Posts Tagged ‘Groups’
Over the last thirty years or so, group think has become a term against which all employers rebel because it signifies the end of creative and independent thought. When you have a tightly-knit group of people who work together, they are likely to conform to one another’s thought processes, making it almost impossible to foster independent thought. This is something that should be avoided at all costs, so here are a few tips for avoiding group think during a business meeting.
Avoid Groupthink During a Business Meeting: Don’t Get Mad
One of the ways that you can promote groupthink is by getting angry every time an employee opposes your viewpoint. If you send the message that contradicting the boss is “bad”, the group as a whole will avoid inciting conflict. Instead, make new ideas and arguments a pleasant experience, and take every idea into consideration. Further, if one or two members of the group consistently berate another member for their ideas, take them aside and advise them that all ideas are welcome. Make the business meeting a positive atmosphere.
Avoid Groupthink During a Business Meeting: Appoint a Co-Leader
Often, one leader of a business meeting can seem overwhelming to the rest of the group. Since you have your own opinions, they may assume that there’s aren’t welcome, which promotes groupthink. To battle this problem, appoint a co-leader for your business meetings — preferably someone who is likely to disagree with you. Show your staff that new and previously unmentioned ideas are not only acceptable, but welcome.
Avoid Groupthink During a Business Meeting: Assign Discussion Leaders
You might take a page out of the educational rule book and assign discussion leaders for each meeting. For example, let’s say that there are four topics on the agenda, and there will be twelve members of the meeting. A week before the meeting takes place, assign those four topics to groups of three. This gives each group a chance to brainstorm ideas and to come up with possible solutions for the meeting. This will help battle groupthink because they won’t be asked to come up with ideas on the spot in front of all their colleagues.
Avoid Groupthink During a Business Meeting: Give Breaks
A business meeting doesn’t have to be a three-hour-long marathon; it can be broken up. You might want to schedule two meetings for the day — one before lunch and one right after. This will allow your staff to come up with new ideas, to argue those ideas, and then to take a mental and emotional breather. When you reconvene, they’ll feel fresh and ready to start anew.
Avoid Groupthink During a Business Meeting: Provide a Venue for Anonymous Feedback
One of the reasons why groupthink is so prevalent is because people are reluctant to voice a controversial idea in front of their colleagues. In order to allow everyone a voice, come up with a venue for anonymous feedback. For example, after every meeting, you can leave a closed box in a room with small slips of paper. Allow your staff to write down their reactions to the meeting as well as new ideas they weren’t comfortable with bringing up. Make sure the box cannot be opened and that there is a slit in the top for the pieces of paper.
Here the issue that generates conflicts is emotion, and frustrated comments, is conflict within the organization. We generally do not look at conflict as opportunity — we tend to think about conflict as
unpleasant, counter-productive and time-consuming.
Conflict that occurs in organizations need not be destructive, provided the energy associated with conflict is harnessed and directed towards problem-solving and organizational improvement. However, managing conflict effectively requires that all parties understand the nature of conflict in the workplace.
Two Views: The Good, The Bad
There are two ways of looking at organizational conflict. Each of these ways is linked to a different set of assumptions about the purpose and function of organizations.
The dysfunctional view of organizational conflict is embedded in the notion that organizations are created to achieve goals by creating structures that perfectly define job responsibilities, authorities, and other job functions. Like a clockwork watch, each “cog” knows where it fits, knows what it must do and knows how it
relates to other parts. This traditional view of organizations values orderliness, stability and the repression of any conflict that occurs. Using the timepiece analogy we can see the sense in this. What would happen to time-telling if the gears in our traditional watches decided to become less traditional, and re-define their roles in the system?
To the “traditional” organizational thinker, conflict implies that the organization is not designed or structured correctly or adequately. Common remedies would be to further elaborate job descriptions, authorities and responsibilities, increase the use of central power (discipline), separate conflicting members, etc. This view of organizations and conflict causes problems. Unfortunately, most of us, consciously or unconsciously, value some of the characteristics of this “orderly” environment. Problems arise when we do not realize that this way of looking at organizations and conflict only fits organizations that work in routine ways where innovation and change are virtually eliminated. Virtually all government organizations work within a very disorderly context — one characterized by constant change and a need for constant adaptation. Trying to “structure away” conflict and disagreement in a dynamic environment requires tremendous amounts of energy, and will also suppress any positive outcomes that may come from disagreement, such as improved decision-making and innovation.
