As a manager, you’re in charge of various projects. You also lead different and diverse teams. It’s only natural that you want all members of your team to get along and collaborate without any issues. Learn all about group or team dynamics and how they affect your team.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen. In some cases, your team members might challenge and question every decision. Or some members might not get along no matter how hard you try.
Group dynamics is crucial to the success of any project and the success of the company. That’s why in this guide, we’re sharing the best tips for improving the group dynamic. We’ll also explain what group dynamics are and what causes poor group dynamics in the first place.
What Are Group Dynamics? + Why Are They Important
Put simply, group dynamics is a term that’s used to describe the interactions, attitudes, and behaviors between a group of people who are working together. The term was first used by an American social psychologist, Kurt Lewin. Lewin believed that groups can alter the individual behavior of the group members.
According to Lewin, group members take on certain roles and behaviors when working in a group. If you've got good a group of people who generally enjoy working together, chances are you’ll have a good group dynamic.
Group dynamics are particularly important in the workplace as many jobs require employees to work together. One statistic puts the number of jobs requiring teamwork or collaboration at about 50%.
Yet, according to a study of 95 corporate teams quoted in Harvard Business Review, almost 3 out of 4 workplace teams are dysfunctional. That's most teams.
So, clearly group dynamics have a major impact on the workplace. Learn about dealing with difficult coworkers and/or employees in this tutorial:
Good Team Dynamics vs Poor Team Dynamics
Since group dynamics play such a large role in the workplace, managers should make sure that their team has a good group dynamic in place. But how do you tell the difference?
When you've got a good group dynamic, the members of that group trust each other, collaborate effortlessly, and put the team’s interest above their own. There are many signs that you've got a good team, but here are nine to consider:
- Team members are diverse.
- The team goals are clear.
- Team members trust and respect their leader.
- Communication is open and frequent.
- There's an enthusiasm for work.
- Team members assume the best of each other.
- People are committed to achieving the team goals.
- Constructive criticism is given and received freely.
- All members of the team are recognized.
With a poor group dynamic, the opposite is true. For example, if members of your group tend to have a negative outlook or if members disagree about what the goals are, the entire team may be affected.
When you've got poor group dynamics in the workplace, it tends to disrupt work. Here are some signs of poor group dynamics:
- Projects aren't getting done on time.
- Group members aren’t supportive.
- There's a risk of making the wrong decision.
A group with poor dynamics might also experience a loss of productivity and creativity.
8 Main Causes of Poor Group Dynamics
As mentioned above, poor group dynamics might experience loss of creativity and productivity. But what causes poor group dynamics? Let’s take a closer look at eight of the common causes of poor group dynamics:
1. Overly Competitive Environment
A little competition can be good, but a team that's too competitive can lead to an unhealthy work dynamic. In a worst case scenario, overly competitive team members may refuse to help one another. Or they may no longer feel that they're working towards the same goal.
2. Misplaced Loyalty
This is another positive trait gone bad. If the team develops an "us" vs "them" mentality, team members may start to pick sides against one another. This can lead to hard feelings and a lack of cooperation.
3. Weak Leadership
If the group lacks a strong leader, it’s not uncommon for another team member to take on this role. But this might cause problems with other team members who feel left out. As a result, they might not be willing to follow the self-imposed leader or focus on fighting among themselves.
Learn more about the different styles of leadership in this tutorial:
4. Disrupted Flow of Information
Lack of a centralized source of truth for the company can lead to poor group dynamics. If nobody knows who handles what areas, it’s easy to transfer the responsibility and the blame onto someone else.
5. Fear of Being Judged
Some team members might be sensitive to criticism. They might fear being judged too harshly by others. As a result, they tend not to share their ideas and opinions. This can limit the creative ideas that your team comes up with. It can also prevent the group from finding the best solution or approach to the problem at hand.
Learn more about how to bring out your team's creativity here:
6. People Who Slack Off
In some cases, you may wind up with team members who like to dodge their responsibilities. In other words, they let the majority of the group do all the work. They might otherwise be hard workers but in group situations they tend to limit their contributions. If that happens, other team members will resent them. This can lead to infighting.
7. Excessive Deference to Authority
This situation usually occurs when team members are more concerned with pleasing the leader. When this happens, group members might hold back their own opinion.
Lastly, groupthink is a term that refers to group members who are more interested in reaching a mutual agreement rather than exploring alternative options. This can prevent the group from finding solutions that might be more suitable.
