“Planning a Playground and “Politics of Sociology”

“Planning a Playground and “Politics of Sociology”

Order Description

Resources: Ch. 5 & 8 of Working In Groups and the Week 3 videos, “Planning a Playground” and “Politics of Sociology”
Write a 1,400- to 1,750-word summary of your responses to the following after completing the collaborative Week 3 discussion associated with the “Planning a Playground and “Politics of Sociology” videos:
Group Interaction
How clear was the intent of the discussion?
How prepared were your group members for the discussion?
Did everyone participate equally in the discussion?
Were group members open to different points of view?
How would you describe the overall climate of the discussion?
Did you feel your group was productive in the discussion? Did you use the time efficiently?
What strategies can you use in future discussions to increase productivity and outcomes?
What approach will you take next time to increase group cohesion?
Video Analysis – “Planning A Playground”
What are the issues in this meeting?
What did they do well as a group?
Can you identify constructive or deconstructive conflict occurring in this group? What are some key indicators? What conflict styles do you see?
Based on what you learned this week, how might you handle this situation differently?
Video Analysis – “The Politics of Sociology”
What are the issues in this meeting?
What did they do well as a group?
What types of conflict do you see in this video? Provide examples.
There is a clear leader in this video. What can he do to be a better leader for this group?
Based on what you learned this week, how might you handle this team situation differently?
Click the Assignment Files tab to submit your assignment.

VIDEO LINKS
https://media.pearsoncmg.com/pcp/pcp_82302_engleberg_uop_pp/

CHAPTER 5 & 8

Chapter 5 Group Leadership
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Chapter Outline
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What Is Leadership?
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Becoming a Leader
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Designated Leaders
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Emergent Leaders
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Strategies for Becoming a Leader
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Leadership and Power
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Types of Leadership Power
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The Power of Power
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Leadership Theories
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Situational Leadership Theory
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Functional Leadership Theory
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The 5M Model of Leadership Effectiveness
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Model Leadership
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Motivate Members
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Manage Group Process
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Make Decisions
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Mentor Members
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Diversity and Leadership
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Gender and Leadership
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Culture and Leadership
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Case Study The Leader in Sheep’s Clothing
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The Peoples Project is a nonprofit organization with the mission of serving displaced families within their local communities. If a homeless family qualifies for help, the Peoples Project moves them into a local Peoples Project apartment. Every family receives job counseling, skills training, child care, and assistance in looking for a permanent home.
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For 20 years, the Peoples Project was directed by Bill Blessing, one of its founders. When Blessing announced his retirement, the board of trustees hired an energetic and experienced nonprofit director named Will Dupree. From his first day at work, Dupree jumped right into the job. He met with residents of Peoples Project housing to listen to their needs and complaints. He scheduled meetings with community leaders and politicians to solidify their support. He delivered an eloquent speech at a local church that assists the Peoples Project. And when a fire left three families without shelter, he rolled up his sleeves and spent two days helping them move into Peoples Project housing. The board was thrilled. The community was delighted with the new charismatic leader.
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Meanwhile, back at the Peoples Project headquarters, the mood was quite different. During his first week on the job, Dupree called a meeting of the senior staff, most of whom had been working for the Peoples Project for many years. He told them that to the outside community, he would always be responsive, caring, and empowering. Behind closed doors at the Peoples Project, he would be a tough, uncompromising director. “I don’t want to be your friend,” he said. “You will meet all deadlines and give 110 percent without complaining.” Within a few days, they learned that Dupree was a man of his word. One afternoon at 4:30, he marched into a senior staff member’s office and said, “I need a report on how the proposed zoning legislation will affect our buildings and those we’re trying to buy. I need it by noon tomorrow.” The staff member worked past midnight to write the report. The next morning, she came in early to make revisions. By noon the report was sitting on the director’s desk. A day later, she asked the director what he thought of the report. His response was “Oh, I’ve been busy—haven’t read it yet.” As incidents like these increased, senior staff members became frustrated and wary of their new director. His popularity outside headquarters was high so they didn’t think they could do anything. But when Dupree started to have “favorites” among the staff members, several veteran employees decided that retirement or looking for work elsewhere was a better and healthier option.
