Free Essay On Team And Small Group Experience
Forsyth (2009) defines a group as “two or more individuals connected by and within a social relationship” (p. 3). Normally, formal teams have temporary existence while groups exhibit a long-term perspective. This paper evaluates my experiences as a member of a small group (i.e. my family while growing up) and as part of a debate team. My family consisted of four people – father, mother, one sibling and myself. The high school debate team consisted of five members: Norah, Mary, Martin, Steve and myself. Norah was intelligent and enjoyed proving others wrong. She hoped to use the team’s success to embellish her college applications. Mary had a serene personality and disliked conflict. Martin was popular because he was the captain of the football team. He joined the team to obtain additional spotlight. Steve was shy, rarely spoke and often concurred with others’ opinions even if he secretly disagreed.
The family group originated with both parents and children naturally became part of the group at birth. The burden of conformity to existing values and norms lay with new members (i.e. new children). Most parents bear children to preserve their lineage, obtain their children’s affection and exercise their control. A family, being a primary group, demonstrates unity and interdependence (Forsyth, 2009, p. 10). On the contrary, the team was formed by willing individuals. The formation stage was characterized by anxiety and optimism as is typical of any new group. Members were unfamiliar with each other; thus an air of cautious friendliness prevailed. Members joined the team for individual reasons whose satisfaction relied on the team winning the debate competition.
Group dynamics is the "interactions within a group" or team (Chand, n.d.). Both the family and the debate team exhibited similarities and differences in their dynamics. In my family, the roles and norms were rigidly established by my parents who were the sole decision-makers. My father had a domineering personality, hence the ultimate verdict lay with him. His roles included being the primary breadwinner and charting out educational choices for the children. On the other hand, my mother had a calm disposition and sought peace by conceding to my father’s wishes. She chiefly assumed a maintenance role by mediating in moments of disquiet and ensuring the household run smoothly. My sister, being the eldest child, shouldered the bulk of the responsibility for upholding the family name. Consequently, she often sought opportunities to prove her worth and obtain parental recognition (recognition-seeker). Usually, members were cautious when voicing their thoughts because my father’s authoritarian leadership was intolerant of dissent. As children, we rarely questioned our parents’ decisions because we deemed them to be infallible and more knowledgeable than us. However, during our teenage years, we began questioning their decisions, resulting in frequent conflicts. Furthermore, the family had no established method of conflict resolution. Disagreements remained unresolved until they dissolved into screaming matches. Being the last born in the family, I had the least decision-making discretion. My role was to follow whatever decisions the other members made, as they tended to ignore my input. Despite these individualistic behaviors, family members exhibited active solidarity in the face of external attacks. In addition, they openly displayed genuine affection and support for each other that transcended time and individual aspirations.
On the contrary, debate team members were connected by a common goal rather than a social relationship. Upon formation, members discussed and agreed on the roles, norms, and structure. The tasks and leadership were flexible and were assigned based on experience and personality. Unlike the family, the team had open communication with equal decision-making authority. Naturally, the team chose Norah as the leader because of her intelligence and an outspoken temperament. However, her domineering and obnoxious nature often bred resentment in other members. Martin felt he should be the leader because of his popularity. He often cracked jokes and directed the proceedings to his personal life, causing regular confrontations between him and Norah. As a result, Steve became even more withdrawn and rarely spoke unless when handpicked. Dissimilar to the family group, the debate team had identified a conflict resolution technique upon formation, with Mary acting as the mediator. She was also the timekeeper to ensure that members had equal chances to speak. I took up the role of record-keeping due to my follower personality.
These differences in group dynamics arise from the nature of social relationships, goals, and duration. For the family, the social relationship was permanent. There was no unified purpose, and the family was okay with members pursuing their individual goals, especially career wise. The permanence of the interaction makes conflict resolution less urgent because there was always time to resolve them. However, the debate team had a limited time within which to accomplish the goal of winning the debate competition. Furthermore, the social relationship among members was short-term, thus necessitating the need for urgent conflict resolution in order to accomplish their goal.
