Organisational Behaviour: Work Groups vs Work Teams

Work in Corporations

Contemporary organisations changed their approach to achieving business goals. They have implemented a vertical and horizontal structure to optimise employees’ performance. Sociologists and psychologists identified the key to success in work groups and work teams. It is well known that work done individually might be less productive. Individuals still play a fundamental role though.

They are the actors of the structural optimisation mentioned and are in charge of completing tasks. Any organisation member continues to contribute as an individual, but the scenario changed. Today, groups and teams place our contribution in a different position.

In this analysis, I identified all the real situations experienced within my work team and across work groups. I applied the main organisational behaviour models, evaluating the impact of virtual teams. It has been observed, and demonstrated, that teams’ internal dynamics and interactions between individuals influence the business strategy. Additionally, working in groups and teams makes any employee more productive. This work approach brings up the best skills and knowledge of any member.

It helps with reaching the collective goals faster and more efficiently, boosting motivation and performance as well. It is important to consider that work teams and work groups might create individual negative behaviours, resulting in an output which is not always optimal. Any good leader needs to identify the negative factors and makes the group able to absorb them accordingly.

In my job, I am part of the “Planning and Effectiveness” (cross-functional team) work group comprised of members in charge of different departments and external stakeholders. I am also part of a specific work team focused on specific product goals. It is the “Wealth & Insurance (Planning for the Future)” work team. It is an internally defined “insurance squad” to reinforce the concept of community and belonging, where my brain is picked for a collective purpose. Two separate groups of individuals that share work passion, my contribution in each of them is different though.

As mentioned, working in groups brings benefits. Within the work team, we all have a goal based on performance and each member contributes to a collective strategy. We use our skills and knowledge to connect positively and efficiently. We share one unique aim, completing tasks planned together and having a multilateral approach. In the work group, I share information about product performances related to the job done with my work team. Any member of the work group can take advantage of the data shared, useful for working out information internally with the proper work team.

Any stakeholder aims to micro-goals and multiple objectives using a bilateral approach. Completing tasks is the objective of the work team. Allocating time to any duty, and evaluating the impact and effort according to sprints and backlog, is mandatory to perform. Daily functional meetings to track job progressions and celebrate successes impact our collective productivity.

The team is comprised of five team players, where anyone agrees on a commonly approved and accepted team charter. The size of the team is helping to boost and improve connection. None of us agreed on putting effort, into being proactive, responsible, and helping others (backing up). The definition of rules was the starting point to create a connection, norms were identified on the way accordingly. These factors help to keep the group’s environment safe and comfortable.

Any person on the team has different roles (such as a marketing executive, a developer, or a customer journey specialist) contributing with specific knowledge. What makes the team successful is a specific roles’ structure, organised according to specific individual characteristics that fit Belbin’s team roles.

I am a completer finisher, concerned with deadlines, and perceived as a perfectionist. Those characteristics are complementary to the ones that identify other members. My contribution as a completer finisher is supported by a scrum methodology, useful for completing and organising tasks. I make sure to complete my job on time, by the end of the planned sprint, scheduling recurrent tasks and sorting out new duties based on mutual trust.

I deliver what we plan with the other members of the team. It helps to reach the common goal through any single objective achievement, which is part of the strategy. How to work on tasks is defined accordingly and each sprint starts with tasks definition and assignation.

The team coordinator, which incentivises collaboration, needs to clarify the initial confusion. He/she gives space to questions and initial brainstorming activities. After everyone has a clear understanding of the new duties, the team can set its final goal according to individual roles and objectives. Everything needs to match the team’s expectations. Any dynamic stimulates creativity motivates members, and reduces task production time. At the end of the sprint, the final general review helps to evaluate achievements and work experience. It is a loop procedure that helps to keep high standards and learn from mistakes, considering what went well and what has room for improvement.

There are positive group dynamics, but also some situations that might negatively impact the members’ collaboration in groups. Dynamics are comprised of decisions and choices. Any interaction ends up with a business decision as such, and decisions are part of the process of achieving results. I experienced Abilene’s paradox within my team, where I decided to accept decisions that were not perceived as the best solution.

The team manager is in charge of making the final resolution to pass it through working groups. His/her role is about gathering opinions around the table. I work on implementing the website from a technical point of view, such as back-end scripts, and the client’s perspective. I need to accept some decisions that do not match the concept between tech and customer behaviour. Satisfying the team leader’s conclusion through a collective decision could be wrong. The trade-off can come up during the result review session. That is the situation when stepping in with a concern about the choice made is too late.

In particular, during the brainstorming phase, receiving feedback, “this cannot be done due to user experience requirements” and as such, can be already a step back. It might lead to a wrong conclusion and result. Managers try to mitigate the final thought by finding a deal between the team members’ solutions and the collective decision. The solution is accepted, and sometimes with a compromise that includes only a small part of the idea suggested by any team member. In this situation, as a member of the team, I am willing to accept a different point of view to avoid a conflict scenario.