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Even though the Peoples Project had never been more successful, staff members were at a breaking point. At the same time, their commitment and loyalty to the organization and its mission was strong. No one knew what to do or how to respond to the new leader.
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When you finish reading this chapter, you should be able to answer the following critical thinking questions about this case study:
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As a designated leader, how could Dupree have adapted his leadership style more effectively to accommodate the existing staff members?
According to Situational Leadership theories, is Dupree a task-motivated or relationship-motivated leader? How well does his leadership style match the group’s situational dimensions?
Given that many staff members are currently unhappy working for Dupree, what strategies could they use to improve the group’s situation?
How does Dupree measure up to the 5M Model of Leadership Effectiveness?
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Planning a Playground
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Virtual Miscommunication
Before you read any further, visit Pearson’s MyCommunicationLab website and watch the short videos “Planning a Playground” and “Virtual Miscommunication,” which illustrate Chapter 5 concepts. Each video comes with a set of study questions to keep in mind as you read this chapter.
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What Is Leadership?
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If you use the word leadership to search any major online bookseller’s site, you will discover thousands of books on that subject. And if you review the first 300 offerings, you’ll see that most of them are written by highly respected scholars and well-regarded business leaders. Some unusual titles, however, demonstrate the popularity of leadership books. Here are just a few:
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Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun
Leadership Secrets of Colin Powell
Leadership Secrets of Hillary Clinton
Jesus on Leadership
Lincoln on Leadership
The Leadership Secrets of Billy Graham
Robert E. Lee on Leadership
Martin Luther King, Jr. on Leadership
The Leadership Secrets of Santa Claus
And before you chuckle too much over The Leadership Secrets of Santa Claus, consider how you could translate some of his “secrets” into useful leadership tips: Choose your reindeer wisely; make a list and check it twice; listen to the elves; find out who’s naughty and nice; be good for goodness’ sake.1
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Apparently, everyone has something to say about leadership. You do, too. You have observed leaders at work, voted for leaders at school and in public elections, and probably led a group at some point in your life. That group could have been a sports team, a study group, a work team, or a group of children left in your care.
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All groups need leadership. Without leadership, a group may be nothing more than a collection of individuals, lacking the coordination and motivation to achieve a common goal. Quite simply, “there are no successful groups without leaders.?.?.?. Leaders lead because groups demand it and rely on leaders to satisfy needs.”2
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A leader and leadership are not the same thing. Leadership is the ability to make strategic decisions and use communication effectively to mobilize group members toward achieving a common goal. Leader is the title given to a person; leadership refers to the actions a leader takes to help group members achieve a common goal.
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Another way to understand the nature of leadership is to contrast it with the functions of management. Whereas managers concentrate on getting an assigned job done, leaders focus on the ultimate direction and goal of the group. Note how the employee in the following situation describes the difference between a manager and a leader:
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Lee is the manager of our department, so he’s technically our leader. He always follows procedures and meets deadlines for paperwork, so I guess he’s a good manager. But we don’t get much guidance from him. I think that managing and leading are somehow different. Allison supervises the other department. She inspires her workers. They’re motivated and innovative, and they work closely with one another. We do our job, but they seem to be on a mission. I’ve always thought that working for Allison would be more rewarding and enjoyable.
As we see it, there is an obvious reason why some leaders succeed whereas others fail: Those who fail often lack effective and appropriate communication skills. In his book on leadership, Antony Bell describes communication as the mortar or glue that connects all leadership competencies. The ability to think and act, self-awareness, and self-discipline are critical leadership competencies, but it takes communication to bind these building blocks together.3
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Ronald Heifetz, director of the Leadership Education Project at Harvard’s School of Government, describes the dialectic tensions inherent in leadership. Leaders, he writes, must create a balance between the tensions required to motivate change and the need to avoid overwhelming followers.4 Effective leaders walk a line between both fostering interdependence and encouraging self-reliance, between both building cohesion and welcoming disagreement, and between both imposing structure and promoting spontaneity.
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Groups in Balance?.?.?.