The functional view of organizational conflict sees conflict as a productive force, one that can stimulate members of the organization to increase their knowledge and skills, and their contribution to organizational innovation and productivity. Unlike the position mentioned above, this more modern approach considers that the keys to organization success lie not in structure, clarity and orderliness, but in creativity, responsiveness and adaptability. The successful organization, then, NEEDS conflict so that diverging views can be put on the table, and new ways of doing things can be created. The functional view of conflict also suggests that conflict provides people with feedback about how things are going. Even “personality conflicts” carry information to the manager about what is not working in an organization, affording the
opportunity to improve. If you subscribe to a flexible vision of effective organizations, and recognize that
each conflict situation provides opportunity to improve, you then shift your view of conflict. Rather than trying to eliminate conflict, or suppress its symptoms, your task becomes managing conflict so that it enhances people and organizations, rather than destroying people and organizations. So, the task is to manage conflict, and avoid what we call “the ugly”….where conflict is allowed to eat away at team cohesiveness and productivity.
We have the good (conflict is positive), the bad (conflict is to be avoided), and now we need to address the ugly. Ugly occurs where the manager (and perhaps employees) attempt to eliminate or suppress conflict in situations where it is impossible to do so. You know you have ugly in your organization when: • many conflicts run for years • people have given up on resolving and addressing conflict problems • there is a good deal of private bitching and complaining but little attempt to fix the problem • staff show little interest in working to common goals, but spend more time and energy on protecting themselves When we get “ugly” occurring in organizations, there is a tendency to look to the manager or formal leader as being responsible for the mess. In fact, that is how most employees would look at the situation. It is true that managers and supervisors play critical roles in determining how conflict is handled in the organization, but it is also true that the avoidance of ugliness must be a shared responsibility. Management and employees must work together in a cooperative way to reduce the ugliness, and increase the likelihood that conflict can be channeled into an effective force for change.
Most of the ugly strategies used by managers, employees, and organizations as a whole are based on the repression of conflict in one way or another. We need to point that, in general, you want to avoid these approaches like the plague.
Ugly #1: Nonaction
The most common repressive management strategy is nonaction — doing nothing. Now, sometimes, doing nothing is a smart thing to do, provided the decision to do nothing is well thought out and based on an analysis of the situation. Most of the time, people “do nothing” about conflict situations for other reasons, such as fear of bringing conflict into view, or discomfort with anger. Unfortunately, doing nothing generally results in conflict escalating, and sets a tone for the organization…”we don’t have conflict here”. Everyone knows you have conflict, and if you seem oblivious, you also seem dense and out of touch.
Ugly #2: Administrative Orbiting
Administrative orbiting means keeping appeals for change or redress always “under consideration”. While nonaction suggests obliviousness since it doesn’t even acknowledge the problem, orbiting acknowledges the problem, but avoids dealing with it. The manager who uses orbiting will say things like “We are dealing with the problem”, but the problem never gets addressed. Common stalls include: collecting more data, documenting performance, cancelling meetings, etc.
Ugly #3: Secrecy
A common means of avoiding conflict (or repressing it) is to be secretive. This can be done by employees and managers. The notion is that if nobody knows what you are doing, there can be little conflict. If you think about this for a moment, you will realize its absurdity. By being secretive you may delay conflict and confrontation, but when it does surface it will have far more negative emotions attached to it than would have been the case if things were more open.
Ugly #4: Law and Order
The final “ugly strategy”. Normally this strategy is used by managers who mistakenly think that they can order people to not be in conflict. Using regulations, and power, the person using the approach “leans on” people to repress the outward manifestations of conflict. Of course, this doesn’t make conflict go away, it just sends it scuttling to the underground, where it will grow and increase its destructive power.
The notion that conflict should be avoided is one of the major contributors to the growth of destructive conflict in the workplace. The “bad” view of conflict is associated with a vision of organizational effectiveness that is no longer valid (and perhaps never was). Conflict can be directed and managed so that it causes both people and organizations to grow, innovate and improve. However, this requires that conflict not be repressed, since attempts to repress are more likely to generate very ugly situations. Common repression strategies to be avoided are: nonaction, administrative orbiting, secrecy and law and order.
Source: Bacal, R, 2004, “Organisational conflict – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”,