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RelativeResourceManager3 - Cohesiveness in Groups M...

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Unformatted text preview: Cohesiveness in Groups M NAGERIAL BULLETIN Cockpit Teamwork Research has demonstrated that in the great majority of crashes and iesser acci~ dents, the aircraft is mechanically tunctionat and crew members are well—trained and healthy. it’s the team that goes on the tritz. Cockpit crews given fairly demanding simulated flight tests after flying together for several days made fewer errors, even when tired, than fresh crews just assembled. Other research has shown that the majority of the trouble crews get into comes on, the first leg of the first day of their time together. ideally, crews would remain intact for a long time. Typically, however, the lifespan of a crew is a mere one or two days. When highest performance counts and money is no object, some miiitary organiza- tions, such as the Strategic Air-Command, do approach the ideal, using “hard crews" _ that stay together. “Everybody agrees that it wouid be better to have hard crews,” sayslProfessor Richard} Hackman, yet airlines and pilot onions prefer the system the way it is. ‘ SOURCE: Christopher Reed, "Cockpit Teamwork.“ Harvard Magazine, September—October 1 997, p. t3. 88 CHAPTER 4 A crucial emergent factor in any work group is the degree to which members turn out to like each other and the group as a whole. A group that is close and unified will behave differently, for better or worse, than one that is distant and fragmented. In this chapter we will look at raj/ml makes a group stick together. The consequence Qf,,,Sti.Cl5ingtogether for productivity, satisfaction, and development isv ultimately a more important issue, but let us first try to understand what pulls a group together. With a better understanding of the factors that lead to closeness, a manager is more likely to succeed in efforts to increase or decrease this important emergent charac— teristic of groups. In an effort to spell out the propositions about closeness. we begin with some el— ementary “building blocks” of relationships. \While the first proposition looks obvi— ous, it is often overlooked and is important to those that come later. Remember from Chapter 3 that technology, work layout, required interactions, and the arrange— ment of space affect the chances of people talking with one another; We can restate that idea more formally: , The greater the opportunity/requirements fur interactions, the greater the likeli' hood of interaction occurring.1 That leads directly to the next proposition, which is fundamental to all human relationships: _ _ , The more frequent the interaction among people, the greater the likelihood of their developing positive feelings for one another.2 And, in turn: The greater the positive feelings among people, the more frequently they Will in— tei‘act.3 In other words, if you like someone, you will probably choose to spend more time with him or her than with someone you do not like. People tend to approach other people they see as attractive and to avoid those they see as unattractive. Although most people have general ideas about what kind ofpeople they do not like, these general feelings are often easily overcome when they actually interact with and get to know a particular person or group of people. “While knowing someone does not guarantee liking, it is rather diffi cult to like some one you do not know. In fact, people are often surprised to find how likeable others are once they’ve had the opportunity to interact with them. lt is easier for a man to be loyal to his Club than to his planet; the bylaws are shorter and he is personally acquainted with the other members, E. B. White One Man’s Meat l know I don‘t like it because I’ve never tried it. Ad for Guinness Stout These propositions must be modified or at least qualified under certain condi— tions. For example, when there are strong prior negative feelings on the part of one or more interactor or when there are extreme status differences between those inter— acting, interaction may only increase prior feelings of dislike or distance and may lead to avoidance or superficial contact. \X/hen interaction reveals strong value dif- ferences, individuals may decide to avoid one another for fear ofgetting into heated arguments. Furthermore, even positive interactions cannot increase indefinitely; at —. some point they will level off and reach a kind ofequilibrium where both parties are ‘ either interacting enough to satisfy their needs or are prevented by task requirements from interacting further. COHESIVENESS IN GROUPS 89 While there are exceptions, these propositions are surprisingly applicable to many different situations and have potent implications for managers. Consider different ways in which you might use them to design an organization: To resolve conflicts? To help make work more interesting? These simple propositions, when combined with others that follow (and which you develop yourselfon the basis of your obse '- vations) can help explain the variety of emergent systems you will encounter. Factors That Increase Cohesion . Required Interactions The. previous propositions suggest that, once there is a work reason for people to in— teract, they will begin to do it more often and will develop some liking for one an— other beyond the original task reason for their interaction. Thus, The more frequent the interactions required by the iob, the more likely that social relationships and be- havior will develop along with task relationships and behavior.