Value Both Leadership and Followership
Who wants to be a follower? In the United States—the number one individualistic country in the world—we praise and value individual leaders. This admiration of leaders is not shared by all cultures. In collectivist cultures, standing out from the group is considered arrogant. Instead, loyal, hard-working followers are admired. In the United States, being a follower receives little praise. Garry Will captured this perception in his book, Certain Trumpets: The Call of Leaders:
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Talk about the nobility of leaders, the need for them, our reliance on them, raises the clear suspicion that followers are not so noble, not needed—that there is something demeaning about being a follower. In that view, leaders only rise by sinking others to subordinate roles.5
Of course, in an effective group, none of these suspicions make sense. Leaders and followers share ideas and opinions. They collaborate to achieve a common goal. Followers have a say about where they are being led. After all, without followers, there would be no one to lead.
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In Chapter 1, we identified the leadership???followership dialectic as significant to group success. We emphasized that effective leaders have the confidence to put their egos aside and bring out the leadership in others.6 Think of how many “ordinary” people came forward to take leadership roles during the horrific events of September 11, 2001. Office workers in the World Trade Center organized coworkers to carry injured colleagues down thousands of stairs. Local businesses worked cooperatively to provide food to workers during the rescue and recovery operation.7 Other businesses donated office space to companies whose operations had been destroyed when the towers collapsed.8 Despite the fact that Mayor Rudy Giuliani was widely credited and praised for his leadership during the crisis, there were hundreds of extraordinary followers doing what was needed to help the stricken New York City community recover from the emotional, physical, logistical, and financial shocks it suffered.
Becoming a Leader
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Anyone can become a leader. Abraham Lincoln, Harry S Truman, and Barack Obama rose from humble beginnings and hardship to become U.S. presidents. Corporate executives have worked their way up from the sales force and the secretarial pool to become chief executive officers.9
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Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg, the son of an electrical supply shop owner, started his business career as a telephone cable splicer’s assistant.10
Brenda C. Barnes, CEO of Sara Lee (now retired), the daughter of a maintenance man, worked as a waitress, post office mail sorter, and clothing salesperson before becoming a manager at a sporting goods store.11
Oprah Winfrey, born to an unwed teenager and raised on her grandmother’s farm in Kosciusko, Mississippi, became a CEO and the richest self-made woman in the United States.12
The path to a leadership position can be as easy as being in the right place at the right time or being the only person willing to take on a difficult job. Becoming the leader of a group primarily occurs in one of two ways: being chosen to lead or naturally emerging as a leader.
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Designated Leaders
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A designated leader is selected by group members or by an outside authority. You may be hired for a job that gives you authority over others. You may be promoted or elected to a leadership position. You may be assigned to chair a special work team or subcommittee. In all these cases, the selection of the leader depends on an election or an appointment.
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Sometimes, less-than-deserving people are appointed or elected to powerful positions. Is it possible, then, for a designated leader to be an effective leader? Of course it is, particularly when a leader’s abilities match the needs of the group and its goal.
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Designated leaders face unique challenges. When a newly appointed leader enters a well-established group, there can be a long and difficult period of adjustment for everyone. One student described this difficult process as follows:
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For five summers, I worked as a counselor at a county day camp for underprivileged children. Anthony was our boss, and all of us liked him. We worked hard for Anthony because we knew he’d look the other way if we showed up late or left early on a Friday. As long as the kids were safe and supervised, he didn’t bother us. But when Anthony was promoted into management at the county government office, we got Tyler. The first few weeks were awful. Tyler would dock us if we were late. No one could leave early. He demanded that we come up with more activities for the kids. Weekend pool parties were banned. He even made us attend a counselors’ meeting every morning, rather than once every couple of weeks. But, in the end, most of us had to admit that Tyler was a better director. The camp did more for the kids, and that was the point.
When group members elect or appoint a leader from within a group, the problems can be as difficult as those faced by a leader from outside the group. If the person who once worked next to you becomes your boss, the adjustment can be problematic. Here, a business executive describes how difficult it was when she was promoted to vice president:
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When I was promoted, I became responsible for making decisions that affected my colleagues, many of whom were close friends. I was given the authority to approve projects, recommend salary increases, and grant promotions. Colleagues who had always been open and honest with me were more cautious and careful about what they said. I had to deny requests from people I cared about, while approving requests from colleagues with whom I often disagreed. Even though I was the same person, I was treated differently, and, as a result, I behaved differently.
