Module 15: Working and Writing in Teams
March 3 2012
Possible Group Ground Rules
Start on time; end on time. Practise NOSTUESO (“No one speaks twice until everyone speaks once”).
Come to the meeting prepared. If you have a problem with another person, tell that person, not everyone else.
Focus comments on the issues. Everyone must be 70% comfortable with the decision and 100% committed to
Avoid personal attacks. If you agree to do something, do it.
Listen to and respect members' Communicate immediately if you think you may not be able to fulf
Possible Group Ground Rules
Group Task Outcomes
• Define, articulate and agree on the goal(s) of the project.
• Describe the goal(s) in writing.
• Create time-management guidelines (who does what when) to reach desired goal(s).
• Create measurements that describe both (1) successful products (proposals, interviews, visuals) that work toward the
goal and (2) the successful final product (an A+ on the report, the sales contract).
• Ensure every team member has a copy of the goals, the timeline, individual responsibilities, and the criteria for success.
What kinds of Communication Happen in Groups?
- Different messages occur at different points in a group’s development.
- Fall into three categories:
o Both information messages and procedural messages relate to getting the task done.
o Interpersonal messages focus on maintaining group norms
o fostering group cohesion.
- Information messages focus on content: the problem or challenge, data and possible solutions.
- Procedural messages focus on method and process.
- Interpersonal messages focus on people, promoting friendliness, cooperation and group loyalty.
- During orientation, when members meet and begin to define their task, people who want to work well together
consciously communicate in ways that foster mutuality and interdependence.
- Interpersonal and procedural messages reduce the tension that exists in a new group.
- In this formation phrase, people use interpersonal communication to resolve the conflicts that surface.
- Good leaders clarify procedures and roles, so that each person understands what he/she is supposed to do.
- Successful groups define, analyze, and agree on the problem carefully before they begin to search for solutions.
- Coordination is the longest phrase, during which most of the group’s work is done.
o Procedural and interpersonal communications maintain the trust necessary to gather and focus on the
o Creative conflict reoccurs as the group members debate alternative solutions.
- In formalization the group seeks consensus. o The group tries to forget earlier conflicts as members focus on agreeing to the solution.
o The success of this phase determines how well the group’s decision will be implemented.
- Collective (high-context) cultures focus more strongly on relationship building (the formation and coordination
stages) to ensure mutual understanding and respect among team members.
- Businesses that incorporate the group dynamics of collective cultures enjoy higher employee retention and
- The “network group” adapts Aboriginal community-building concepts such as talking circles, collective decision
making, holistic approaches to life, cooperation and respect for others and respect of self” to retain valuable
- Company-managed social networking sites and blogs foster a sense of community, and let even the most
reticent employee voice his/her concern.
What Roles do People play in groups?
- People play both group maintenance and task roles, and every role can be positive or negative.
Positive maintenance roles and actions that help the group build loyalty, resolve conflicts, and function smoothly to
achieve task goals include 3
Listening actively. Showing group members that they have been heard and that their ideas are being taken
seriously (Module 14)
Encouraging participation. Demonstrating openness and acceptance, recognizing the contributions of members,
calling on quieter group members
Relieving tensions. Joking and suggesting breaks and activities
Checking feelings. Asking members how they feel about group activities and sharing one's own feelings with
Solving interpersonal problems. Opening discussion of interpersonal problems in the group and suggesting ways
to solve them
Positive roles and actions that help the group achieve its task goals include
Seeking information and opinions. Asking questions, identifying gaps in the group's knowledge
Giving information and opinions. Answering questions, providing relevant information
Summarizing. Restating major points, pulling ideas together, summarizing decisions
Evaluating. Comparing group processes and products to standards and goals
Coordinating. Planning work, giving directions, and fitting together contributions of group members
Negative roles and actions that hurt the group's products and processes include
Blocking—disagreeing with everything proposed. Criticizing ideas is necessary if the group is to produce the best
solution, but criticizing every single idea without suggesting possible solutions blocks a group.
Dominating—trying to run the group by ordering, shutting out others, and insisting on one's own way. Active
listening (Module 14) strategies build relationships, defuse conflict, and encourage participation. Authoritarian,
tyrannical people don't just alienate others; they reduce or eliminate productivity. Clowning—making unproductive jokes and diverting the group from the task. Jokes can defuse tension and make
the group more creative, but too many or inappropriate jokes can frustrate or offend team members, or impede
Withdrawing—being silent in meetings, not contributing, not helping with the work, not attending meetings. Silently
listening encourages others to contribute; passive-aggressive behaviours can create a dysfunctional team.
