Group Communication at Work – Part 2

In the previous article on group communication, we discovered the five stages of group development. Today, we shall learn something new: the seven steps to resolve conflict in a work group.

Seven Steps to Resolve Group Conflicts

In simplified terms, a group is when two or more people affiliate and interact to attain the same goals. However, as problems can occur anywhere, these are also inevitable at work and in groups.

The following stages refer to the seven steps required to solve a group conflict as introduced in the book, “Communicating at work: Principles and Practices for Business and the Profession.” by Ronald B. Adler and Jeanne Marquardt Elmhorst.

1. Define the Problem

When a group faces a problem at work, questions may arise, such as, “What to do?” or “How to solve this problem?”

The first step is to actually define the problem. How can someone effectively solve a problem without knowing what the problem is? The group needs to accurately understand the problem so as proper and genuine information can be collected to solve it.

2. Analyse the Problem

The second step now is to analyse the problems faced by members of the group. There is a need to learn more about the issues through critical observation and asking around. Once the research is done and the information reviewed, the causes of the issues have now likely been identified by the group. For instance, some causes of conflict in the workplace include poor management, unfair treatment, poor communication, bullying or improper training.

3. Build Criteria for the Solution

Even if causes have been identified, problems have not yet been solved!

The third step consists of establishing a criterion for the solution where each member of the group will contribute and give a possible solution to the problem. As all members will have different perspectives, different types of solutions will be proposed. In this stage, the group will also consider which next steps to take and what work protocols say about these problems and their solutions.

4. Considering All Possible Solutions

The fourth stage is about putting forth all the solutions provided by the group members and then taking each of them into consideration. The group has to study and examine what the different implications of each solution are.

For instance, for some cases, giving official warnings to the culprits might be enough or if a serious offence was committed, then the Disciplinary Committee might need to be called. Some business organisations might even go to the extent of firing a problematic employee. If the worker refuses to apologize, the case can be taken to arbitration, and the company can hire a lawyer to handle the matter.

5. A Final Choice Has to Be Made

This is the stage where the final solution needs to be decided upon. The decision is usually made after taking into consideration many factors such as the costs and benefits of all solutions provided.

For instance, firing an employee will necessitate interviewing and appointing a replacement. This is not only a time-consuming process, but also involves losing an experienced worker. Besides, the option of hiring a lawyer might cost a lot of money to a company. So, a company might favour issuing an official warning or calling upon the disciplinary committee instead.

6. Implement the Solutions

Now, that the final choice has been made, it is time to adopt it. For instance, an official warning might be given to a worker or the disciplinary committee might decide to suspend an employee for a few months.

7. Follow-Up Procedure

After the implementation of the solutions, there needs to be a thorough follow-up. This will ensure the solution is effective and achieved the desired results, and has hopefully led to better management and communication.

What do you think of these seven steps? Effective or not? Please share your comments!

Group Communication at Work

We are all aware that communication is one of the cornerstones of all business organizations, and that group communication forms an integral part of this framework. But what exactly is group communication, and what role does it play in the success of a business.

In this article, we will explore one of the key foundations of Group Communication in an attempt to better grasp the bigger picture. In layman’s terms, Group Communication is when two or more individuals – either same-level colleagues, inter-departmental associates or even managers and subordinates – come together to work on a business project as a structured group. The first aspect we will look at is, how is this group formed, that is, Group Development.

What is Group Development?

Compared to years ago, today’s workplace is no longer based solely on individual and independent work. Instead, two or more individuals at work come together to achieve a common goal or carry out a specific task. This simple process is called group development and it can occur at several points in a business organisation.

Stages of Group Development

An American researcher called Bruce Tuckman designed a specific model which describes the five stages of the group development process, which are shown below:

1. Forming Stage

The first stage, the forming phase, is where employees join a group and work towards a common objective. This stage is also called the orientation stage by Bruce Tuckman, as this would be the phase where different employees will introduce themselves to each other and act courteously. Pieces of information such as names and positions in the company are exchanged. There is a level of excitement and curiosity to start the project.

In this phase, employees will also establish the purpose of their mission as a group. However, some of the employees might experience the stress of uncertainty as they are unfamiliar with other workers and cannot predict their behaviour as a result. This is known as the Uncertainty Theory.

2. Storming Stage

Now that all employees have come to know each other more and the shy and polite demeanour is gone, they can move on to more serious matters. Here, there is no longer a feeling of excitement and curiosity. Discussions concerning their respective tasks and their objectives will be held.

However, in this storming stage, many conflicts and disagreements can arise. Senior workers in the group might refuse to listen to others’ ideas and impose their own opinions. Employees’ differences will reflect on their perspectives and hence they might not be able to agree with each other. There will be even more chaos when it’s time to select a group leader, with personality clashes and ego affecting the group dynamic. After, most strong personalities will be looking for a chance to prove themselves or carve out some time in the limelight.

3. Norming Stage

The third stage is where everything is finalized. Here, the leader takes his or her role seriously and delegates specific duties to other members of the group. Each member agrees to take responsibility for their assigned tasks. All group members take notes about the different tasks that need to be done and then carry out their respective duties. There is now less division and tension and more collaboration and harmony.

4. Performing Stage

The performing stage depicts the phase where employees are now aware of their positions and fulfil their duties and responsibilities correctly. They work in unity towards their goals and each member performs his or her task with care and attention. There is no longer a need for the leader to supervise the members as they have now reached a stage where they are comfortable and know each other better than in their first meeting. They know each other’s strengths and work towards completing the project. In case they need help, they can now communicate with each other more easily. The employees also respect and value each other’s perspectives and abide to their group leader’s suggestions. Even the leader asks for the others’ ideas before making a decision. In this phase, they all work together to make their project a success and therefore greater productivity is gained from this stage of group development.

5. Adjourning Stage

The final phase, the adjourning stage, occurs when the time has come for the group to disband and work on new projects and form new groups. This is known as the mourning phase as now the employees have grown very close to each other but unfortunately, they must separate. Through this project, they have made new friends and have worked with them closely. However, they now have to go their separate ways, making it a very difficult and heart-breaking phase. However, just before breaking the group, there can be briefings and meetings to discuss their work results. For instance, they can talk about what was missed, why the project was not good enough and what was more successful. In this way, employees will learn from their failure or success. This stage is where members would feel sad and would miss the interactions and even the fights they used to have in the group.

Do you have a better image of group development now? Please share your comments and don’t forget to come back for part 2 where we will learn more about group communication!