Being plucked from a group in order to lead it can present problems because it changes the nature of your relationship with the other members of the group. Even though the members know you well, you still must earn their trust and respect as a leader. Here are three suggestions:
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Involve the group in decision making as much as possible.
Discuss ground rules for interactions with friends while assuring them of your continued friendship.
Openly and honestly address leadership concerns with group members and seek their help in resolving potential problems.13
Emergent Leaders
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Very often, the most effective leadership occurs when a leader emerges from a group rather than being promoted, elected, or appointed. The leaders of many political, religious, and community organizations emerge. An emergent leader gradually achieves leadership by interacting with group members and contributing to the achievement of the group’s goal. Leaders who emerge from within a group do not have to spend time learning about the group, its goals, and its norms. They also have some assurance that the group wants them to be its leader.
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Strategies for Becoming a Leader
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Although there is no method guaranteeing that you’ll emerge or be designated as a group’s leader, certain strategies can improve your chances. All of these strategies require a balanced approach that takes advantage of opportunities without abusing the privilege of leadership.
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Talk Early and Often (and Listen to Others).
Research shows that the person who speaks first and most often is more likely to emerge as the group’s leader.14 The number of contributions is even more important than the quality of those contributions. The quality of your contributions becomes more significant after you become a leader.
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The link between participation and leadership “is the most consistent finding in small group leadership research. Participation demonstrates both your motivation to lead and your commitment to the group.”15 Although talking early and often does not guarantee you a leadership position, failure to talk will keep you from being considered as a leader. Yet, don’t overdo it. If you talk too much, members may think that you are
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Ethics in Groups
Leadership Integrity
In his book on leadership, Andrew DuBrin makes the case that ethical leaders do “the right thing as perceived by a consensus of reasonable people.”16 Doing the right thing requires integrity.17 Such leaders honor their commitments and their promises. They practice what they preach, regardless of emotional or social pressure. For example, if a good friend in your group asks to chair a committee, and you’ve promised the position to someone with better skills, you should keep your promise even if it upsets your friend.
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Unethical leadership has enormous consequences, regardless of whether it affects a small study group or a global corporation. Unethical behavior has bankrupted companies, led to thousands of layoffs, exposed the unrestrained spending of self-centered corporate executives, and resulted in dangerous safety violations on off-shore oil-drilling rigs, at nuclear power plants, and in the contamination of the food we eat.
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The Center for Business Ethics at Bentley College poses five questions to help you decide whether your (or someone else’s) leadership behaviors are ethical or unethical:18
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Is it right? Do you conform to universally accepted principles of rightness and wrongness, such as “thou shalt not steal”?
Is it fair? Would you overlook a competent person in order to promote a less competent relative or friend?
Who gets hurt? Do you try to do the greatest good for the greatest number of people?
Would you be comfortable if the details of your decisions or actions were made public in the media or through email? What would you tell your child or a young relative to do in similar circumstances?
How does it smell? If a reasonable person with good common sense were to look at your decision or action, would it “smell” suspicious or bad to that person? Would it seem wrong?
Leadership can become an ego trip—or, even worse, a power trip. Warren Bennis and Joan Goldsmith use the metaphor of effective leadership as a stool with three legs—“ambition, competence, and integrity—[which] must remain in balance if the leader is to be a constructive force.” If one of these leadership legs is missing, the group may fall apart. A leader with too much ambition and/or not enough competence or integrity risks becoming a destructive force, pursuing selfish goals rather than goals that benefit the group.19
not interested in or willing to listen to their contributions. While it is important to talk, it is just as important to demonstrate your willingness and ability to listen.
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Know More (and Share What You Know).
Leaders often emerge or are appointed because they are seen as experts—people who know more about an important topic than others do. Even if a potential leader is simply able to explain ideas and information more clearly than other group members, that person may be perceived as knowing more.
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Groups need well-informed leaders, but they do not need know-it-alls. Know-it-alls see their own comments as most important; leaders value everyone’s contributions. Members who want to become leaders understand that they must demonstrate their expertise without intimidating other group members.
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Offer Your Opinion (and Welcome Disagreement).
