9.3 Group Behaviour in Organisations


Group Development and Roles
1. Group Development
Tuckman's 5 stages of group development describe the group formation process. He says that all groups go through the same 5 stages during formation.

Tuckman's 5 stages of group development:

  1. Forming ➜ Team acquaints and establishes ground rules.
  2. Storming ➜ Members communicate their feelings but still don't view themselves as part of a team.
  3. Norming ➜ People feel they're a part of the team and realise that they can achieve work completion if they accept the viewpoint of others.
  4. Performing ➜ The team works in an open and trusting atmosphere where flexibility is key, and hierarchy is not important.
  5. Adjourning ➜ The team conducts an assessment at the end of the year and recognises each member's contributions.

2. Belbin’s Theory of Team Roles
Belbin’s Theory of Team Roles (1981) propose that an ideal team contains people who are prepared to take on different roles. He identified There are 3 categories of roles and 9 roles.

The 3 categories of Roles:

  1. Action-Oriented Roles – Team members who put new ideas into practice, ensure tasks are completed on time, and challenge the team to get better.
  2. People-Oriented Roles – Team members who act as leaders, encourage opportunities and seek outside opportunities.
  3. Thought-Oriented Roles – Team members who analyse, present new ideas, and provide specialist skills.

9 Roles he identified:

  1. Action-Oriented Roles
    • Shaper – Challenges the team to improvise.
    • Implementer – Puts ideas into action.
    • Completer-Finisher – Ensures thorough, timely completion.
  2. People-Oriented Roles
    • Coordinator – Acts as a chairperson; traditional team leader.
    • Team-worker – Encourages group cooperation.
    • Resource Investigator – Explores outside opportunities, develops contacts, and negotiates for resources on behalf of the team.
  3. Thought-Oriented Roles
    • Plant – Creative person who presents new ideas & approaches.
    • Monitor-Evaluator – Analyses and evaluates ideas.
    • Specialists – Provides specialised knowledge and skills.

3. Measuring Team Roles
The Belbin Test is a test which assesses team roles. The test produces a detailed report of your skills and abilities in relation to the 9 team roles, such as:

  • Advice on where you may be most comfortable.
  • Roles best and most suited to you.
  • Strategies for playing to your strengths.


  • Tuckman’s model is useful in providing guidance on how groups form. But, the model was proposed originally to explain small-group development, so it may not be helpful in understanding large-group development.
  • Tuckman does not provide a timescale for moving between each stage. He also doesn’t recognise that group formation is linear, not cyclical.
  • Tuckman does not consider the different team roles the group members might have to adopt.
  • A weakness in Belbin’s theory is that, practically teams may not have 9 members. Belbin recognised this, and in practice, members take on more than one role.
  • Belbin’s focus on the need for diversity within teams, and the value of different characteristics and skills, is appreciated.

Decision Making
1. The Decision Making Process
Wedley and Field (1984) describe:

  • The pre-planning stage of the decision-making process,
  • And the decisions taken before solving a problem.

Wedley and Field suggest that managers should be encouraged to pre-plan the decision-making process.
A few pre-decisions that need to be made, include:

  • Deciding which type of leader to use.
  • How to gather information.
  • Which people to contact.

A Decision Support System (DSS) is a computer-based system that supports decision-making activities.
Wedley and Field identified the ‘Stages of rational problem-solving decision-making’ however, it’s unlikely to suit all decision-making situations.

Stages of Problem-Solving, and Decision-Making:

  • Identify the problem.
  • Formulate objectives.
  • Familiarise yourself with the problem.
  • Generate alternate solutions.
  • Evaluate alternatives.
  • Choose the best alternative.
  • Implement the alternative.
  • Evaluate results.

2. Groupthink
Groupthink is when people choose to prioritise group loyalty over making the best choices. People conform to form a unanimous decision. It can result in ethically dubious decisions being made. It is a psychological phenomenon.
Janis (1971) identified 8 symptoms which indicate groupthink:

  1. The illusion of invulnerability ➜ Members believe they can do no wrong.
  2. Unquestioned morals ➜ Lack of questioning of morals.
  3. Rationalising ➜ Members ignore warning signs and assume everything will be alright.
  4. Stereotyping ➜ Group is labelled/stereotyped as an out-group.
  5. Self-censorship ➜ Individuals are unlikely to listen to their own doubts as they don’t see others doing so. This is related to pluralistic ignorance.
  6. Mind guards ➜ When members hides problematic information (such as concern regarding something) from the group. Everyone doing this may lead to risky decisions.
  7. The illusion of unanimity ➜ Groups behaving in a way which projects an illusion of unanimity.
  8. Direct pressure to conform ➜ Those who disagree are made to appear as being disloyal for asking questions.

