Reflections on Syndicate Group Work

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Reflections about syndicate group work

"I always had a different opinion to our group leader, but he always made me give in, even when I was not at all persuaded by his arguments, I can't explain how that happened". This statement made by one of my group members is quite revealing. While she recognizes the dominance of our leader´, she is perplexed because she fails to understand how she was manipulated. How did he do it? Was it only his dominance or were there perhaps Machiavellic elements in his behaviour who made his opinion prevail? And was it beneficial to our groups' effectiveness? I will try to solve this question in the main part of the essay. First, I will give a short overview of our groups' development and then examine critically the reasons for our moderate level of motivation, basing my argument on Vroom´s expectancy theory. The development of our team could be best described with a combination of one element of the "Five –Stage-Model" of Tuckman and main parts of the "punctuated-equilibrium- model". (Arrow, 1997). The first syndicate group meeting can be characterised as the storming phase in which intragroup conflict prevails. We were not confident at all about how to attack the problem and the strategy to apply. All members participated actively, trying to impose their point of view. At this stage, cultural differences play a major role. For instance, in Korean culture, dominated by low individualism and high power distance, employees should adapt to the company's identity, (Chung, Adams, 1997), whereas in Europe people tend to claim that it is the company's responsibility to integrate the employee. For example, one Chinese member claimed that it should be the employee's responsibility to adapt to the radical "Nordstream way" and the way the manager behaves was still acceptable. (For example employees were "advised" to wear high heel in order to look sexier would be considered as legitimate). This "minority dissent", "given a high level of participation in our group", proved stimulating and beneficial to our decision making (West, De Dreu, 2001) because now we became aware that frequently the Nordstrom way attracts undue criticism despite its proven effectiveness. (. However, already at the end of this first meeting, strong inertial forces become evident. The group now has a tacit agreement about who plays what role and this allowes the team leader to evolve. He emerges in this position as he is perceived by the other members as the most competent for this role. This role pattern stays unchanged until the project's temporal midpoint. This transition period takes place when there are only two more weeks left and our group has still not yet decided about the main problems to attack and the relevant theories to use during the presentation. The group members abruptly notice problems in the "fit between environmental demands and group functioning" (Bargh, 1994; Shiffrin & Schneider, 1977, pp ). This sense of urgency dominates at that stage and it takes only 15 minutes to finally choose the two relevant theories to adapt. Also, to make the presentation more lively, it is planned to integrate an interview with a Nordstrom employee. Therefore, we plan to simulate an interview with a female employee about the pressure she is under due to the managers. I could feel that several individuals were reluctant to make the interview, fearing the lecturer´s reaction. However, we finally decided unanimously to integrate this interview. If each of us had done a presentation individually, I believe that several of us would not have made this choice. This phenomenon might be explained by what is called "group polarization", the tendency for group decisions to be more extreme than those of individuals. (Cass R. Sunstein, 2000). We knew that even if we were criticized for this approach, the responsibility would be dispersed among the members, which eventually made us opt for this risk. After this fundamental...
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