Learn more about the dangers of groupthink in this tutorial:
Top 8 Tips To Improve Group Dynamics
By now, we’ve defined group dynamics and explained what causes poor group dynamics. It’s time to share some tips that'll help you improve your group dynamics for a more productive and creative workplace environment.
1. Get to Know Your Team
The most important task you've got as a group leader is to understand the people in your group. You don’t have to get overly personal, but you do need to know what their strengths and weaknesses are. You also need to be familiar with their personality type and what motivates them.
Once you've got that knowledge, you’ll have an easier time deciding which role each group member will fit into. You’ll also know how to organize your group and divide responsibilities in a way that creates a harmonious group dynamic.
2. Choose the Right Tools
Choose the right collaborative tools that your group members can use in their project. For example, frequent group meetings can disrupt actual work from happening. You might consider investing in a chat or communication tool to reduce the number of meetings. Or dedicate an entire day to a meeting while the rest of the week is spent focusing on the project at hand.
Similarly, make sure that all the assets and necessary files are well-organized and labeled. Each group member should also be familiar with the file organization to reduce time spent on looking for files.
3. Create Shared Goals And Values
Create shared goals at the beginning stages of getting your group together. This can help foster the sense of collaboration and get people excited for working towards a common goal.
These goals should always be at the forefront so it’s a good idea to include them in the project summary. Or consider including them in the company’s manifesto.
You can also take this a step further and create shared values for the group. You can then use these values when a difficult situation arises and remind everyone of what they’re working towards.
4. Tackle Problems Quickly
Running into problems with any group, regardless of the group dynamics, is inevitable. It’s important to address problems as soon as possible and resolve them quickly.
While dealing with problems is never easy, it’s better to catch and tackle them early. It's never good to let them fester and completely derail the project.
If you notice a group member shirking from their responsibilities or always disagreeing with others, talk to them as soon as possible.
Use the tips in this tutorial to deal with difficult employees:
5. Establish Clear Roles
As mentioned before, weak leadership is one of the common causes of poor group dynamics. And weak leadership is often recognized by the lack of clear roles and responsibilities. As such, it’s crucial to establish clear roles in your group.
Each team member should know what their role is and what they’re responsible for. As a group leader, you should make it clear to everyone what the overall goal of the project is. Once everyone is familiar with the outcome, it’s a time to assign group roles so everyone knows what’s expected of them.
You can also create a chart that shows defined roles and responsibilities next to each group member’s name or a photo.
6. Emphasize Communication
Communication is important no matter what. Your group members should be able to clearly and openly communicate their ideas, suggestions, and potential issues. A few tips to help foster and emphasize open communication include:
- Providing team members with timely announcements
- Encouraging respectful communication
- Allowing members to submit their ideas in a manner that feels comfortable to them
- Encouraging communication between group members
7. Consider Team Building Exercises
If your group members aren’t familiar with each other, they might have trust issues, especially in the beginning. That’s where team building exercises come in. You can use them to help group members get to know each other quickly and develop trust.
Team building exercises can also help prevent any “inner circles” to develop where certain group members start to feel excluded.
As part of your team building exercise, you can also share ideas and hopes for the group or the project as well as experiences and lessons that the group can relate to. Don’t forget to participate in the team building exercises yourself, as the best way to lead is by example.
8. Watch Out for Warning Signs
Lastly, always be alert for warning signs that might lead to poor group dynamics. Your group might seem perfectly fine at first, but all it takes is one step to sour the entire experience.
Keep an eye and an ear out for common causes of poor group dynamics mentioned earlier and be prepared to tackle them quickly.
Find the Best Creative Assets for Your Team on Envato Elements
One reason for poor group dynamics might be not having a dedicated set of business documents or a style guide to follow. Luckily, you can easily solve this problem with a subscription to Envato Elements.
Envato Elements is a subscription based marketplace that gives you access to unlimited creative assets for a low monthly fee. This includes:
- business presentations
- fact sheets
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Better Group Dynamics Start With One Person
Good group dynamics are crucial for successful completion of projects as well as good workplace culture.
In this guide, we’ve shared practical tips for improving group dynamics. But remember that every change starts with a single person.
Foster a sense of collaboration and community and use your soft people skills to lead your group on the path of achieving harmony as a team.
Editorial Note: This content was originally published in February 2022. We're sharing it again because our editors have determined that this information is still accurate and relevant.