Leadership in Groups
- Leadership is based on communication and interpersonal effectiveness.
- People, who talk a lot, listen effectively, and respond nonverbally to other members in the group are considered
- Effective groups balance 3 kinds of relationship, which parallel the 3 group development dimensions:
o Informational leaders generate and evaluate ideas and text
o Interpersonal leaders monitor the group’s process, check people’s feelings and resolve conflicts.
o Procedural leaders set the agenda, make sure that everyone knows what’s due for the next meeting,
communicate with absent group members, and check to be sure that assignments are carried out.
Characteristics of Successful Student Groups
- Successful and less successful groups communicate differently in 3 ways:
o In the successful groups, the leader set clear deadlines, scheduled frequent meetings, and dealt directly
with conflict that emerged in the group
In the less successful groups, members had to ask the leader what they were supposed to be doing. The
less successful groups met less often and they tried to pretend that conflicts didn’t exist.
o The successful groups listened to criticism and made important decisions together. Perhaps as a result,
everyone in the group could articulate the group’s goals/
In the less successful groups, a subgroup made decisions and told other members what had been
o The successful groups had a higher proportion of members who worked actively on the project. They
even found ways to use members who didn’t like working in groups.
The less successful groups had much smaller percentage of active members and each had some
members who did very little on the final project.
Peer Pressure and Groupthink
- Groupthink the tendency for groups to put such a high premium on agreement that they directly or indirectly
- Groups that “go along with the crowd” and suppress conflict ignore the full range of alternatives, seek only
information that supports the positions they already favour, and fail to prepare contingency plans to cope with
- The best correctives to groupthink are the following:
o Brainstorm for additional alternatives
o Test assumptions against those of a range of other people
o Encourage disagreement, perhaps even assigning someone to be “devil’s advocate.” o Protect the right of people in a group to disagree.
Steps in Conflict Resolution
1) Make sure that the people involved really disagree
a. Sometimes someone who’s under a lot of pressure may appear upset but the speaker may just be
venting anger and frustration. Not actually angry at the person who receives the explosion.
2) Check to see that everyone’s information is correct.
a. Sometimes different conversational styles or cultural differences create apparent conflicts when no real
3) Discover the needs each person is trying to meet
a. The presenting problem (the subject of the conflict) may or may not be the real problem.
b. Sometimes people have trouble seeing beyond the problem because they’ve been taught to suppress
their anger, especially toward powerful people.
4) Search for alternatives
a. Sometimes people get into conflict because they see too few alternatives.
b. People often only see 2 polarized choices – either – or logical fallacy.
c. Brainstorming creative people train themselves to think in terms of possibilities – the more the
5) Repair Bad feelings
a. Conflict can emerge without anger and without escalating the disagreement.
b. If people’s feelings have been hurt, the group needs to deal with those feelings to resolve the conflict
How can Team Members handle Conflict?
- Listen actively to get at the real issue, and repair bad feelings.
- Conflicts will arise in any group of intelligent people who care about the task.
- Unacknowledged conflicts rarely go away: they fester, impeding progress and productivity.
- Try the following ways to reduce the number of conflicts in a group:
o Make responsibilities and ground rules clear at the beginning.
o Acknowledge verbal and nonverbal messages of discomfort, anger or hostility.
o Discuss problems as they arise, rather than letting them fester until people explode.
o Realize that group members are not responsible for each other’s feelings.
Troubleshooting Group Problems
Behaviour Possible Solutions
We can't find a time to meet that a. Find out why people can't meet at certain times. Some reasons suggest their own
works for all of us. solutions. For example, if someone has to stay home with small children, perhaps the
group could meet at that person's home.
b. Assign out-of-class work to “committees” to work on parts of the project.
c. Meet virtually to share, discuss, and revise drafts.
One person isn't doing his or her a. Ask for information. Is the person overcommitted? Does he or she feel
fair share. unappreciated? Those are different problems you'd solve in different ways.
b. Early on, do things to build group loyalty. Get to know each other as writers and as people. Sometimes, do something interesting together.
c. Encourage the person to contribute. “Maria, what do you thi