The group processes that go on within a workgroup – the communication patterns used by members for information exchanges, group decision processes, leader behavior, power dynamics, conflict interactions, and the like. Why are processes important to understanding work-group behavior?
One way to answer this question is to return to the topic of social loafing.
We found that 1+1+1 doesn’t necessarily add up to three. In group tasks for which each member’s contribution is not clearly visible, there is a tendency for individuals to decrease their effort.
Social loafing, in other words, illustrates a process loss as a result of user groups. But group processes can also produce positive results. That is, groups can create outputs greater than the sum of their inputs.
The development of creative alternatives by a diverse group would be one such instance. The following Figure illustrates how group processes can have an impact on a group’s actual effectiveness.
Synergy is a term used in biology that refers to an action of two or more substances that result in an effect that is different from the individual summation of the substances.
We can use the concept to better understand group processes. Group synergy refers to the idea that two heads (or more) are better than one. Groups are often capable of performing higher quality work and making better decisions than an individual can make alone. Synergistic relationships are not easy to develop and maintain.
As a result, most people are willing to invest what’s needed only if a significant positive upside can be gained and/or a negative downside avoided.
Social loafing, for instance, represents negative synergy. The whole is less than the sum of its parts.
On the other hand, research teams are often used in research laboratories because they can draw on the diverse skills of various individuals to produce more meaningful research as a group than could be generated by all of the researchers working independently.
That is they produce positive synergy. Their process gains exceed their process losses. Another line of research that helps us to better understand group processes is the social facilitation effect (Zqjonc, ms).
The social facilitation effect refers to this tendency for performance to improve or decline in response to the presence of others. While this effect is not entirely a group phenomenon – people can work in the presence of others and not be members of a group – the group situation is more likely to provide the conditions for social facilitation to occur.
The research on social facilitation tells us that the performance of simple, routine tasks tends to be speeded up and make more accurate by the presence of others.
When the work is more complex, requiring closer attention, the presence of others re likely to have a negative effect on performance.
The synergistic process is distinguished by four skill sets:
Synergistic communication occurs when diverse perspectives, ideas, meanings, attitudes, feelings, and values are expressed and received openly and honestly in a supportive environment.
This is a nurturing atmosphere characterized by people who recognize and value their distinct frames of reference regarding the task at hand.
Only when appreciative understanding is established can individuals seek ways to merge or combine their separate views into mutually supportive patterns for thinking and acting. It is during this integration phase that individuals invent and experiment with creative ways to move beyond their current thinking.
Merely finding innovative approaches to integrate various viewpoints is not enough. It is only -through active planning, goal setting, discipline, and consistent application of various change facilitating methods that a transition can be successfully achieved.
Without a structured implementation plan, the likelihood is low that a synergistic advantage will occur.