Comparison with virtual teams
Virtual teams are those that interact through electronic networks (Jarvenpaa & Leidner, 1999). Their members are usually located in different geographical areas that hinder face-to-face communication. Unlike ordinary teams and groups, virtual teams have a higher sense of purpose that holds them together. A unified purpose is more emphasized because there are little or no room for social contact. Indirect communication makes the team task-oriented and limits power battles and formation of stereotypes that plague average teams and groups. Also, trust issues in virtual teams are more apparent due to the absence of non-verbal cues such as facial expressions and gestures that individuals bank on when assessing the credibility and attentiveness of others. Jarvenpaa and Leidner (1999), however, proposed the “swift trust paradigm” to assist in building trust in virtual teams (p. 794). In this mechanism, members act on the presumption that the others are trustworthy, and they amend this assumption over the course of their interaction. This behavior is dissimilar to ordinary teams, where members begin with mistrust that later develops into trust and cohesion. In addition to the challenges faced by ordinary teams, virtual teams encounter unique communication challenges such as equipment breakdowns, misinterpretations, connectivity delays and cultural barriers. Despite these hurdles, virtual teams are superior to average teams in terms of cultural diversity, creativity and unity of purpose.
Norms and status
In the small group, my parents created the norms. Examples of these standards included when to eat and sleep, the type of clothes to wear and the kind of people to befriend. Disobedience resulted in punishments or withdrawal of rewards, ranging from time-outs to being grounded. Rewards that were withdrawn included smartphones, weekly allowances and holiday gifts. Contrarily, the norms in the debate team were agreed upon by all group members. Failure to ascribe to them resulted in subtle chastisements. For instance, lateness earned verbal reprimands while expulsion was reserved for those who leaked our winning strategy to our opponents.
Status differences existed in both the small group and team. My parents occupied a higher status than us, the children. The extent of one’s status decreased down the hierarchy, with my father at its peak and me at its bottom. Having a higher status, my parents had more influence in decision-making and took on leadership and supervisory roles. Their status stemmed from their legitimate power by virtue of being parents. They also had both reward and coercive power by controlling all the financial resources and the rewards associated with them. As children, our lower status meant lesser influence in decision-making. We listened more than we spoke, and usually obeyed our parents. The status difference ensured the household functioned efficiently, with each person undertaking their roles. In the debate team, the leader (Norah) occupied a higher status than the rest of us because of her position and her intelligence. As such, her power stemmed from both legitimate power and expert power respectively. Martin also had a higher status that arose from his popularity in school. As a result, Martin and Norah spoke more frequently, and their words treated with an utmost attention. The rest of us had lower status than the two, and usually spoke less often with increased chances of being ignored. The overall performance of the group was not satisfactory after emerging second in the competition. These results stemmed from the incessant control battles that wasted precious time that would otherwise be used for productive deliberations.
My team and group experiences were essential in meeting my most basic interpersonal needs. In the family group, I found affection and a sense of belonging. Family members were more willing to display affection to each other through acts of kindness and love. In addition, they habitually went to extreme lengths to protect one another. The happiness and trust in a family are usually genuine and long-lasting compared to other forms of groups or teams. In his hierarchy of needs model, Abraham Maslow hypothesized that all individuals have a need for affiliation with others (ACCEL, n.d.). After the more basic needs such as psychological and safety needs are satisfied, association needs become dominant as individuals seek affection and inclusion from others. A family satisfies affiliation needs right from childhood to adulthood. In addition, the family group gave me a sense of belonging. For instance, my parents always introduced my sister and me to strangers or recognized our existence even if we were not present. On the other hand, the debate team fulfilled my need for inclusion and acceptance among my peers. According to Schutz, inclusion is one of the three interpersonal needs that individuals have (Khandekar, 2005). He further elaborates that people want to be understood and valued based on their personalities and capabilities. The debate team offered me the opportunity to be part of a select group of my peers. During the formation stage, other individuals were left out of the group, making it selective and exclusive. Furthermore, the team consisted of two popular persons – a football captain and an intelligent student – with whom everyone wanted to associate. Thus, the team gave me a glimpse of the limelight.
Both the small group and team experiences provided learning insights. The small-group members expressed more genuine affection, love and attention than team members. Furthermore, the family members had known each other for a long time; thus trust was easy to develop. On the contrary, the team members spent a lot of time building trust because they were unfamiliar with each other. Conflicts were typical of both the small group and the team. The sources of conflict included differences in individual aspirations and socialization respectively. However, with a constructive conflict resolution process in place, teams can transcend these differences and succeed in their endeavor. Both types of groups serve a critical affiliation role necessary at different stages of human development. The family unit is essential when children are growing up to give them a sense of belonging, security and affection. As they outgrow their comfort zones and enter their teenage years, they seek reassurance and acceptance from their peers in order to build their self-worth. It is in this latter stage that peer groups and teams become indispensable by offering inclusion. Therefore, both groupings should be encouraged to produce a well-rounded individual.
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