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Group-as-a-whole as a context for studying individual
behaviour: A group diagnostic intervention
Dirk J. Geldenhuys1
Department of Industrial
Psychology, University of
South Africa, South Africa
Orientation: Traditionalists view group interventions from three perspectives: singletons, dyads and whole groups. The focus of this research was on interventions from the third perspective, that of the whole group, using a systems psychodynamic stance. Research purpose: The purpose of the research was to use group-as-a-whole to study individual behaviour in organisations.
Motivation for the study: Team research and practice is not on a par with the complexities that teams actually experience. Traditional group interventions use humanistic and functionalistic paradigms that do not consider the unconscious functioning of groups. Interventions that use the system psychodynamic paradigm could address these dynamics because they study behaviour of individual group members in the context of the group-as-a-whole.
PO Box 392, UNISA 0003,
Research design, approach and method: The researcher conducted action research in a publishing company. He used purposive sampling and analysed the data using qualitative content analysis.
Received: 22 Aug. 2011
Accepted: 30 Mar. 2012
Published: 13 June 2012
Main findings: The researcher found that the group-as-a-whole partly explains the behaviour of team members and that intervening from this perspective could improve negative relationships.
How to cite this article:
Geldenhuys, D. (2012).
a context for studying
individual behaviour: A group
SA Journal of Industrial
Psychology/SA Tydskrif vir
Bedryfsielkunde, 38(2), Art.
#1011, 12 pages. http://
Practical/managerial implications: Managers can use interventions that use the groupas-a-whole concept as a diagnostic intervention to study and possibly change the complex behavioural issues that team members experience.
Contribution/value-add: The findings give one an understanding of the behaviour of individual group members when one views it from a systems psychodynamic stance. Furthermore, the researcher proposes a group diagnostic intervention that will allow some of the root causes of poor interpersonal behaviour to surface and group members to diagnose and take ownership of their own behaviour.
Despite the emerging research about the complex nature of team interaction, team research and practice are not on par with the complexities that teams actually experience (Lingham, Richley & Serlavos, 2009). The purpose of this research was to contribute to the literature on, and practice of, team interventions by reporting on a group intervention from a systems psychodynamic paradigm to address these dynamics.
Background to the study
Traditionalists view group interventions in organisation development (OD) from three different perspectives. They are:
a focus on the individual members of the group, or an intrapersonal perspective (singletons), like organisations use in encounter groups
a focus on the relationship between two members (dyads), or and interpersonal perspective, like organisations use in T-groups
a focus on the whole group’s task performance and process, like organisations use in process consultations (Cummings & Worley, 2008; French & Bell, 1999). © 2012. The Authors.
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The focus of this research was on intervening from the third perspective, the whole group, and from a systems psychodynamic paradigm.
The importance of an open systems perspective in OD is not new and is a developmental stem of the...
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