When groups have difficulty making decisions or solving problems, they appreciate someone who offers good ideas and informed opinions. Members often emerge as leaders when they help a group out of some difficulty. Offering ideas and opinions, however, is not the same as having those ideas accepted. Because your opinions may conflict with those of other group members, use caution when discussing these differences. Criticizing the ideas and opinions of others may cause resentment and defensiveness. Bullying your way into a leadership position can backfire. If you are unwilling to listen to alternatives or collaborate with members, the group may not want to follow you.
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Remember This
Effective leaders welcome disagreement. They do not suppress conflict, they rise and face it.20
The strategies for becoming a leader are not necessarily the strategies needed for successful leadership. Although you may talk a lot, demonstrate superior knowledge, and assert your personal opinions in order to become a leader, you may find that the dialectic opposites—listening rather than talking, relying on the knowledge of others, and seeking a wide range of opinions—are equally necessary to succeed as a leader.
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Leadership and Power
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You cannot fully understand the dynamics of leadership unless you also understand the dynamics of power. In the context of group communication, power is the ability or authority to influence and motivate others. Leadership experts Warren Bennis and Bruce Nanus claim that power is “the quality without which leaders cannot lead.”21 In the hands of a just and wise leader, power is a positive force; in the hands of an unjust or foolish leader, power can be a destructive and corrupting force.
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Types of Leadership Power
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Many researchers study power and its relationship to group leadership. Here, we combine the work of two sets of researchers. John French and Bertram Raven classify power into five categories: reward power, coercive power, legitimate power, expert power, and referent power. Psychologists Gary Yukl and Cecilia Fable add three additional types of power: informational power, persuasive power, and charisma. Yukl and Fable note that if you combine French and Raven’s five categories with their three categories, you end up with two basic types of power,22 which we’ve named position power and personal power. Position power depends on a member’s job or status within an organization. Personal power stems from a member’s individual character, competencies, and earned status. Figure 5.1 on the next page lists the four types of power in each of these two categories.
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The Power of Power
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What kind of power is best? The answer depends on many factors, including the type of group, the situation or organization, member characteristics, and the group’s goal. For example, reward power works best in groups where the leader controls something members value. It is less effective when the so-called rewards are insignificant or trivial.
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Research examining French and Raven’s five categories of power concludes that reward power, legitimate power, and coercive power are the least effective. “They either have no influence or a negative influence both on how people act at work and on job satisfaction. Expert power and referent power tend to produce positive outcomes.”23
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In the extreme, highly coercive leaders can range from the “abusive tyrant, who bawls out and humiliates people, to the manipulative sociopath. Such leaders have an emotional impact a bit like the ‘dementors’ in the Harry Potter series, who ‘drain peace,
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Figure 5.1 Types of Power in Groups
hope, and happiness out of the air around them.’ At their worst, leaders who rely on coercive power have no idea how destructive they are—or they simply don’t care.”24
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On the other hand, coercive power can be “effective when those subject to this form of power are aware of expectations and are warned in advance about the penalties for failure to comply. Leaders using coercive power must consistently carry out threatened punishments.”25
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Contrast coercive power with referent power. Referent power is the personal power or influence held by people we like, admire, and respect. Referent power, as a form of personal power, is influential because it is recognized and conferred by the group rather than by an outside source.
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In most groups, a leader employs several kinds of power, depending on the needs of the group and the situation. Some leaders may have the power to reward, coerce, and persuade as well as having legitimate, expert, informational, referent, and charismatic power. In other groups, a leader may depend entirely on one type of power. The more power a leader has, the more carefully the use of power must be balanced with the needs of the group. If you exert too much power, your group may lose its energy and enthusiasm. If you don’t exert enough power, your group may flounder and fail.
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Leadership Theories
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In Leadership, Warren Bennis and Bruce Nanus point out that “no clear and unequivocal understanding exists as to what distinguishes leaders from non-leaders, and perhaps more important, what distinguishes effective leaders from ineffective leaders.”26 Despite inconclusive results from thousands of research studies, there
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Theory in Groups
The Evolution of Leadership Theory
Two early leadership theories have shaped the way many of us think about the people we elect, appoint, and look to as leaders. In 1841, Thomas Carlyle’s book On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic History led to what we now call Trait Leadership Theory.27 Trait Leadership Theory Often referred to as “The Great Man” theory, this theory is based on an assumption many people now reject—that leaders are born, not made. Trait Leadership Theory identifies and prescribes individual characteristics and behaviors needed for effective leadership.
