Influences on Group Behavior in the Workplace

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  • 0:03 Five Influences on…
  • 0:22 Interdependence of…
  • 1:24 Social Interaction
  • 2:21 Perception of a Group
  • 3:04 Commonality of Purpose…
  • 5:07 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.

Any workplace is comprised of groups of individuals. The way these groups behave can be an important aspect of culture and performance. In this lesson, we'll discuss what might influence group behavior.

Five Influences on Group Behavior

There are many factors that influence group behavior in the workplace, including the environment, the organization, and individuals. For this lesson, we're going to focus on five types of influences:

  • Interdependence
  • Social interaction
  • Perception of a group
  • Commonality of purpose
  • Favoritism

Interdependence of Group Members

Interdependence, in the context of group behavior, is the mutual dependence of group members on each other. A group with members who each bring their own specializations or specific skills, so that each group member needs the others for the group to succeed, will behave differently than a group with members with overlapping skills and abilities.

Which configuration will work best, depends on the purpose of the group. While a group with subject matter experts from different areas can broaden the group's experience, it also only allows for a single perspective on any given question. On the other hand, a group with members who share knowledge might offer more perspectives, which might result in a more vetted solution - but not without the cost of debate and discussion.

For example, putting John, Joan, and Jacob together might make a lot of sense if they've worked together closely in the past and need that expertise to solve a specific problem. However, when the problem requires other perspectives, it might be smart to add Sarah or Steve from another area of the organization.

Social Interaction

Social interaction refers to both the degree of interaction group members have outside of a work setting before the group is formed and how much social interaction they have during the time the group exists - the group could be project-based or indefinite in length. Whatever the length of time, the degree to which group members interact in a social capacity will influence how they interact in the work capacity they have been assigned.

Generally speaking, the more social interaction a group has had, the more effectively they'll work together. However, there is a point where too much social interaction might hinder the effectiveness of the group, causing the group to lose focus and make their tasks simply another social interaction.

Again, John, Joan, and Jacob are able to quickly work together because they know each other, whereas introducing Sarah or Steve might slow them down a little. That often means there's a tradeoff between the quality of the solution and the speed at which it's completed.

Perception of a Group

Each group, just like each organization, has a culture and feeling for why it exists. For example, a working committee that meets once a month to review fiscal policy for an organization will exhibit different group behavior than a project committee that meets daily to plan, design, and advertise a new product. The reason is the perception of being a group.

The policy committee meets infrequently and is likely from different functional areas, so members might not have much in common, let alone develop a strong perception as a group. However, the product team very much perceives itself as a group, working together each day toward a defined purpose, and thus, will see positive influence from this perceived bond.

Commonality of Purpose & Favoritism

The defined purpose we just mentioned is also know as commonality of purpose. A shared vision and support for the mission or purpose of the group will determine how they behave with each other.

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