‘ This is another way of describing the relationship between required and emergent interactions discussed in Chapter 3. \‘V hen members ofa group begin to like one another and like being in the group, then the group will have attraction for the members, and acceptance from the group will be seen as desirable by them. in other words: The more attractive the group, the more 5019mm it will be.5 As the emerging social relationships form, the group will de— velop norms—ideas about what behavior is expecred of group members. The more _ cohesive the group, the more eager individuals will be for membership, and, thus, the more likely they will be to conform to the group’s norms. Another way ofsay~ ing this is: The more col esive the group, the more influence it has on its members. Tl e less certain and clear a group’s norms and standards are, the less control it will have over its members? From the point. ofview ofa total group, finding ways of getting members to reel attracted to and willing to be influenced by the group is extremely desirable; a group can best reach its goals when it has everyone’s allegiance and willingness to sacrifice personal desires on behalf of the group. From the individual’s point of View, how— ever, cohesion may be a mixed blessing in that there are personal costs in return for whatever may be the satisfaction ofbeing an accepted member. The individual may have to forgo preferred ways of relating to others, put out greater effort than is de- sired, or give more time and concern than is comfortable. ln Chapter 7 we explore more ofthe dilemmas faced by the individual trying to decide how much to give up for the closeness offered by the group; we want to note for now, however, that while membership has a price for the individual, insofar as the participation of all mem- bers is necessary or valuable for achieving the group’s goals, the creation of group co- hesiveness is important. Common Attitudes and Vaiues W'e have already shown how cohesion is increased by frequent interaction, but a number ofother factors can affect it. For example, if members ofa group come to it with similar attitudes and values, cohesion is much more likely to occur rapidly. The greater the similarity in member attitudes and values brought to? the group, the greater the likelihood of cohesion in a group? We would caution you against assuming that cohesion based on these kinds of similarities is necessarily desirable or even easy to generate today. As discussed in Chapter l, workforce diversity related to gender, race, and national origin is increas— ing both naturally and deliberately as organizations globalize and as issues of social justice become paramount in the norms and policies. ‘ 90 MANAGERIAL BULLETIN CHAPTER 4 w A Most “Proper” Manager A manager was offered a job at an investment banking 1. He owned a power boat (and did not sail). firm in Boston. The firm‘s executives were all “proper 2. His MBA degree was from the University of Bostonians," educated at lvy League schools. The man- Massachusetts. not Dartmouth or Harvard. ager was subsequently told he had been hired because 3. He wanted to leave early one afternoon each the firm wanted greater diversity among the people em— week to coach Little League (not play squash). ployed, and during interviews he had revealed how dit- ierent he was (despite his technical competence): Superordinate Goal A Common Enemy Along the same lines, when there are differences among group members, if there is some kind of overarching goal to which group members subscribe, cohesion is likely to increase. For example, a product invention group at a large consumer goods firm consisted of members with very different backgrounds: a chemist, a marketing ex” pert, a production engineer, and a nutritionist. \Whenever they met, they argued about how to proceed, feasibility of ideas, desirability of particular products to con— sumers, the capacity of the company to produce certain items—even what technical language to use when discussing ideas. But all members knew that their reputations and ultimately the company’s future depended on their success in coming up with profitable new products. This commitment to the shared overall goal of new prod- uct creation pulled them past their frequent disagreements and made them fiercely loyal to their team. They prided themselves on their creativity and their collective practicality. Thus, Group cohesion Wili be increased by