand their team members when they fail to attain high goals. Punishments at this point are not in order.

Stajkovic et al (2001) found that feedback is an effective way of enhancing team performance. This is only possible after a proper assessment has been done. Feedback ensures that all stakeholders know where they stand. It is a prerequisite to performance improvement. If team members find out that they have been performing below expectation through feedback, then they will be inspired to upgrade. If they have exceeded expectations, they will be encouraged to keep up with this trend. Feedback improves performance by close to twenty percent as shown by Stajkovic et al (2001).

The team leaders can also ensure that team members work to their level best by designing their jobs efficiently. This means that the team leader should provide variety in job descriptions or opportunities to rotate duties and responsibilities. Team members will feel as though they are confronted with new tasks when the job processes have been changed. This was according to a study by Dale (2001).

Effective communication between the team leader and the group’s team members is important because if the team leader has to introduce new rules, it has to be done procedurally since the members should be given ample time to adjust to the new rules. The group should use management and leadership strategies that allow members an opportunity to reform, failure to which necessary measures should be taken. Schein (1992) shows that for the effective realization of the benefits of teamwork, there should be a well-coordinated form of communication. Communication has been considered a gateway to the high productivity of any organization.

Conclusion

Difficulties can arise at all levels of teamwork building i.e. at the formation, building, and implementation stages. These difficulties are so critical that they need to be addressed at length before deciding to adopt them as a way of improving productivity. In the long run, it will lead to the breakdown of individual relationships which affect their productivity in general at the company. Dyer (1995) believes that it takes a proactive role from all stakeholders in the team for the system to work.

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