Factors Affecting Group & Team Communication

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  • 0:04 Group Communication…
  • 1:10 Group History and Cohesiveness
  • 2:20 Context
  • 3:58 Degree of Shared…
  • 5:00 External Environment…
  • 6:12 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Dr. Douglas Hawks

Douglas has two master's degrees (MPA & MBA) and a PhD in Higher Education Administration.

If you've ever been part of a team, you've experienced social communication. Whether it went well or not so well, learning the five main factors that affect group communication can help you be a more effective part of the team.

Group Communication and Its Factors

Think of the last time you were part of a group - perhaps it was social, maybe for school, or maybe at work. Regardless of the situation, you probably don't have to think back very far. Most of us interact in groups multiple times per day, and the larger the group, the more complex the communication will become. Even in one-on-one communication, misunderstandings and miscommunications are inevitable. Imagine how much more difficult it is to clearly and effectively communicate in a group. The following five factors are essential to understanding the dynamics of group communication.

First, let's clarify something important: the dynamics of group communication do not rely solely on five factors. There are hundreds of factors that can influence the quality of communication, and the larger the group, the larger the number of factors and interactions that impact the message being shared. But these five are certainly the most prevalent and important.

Group History and Cohesiveness

Imagine you are a member of two different groups, each trying to solve the same problem. One group is you and four other classmates on the first day of a new class, and all members were randomly assigned to the group by the instructor. The other group is you and four of your close friends. Which group would do you think would have the best communication?

You're probably saying the group of you and your friends, and you are probably right. But why is that? Think of all the mechanics of communication you already know about your friends; you may know when one of your friends is thinking something, but holding back saying anything. You may know that one of your friends tends to think aloud, so while they may say something that sounds good, it may not be a totally vetted idea.

All of these communication intricacies are critical to learn, and if you have a cohesive group, you've all had a chance to learn each others' communication styles. In a new group, no one member is aware of the other member's style, which can increase miscommunications.


Again, let's imagine you are a member of two different groups. One is a formal work team, put together by your boss to create a new policy. The other is group of friends planning a road trip. Which do you think will communicate more effectively? For the purposes of this comparison, let's assume your work colleagues and you have all worked together for at least five years. As far as getting to know individual communication styles, you know your colleagues as well as you know your friends. But, which group do you think will communicate more effectively?

Most of the time, it will be the group of friends planning a road trip. But why? If you know the group members just as well in both situations, why would one group communicate better than the other? The answer is the context, or, said another way, why you are communicating.

When you are part of a work team, you have the pressure of finding the best or right answer. There's accountability. There are consequences that could matter. But what about with your friends? Planning a road trip may be intense, but the context is different; it's for fun, not for work. This means that the way in which you communicate with each other will be different. In the work group, if someone says something you disagree with, you may challenge them and start a debate. With your group of friends, if you disagree with an aspect of the trip, you may decide, 'it doesn't matter; it's just a road trip.'

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