the existence of a superordi— nate goale), subscribed to by the members.8 Similarly, you probably have had experience with another kind of superordinate goal: dislike for a common enemy. If people have the same enemy, they are likely to feel a kinship; this general notion has long been used effectively by politicians in a number of countries to try to create a sense of national cohesion that overrides the variety of self—interests among different groups. in a smaller group as well, Group cohesion will be increased by the perceived existence ofa common enemy.9 The common enemy may not necessarily be a hated enemy. Even friendly com— petition among groups usually has the effect of pushing group members to feel closer to one another. if by the time you read this you have already done a class ex— ercise in groups, you may have noticed how the presence of other groups working on the same tasks seemed to cause people in your group to like one another more and. perhaps, even to begin to make joking comments about how much better your group was than the others. In Chapter 13 we look more closely at relationships across groups, but for now it is important to note that the presence of competing (or even potentially competing) groups often makes members within groups feel closer to one another. In some situations, especially in competitively oriented Western so‘ ciety, this phenomenon is so powerful that, even when a multigroup activity is con- ducted in which groups are 770: being compared with one another, group members still act as if it were a competitive situation and seem to feel cohesive just by being near other groups visibly working on a similar activity. COHESIVENESS IN GROUPS 91 Success in Achieving Goals and Group Status Another factor that can lead to greater feeling ofliking among group members is for the group to be successful in achieving its goals. lfa group seems to be successful at getting what it wants, that makes the group more attractive to members and seems to carry over in the way that members feel about one another. Thus, Group cohe— sion will be increased by success in achieving the group’s goals?” A connected factor affecting group cohesion has to do with the relative position of the group in relation to other groups in the same overall organization As you might expect, the higher the status of a particular group in relation to other groups, the more attractive it will seem to members. This is apparently true for everyone but Groucho Marx, who once said, “I wouldn’t want to belong to any club which would have me as a member.” But for others of us less witty or perceptive, Groirp cohesion is increasedfih proportion to the status: of ;the‘; groupf'relative to Other groups in the system.“ Low External Interactions A related issue from a somewhat opposite point of View has to do with the amount of time that group members are required to spend away from the group. lf group members by the nature of their job have to relate to many outsiders (including oth— ers in the same organization but not in the group), they are less likely to feel strong allegiance to their own group. This is very often true of certain kinds ofprofessional employees who spend a good portion of their time dealing with the problems of nonspecialists in their organization and who also spend time at professional meet- ings with people from other organizations in order to keep up-to—date in their specialty, whether it is engineering, medicine, law, or whatever. Similarly, an or— ganization’s purchasing agent will often have to spend more time dealing with out- siders than fellow organization members, leading to reduced loyalty to his or [her own department and organization. Thus, Group cohesion will be increased when i there is a low frequency of required external interactions}S2 Resolution of Differences Every group will at times have differences ofopinions; how they are resolved affects cohesion. lfa group has repeated problems with resolving differences among mem- bers, because of strong differences of opinion, values, or working style, the mem— bers’ liking for one another will tend to decrease even when the group manages to be successful. Thus, The more easily and frequently member differences are settled in a way satisfactory to all members, the greater will be group cohesion.13 Neverthe- less, success, even if arrived at by a cantankerous process, can soothe many bad feel— ings. A winning group usually overlooks its differences; a losing group often finds fault with its members. Availability of Resources Finally, the way members feel about each other is frequently affected by the availabil— ity of resources to the whole group. When resources, such as money, supplies, pres— tige, or recognition, are scarce, group members are likely to feel competitive with one another. Conversely, when there is an abundance of whatever resources the group needs, members are likely to see each other more charitably and, therefore, like each other more. Group cohesion will increase under conditions