Groupthink can lead to poor and unethical decision-making. However, there are benefits such as, tasks can be finished quickly and efficiently.
Groupthink is more likely to occur when:

  • Members are similar.
  • The leader is extremely charismatic.
  • Members are morally challenged.

3. How to Reduce Groupthink

  • Members should be given the opportunity to express their views and argue against ideas.
  • The leader should avoid stating their views too forcefully.
  • Have a ‘devil’s advocate’ in the group.

4. Cognitive Limitations and Errors
Forsyth (2006) suggests 3 categories of potential biases that may affect group decision-making:

  1. Sin of Commission — Misuse of information that has been shown to be false, in the decision-making process.
  2. Sin of Omission — Overlooking very basic relevant information.
  3. Sin of Imprecision — Heavily relying on information that is most easily and readily available, in a way that oversimplifies complex decisions.


  • Wedley and Field identify several strategies to ensure that poor decisions are avoided such as pre-planning and decision support systems.
  • Janis’s study can be applied in organisations to ensure that the negative outcomes of groupthink are avoided.
  • Forsyth examines errors in detail. In organisations, recognising the possibility of these errors will allow them to take steps to reduce them.

Group Conflict
1. Levels & Causes of Group Conflict
3 types of conflicts in organisations:

  1. Intra-group conflict – When people within the same group are in conflict.
  2. Inter-group conflict – Conflict between 2 groups within the same organisation.
  3. Inter-individual conflict – Conflict between 2 or more individuals within a group.

Riggio (2009) suggests 2 causes of conflicts:

  1. Organisational factors – Conflict over work-related matters, such as status, salary, and how to achieve a goal.
  2. Interpersonal factors – Conflict over matters unrelated to work, such as, disliking one another’s personality.

2. Positive & Negative Effects of Conflict

Positive Effects

Pruitt & Rubin (2003) identified the positive effects of conflict, especially in small organisations:

  1. Conflict resolution may strengthen group unity and commitment to organisational group and goals.
  2. Conflicts help ensure decisions are fully considered, which prevents groupthink and may further produce creative and innovative suggestions.
  3. Conflict can be in the form of healthy competition such as, sales staff competing to have the highest sales of the month, as it helps generate more revenue. However, using competition to increase motivation is risky as it can have several negative effects.

Negative Effects

  1. Conflict can distract workers from their job, reduce productivity, as well as waste time, resources, and money.
  2. Conflict can physically and psychologically affect the health of the people involved, which increases absenteeism and turnover, and reduces staff satisfaction.
  3. Harassment/bullying at work, further being made public, can have detrimental impacts on the public perception of the company.

3. Managing Group Conflicts
Thomas (1976) suggests 5 strategies to manage group conflict:

  1. Competition – 3 Individuals continue conflict until someone wins, and the others lose.
  2. Accommodation – One individual sacrifice themself to reduce the conflict.
  3. Compromise – Each group/individual under conflict makes some compromise to reduce conflict.
  4. Collaboration – The group works together to overcome conflict.
  5. Avoidance – Suppressing the conflict or withdrawing from the conflict completely. This helps create a cooling-off period.
  6. Create a Superordinate Goal – Create a superordinate goal to divert the group from conflict and the group collaborates instead of resolving the conflict.

Issues and Debates:

  • Riggio proposes that conflicts may have individual or situational causes. Situational causes would be something related to the organisation/work.
    The problem can be solved if the cause is identified.
  • Pruitt & Rubin: It’s useful to recognise that conflicts can have positive consequences. A conflict helps ensure good decision-making as all arguments are considered, and it reduces the chance of groupthink.
  • Thomas: Having a range of strategies for conflict management is important for all organisations. Application of these to the workplace is very valuable.