A balance in a decision is a strategy that sometimes we accept. We know that we would like something different, such as the hundred per cent of our idea going through, instead of a part. We know the risk of a wrong choice, but we go for it anyway. We are team players, and we should step in with an opinion that satisfies the team and not only the leader. This is beneficial for the business, which is what matters.

Another negative situation that can come up during the team’s dynamics, and that I indirectly experienced, is social loafing. It consists of taking advantage of the work made by others and putting less effort into tasks. When working groups and teams were physically together, identifying and controlling social loafing was easier. The Hawthorne effect was probably helping to minimise social loafing.

Now with virtual teams, increased in number during COVID-19, this phenomenon might be common in organisations. We don’t know the effort that any member of the team is putting into its job. An example is the rope-pulling game.

The first person in the line is pulling using less effort, believing that people behind are putting in more effort. According to this concept, we cannot identify who is contributing more than another person to achieve the result planned and we can say that there is a tendency for individuals of a group to become less productive according to their size group increase.

When the task is not measurable, we believe that our effort is enough to achieve the team goals. Therefore, organisations are trying to consider achievements and tasks sorted by specific steps more important than hours spent on working. On the other hand, having a supervisor, such as a team leader in charge of following up on collective duties, is helping to boost individual performance.

Reducing social loafing is a clear strategy in my organisation. The strategy is comprised of planning measurable tasks according to achievements and tracking and reporting the progress. As I mentioned, being a member of a team means participating in collective decisions, sharing ideas, and working on tasks. I often experience situations where I plan tasks that require some knowledge that I am not confident in.

Challenges are boosting my skills, and my team is helping me to step out of my comfort zone. Another particular group’s dynamic can rise in the scenario described. A part of my job requires technical knowledge to implement the company website. I don’t have a technical background and when I introduce an idea that requires some technical knowledge, any member notices that I feel uncomfortable.

After the team’s discussion, I proceed. I go ahead and achieve a positive result, boosting personal resources from a collective consensus. The team is supporting a risky situation, which might aim for a positive or negative result accordingly. The other members’ boost of positive energy is making me comfortable, giving me the confidence I need to implement my task and achieve the goal. It is a risky shift decision that I would not have taken alone. Acting as part of a team, I find support from collective decisions which are more difficult to make individually.

Understandably, the organisation I work for is running and implementing a groupthink culture. From my analysis, it is clear that interactions and dynamics are playing a fundamental role. What makes any action useful and productive is thinking like a group. The group is key, and any individual’s aim is not to be on board to “rock the boat” indeed. As I highlighted, the team is driving the main decisions, which are not always the best for the business and the single-member.

Any of us accepts to belong to the team from the first moment. We approve the team charter and find support from the group, trusting and finding confidence with it, getting to an ideal shared mental model. The group protects its abstract concept of invulnerability by creating a big imaginary shield. That is comprised of the shields of any team member. Members can accept the group’s conditions according to a virtual cloak that keeps every situation and dynamic within the group. Tasks definition, hours planning, sprints, schedule, feedback, support, speaking up, team charters, interactions, and collective goals definition are the elements that contribute to the definition of work teams in my organisation.

From my perspective, it is crucial to find a balance between working as an individual and working in groups. A complementary and cohesive team is not necessarily optimal for every business purpose. We cannot sacrifice our personality, it is coming up sooner or later in the dynamics, but it needs to be a group benefit. We are human beings, we need to act spontaneously.

We need to avoid stress, which improves the team’s performance but reduces our performance as an individual. From my point of view, work teams and work groups have become overused, specifically today. Tools like Teams or Zoom are supporting the concepts described so far. I believe that the number of hours spent in teams can be reduced when they are not necessary. Giving space to personal goals and critical thinking moments might be beneficial to the team.

On the other hand, teams might be more efficient in driving results. It is essential to identify the type of task though. If it is a task related to generating ideas, such as deciding on a new product name, it requires brainstorming. In this case, collaboration among team members would be ideal. Team members’ rotation is something common to consider that might help to bring “fresh air”. This strategy helps with avoiding any issue related to a highly cohesive team, which sometimes can be negative.

Any good idea needs to be able to penetrate the “shield”. The transparency between team members and among groups can positively impact the decision effectiveness, pulling out the “cloak” that is acting as an abstract shadow. The competition between team members needs to be healthy though, transparent and honest. Any good leader should identify the real quality of any individual, utilising Belbin’s roles as such, to sort out what is useful for the single individual as well and not only for the group.

To summarise, team works, and team groups are comprised of individuals that are part of a system. Collective and individual goals need to aim for the business success. Our decisions are important, but it is crucial to consider the group’s dynamics and make them useful. Any model and concept analysed need to be applied to specific situations according to the group/members’ characteristics, but not the other way round, adapting and forcing the individual’s skills to a task/role that doesn’t belong to him/her.

In the long run, giving space to individuals, taking the best from them, and finding a balance between the personal role within the work teams, work groups, and organisations might be the way to measure success. We work in teams, we have clear goals, personal and collective. It does not necessarily mean that personal and collective goals cannot coexist together according to a well-organised system. A structure that allows us to drive dynamics and interactions where we want, more efficiently, individually and collectively is what makes any organisation prosperous.

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