of abundant resources. For example, when the staff of an innovative health center saw government grants rolling in, the members felt close to the other “pioneers” on the staff. When gov— ernment money dried up and even weekly paychecks were in jeopardy, dissension and anger toward one another broke out. 92 CHAPTER 4 The preceding propositions all relate to group integration. The cohesiveness or at— tractiveness of a group and the power of its norms to regulate behavior are major as- pects of emergent systems and are important factors for diagnosing and predicting group behavior. As explained, cohesiveness is influenced by background factors, such as similarity in member attitudes, and by attributes of the required system, such as the necessity for interaction. By carefully tracing what is brought to the work group and what is required ofit, it is possible to make sense of the degree of close— ness that emerges. But keep in mind that “nothing is as simple as it seems” (see Chapter 1). Cohesiveness is the result of many factors; a careful analysis requires that you think in terms of multiple causality. While all ofthe above propositions have been phrased in terms ofwhat positively increases cohesion, they are also intended to be reversible in terms ofwhat decreases cohesion. As a manager you may wish at any given time to increase or decrease co— hesion among a particular group and may be able to affect differing aspects of the conditions cited by the propositions. Deciding in which direction cohesion should be pushed and then how to do it requires a careful assessment of existing conditions. The manager of a large department store was faced with customer complaints about waiting time for service. Upon investigation, he found that many of the full—time salespeople congregated near the fitting rooms for conversation. They enjoyed one another’s company so much that they found it difficult to interrupt the gossip and joking to go wait on customers. The manager had to find a way to decrease tl e group’s cohesion without creating major resentment that would interfere with sell— ing enthusiasm, How might such a problem be approached? \Would it be wise to crack down and prohibit all social talk? W’hat would be the effect ofphysically rearranging the work area? Qonsequences of Cohesion for Productivity, Satisfaction, and Development Productivity Since a cohesive group is one in which members adhere to the norms, it should not be surprising that in such a group norms are likely to develop not only in regard to at a strong tion from that l€\ el will be tolerated, and then encourage the members to produce at or near that level. \Whether production is measured in widgets/hour as in a man- ufacturing group or in “sufficient hours spent preparing an analysis” as in a student task group, The more cOhesive the group, the more similar Will be the output of in» . dividual members.14 Another way of looking at the effect of cohesiveness on productivity is in terms of how much effort members will make to seet that the productivity norms, high or low, are followed. As you might expect, The more cohesive the group, the more it , will try to enforce compliance with its norms about productivity. Cohesive groups will work hard to get members to increase output ifit is lower than the group thinks apprOpriate and also will supply pressure to hold down the output ofmembers who embarrass the group by producing “too much.” Cohesiveness does not, cause [7ng productivity, merely similar levels ofit among group members. You may remember from Chapter 3 that a grouprs idea of what is the proper amount to produce may be only vaguely related to higher management’s or the rest of the organization’s ideas of the proper amount. in general, if the group feels in sympathy with or supported by “higher management” (or those who define good performance), it will have a tendency to enforce a fairly high level of productivity on COHESIVENESS IN GROUPS MANAGERIAL BULLETIN 93 a “Revolution at Coming Ceramics Plant” Everyone is assigned to a team of about six workers, who together set goals and schedules, and even as— sign each other jobs. And although that method is prov- expected to resolve it" instead of turning to a super- visor. “if someone isn’t feeling well or pulling their weight, we can’t let it go on or it‘ll just be a bigger probe lem," she adds, noting how it‘s difficult to confront a co-worker. V lng efficient, it’s also the source of numerous conflicts. “People problems are the issue,” says a . . . kiln op- erator. For instance, some teams have felt pulled down by one lazy member. “ll there’s a conflict. . . . we‘re SOURCE: Alecia Swasy and Carol Hymowitz. “The Workplace Revolu- tion.“ The Wall Street Journal. February 9. 1990. its members and vice versa. Since a cohesive group will bring member productivity into line, The greater the cohesion of the group the higher productivity will be if the group. supports the organization 3 Egoals and the lowe...
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