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Think of the leaders you admire. What traits do they have? In his book Leadership, Andrew DuBrin identifies several personality traits that contribute to successful leadership: self-confidence, humility, trustworthiness, high tolerance of frustration, warmth, humor, enthusiasm, extroversion, assertiveness, emotional stability, adaptability, farsightedness, and openness to new experiences.28 Although most of us would gladly follow a leader with the qualities described by DuBrin, many effective leaders only exhibit a few of these traits. For example, Harriet Tubman, an illiterate runaway slave, did little talking but led hundreds of people from bondage in the South to freedom in the North. Bill Gates, an introverted computer geek, became one of the richest men on earth as head of Microsoft, a company that all but dictates how we use personal computers.
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At the same time and according to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®, a specific set of traits characterizes “life’s natural leaders.” These “extroverted thinkers” (the ENTJ types) use reasoning ability to control and direct those around them.29 They are usually enthusiastic, decisive, confident, organized, logical, and argumentative. They love to lead and can be excellent communicators. And although they often assume or win leadership positions, extroverted thinkers may not necessarily be effective leaders because they may intimidate or overpower others. They also may be insensitive to the personal feelings and needs of group members. Although many extroverted thinkers become leaders, they may need a less intense, more balanced approach in order to be effective leaders.
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Styles Leadership Theory As a way of expanding the trait approach to the study of leadership, Styles Leadership Theory groups specific leadership traits into distinct styles. Actors work in different styles—tough or gentle, comic or tragic. Different styles are attributed to leaders, too. Early attempts to describe different leadership styles yielded three categories that stretch across a continuum of leadership control. As shown in the figure below, autocratic leaders exert a great deal of control, democratic leaders employ a moderate amount of control, and laissez-faire leaders give up control.30
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Autocratic leaders seek power and authority by controlling the direction and outcome of group work. They make many of the group’s decisions, expect followers to obey orders, take personal credit for group success, and tend to use reward power and coercive power. Dr. Sandy Faber, a world-renowned astronomer, wrote about her experience leading a group of six astronomers who developed a new theory about the expansion of the universe. An unfortunate back injury made her take a new look at her leadership style. Rather than directing and controlling the group process, she had to lie on a portable cot when she met with the research team. She discovered leading a group from a cot is almost impossible. But from that position, she also learned a valuable lesson about leadership:
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It was the best thing that could have happened to us. The resultant power vacuum allowed each of us to quietly find our own best way to contribute. I now think that in small groups of able and motivated individuals, giving orders or setting up a well-defined hierarchy may generate more friction than it is designed to cure.31
Although many people assume that democratic leadership is always best, an autocratic style may be more effective under certain circumstances. During a serious crisis, there may not be enough time to discuss issues or consider the wishes of all members. In such cases, a group may be thankful when a leader takes control of the situation.
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Democratic leaders promote the interests of group members and practice social equality. As the name implies, democratic leaders behave quite differently than autocratic leaders. Democratic leaders share decision making with the group, promote collaboration, focus on both the task and group morale, give the group credit for success, and tend to rely on referent and expert power to motivate members.
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There are potential costs, however, to democratic leadership. By failing to take charge in a crisis or to curb a discussion when decisions need to be finalized, democratic leaders may be perceived as weak or indecisive by their followers.
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In groups with democratic leadership, members are often more satisfied with the group experience, more loyal to the leader, and more productive in the long run. Whereas members often fear or distrust an autocratic leader, they usually enjoy working with a democratic leader.32
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Laissez-faire is a French phrase that roughly means “to let people do as they choose.” A laissez-faire leader lets the group take charge of all decisions and actions. In mature and highly productive groups, a laissez-faire leader may be a perfect match for the group. Such a laid-back leadership style can generate a climate in which open communication is encouraged and rewarded. Unfortunately, laissez-faire leaders do little or nothing to help a group when it needs decisive leadership.
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Although the Trait and Styles Leadership Theories are not as popular or accepted as they were in the past, they influenced the development of subsequent theories that advance our knowledge about and understanding of leadership.33
is something to learn from several leadership theories. This chapter examines four theoretical approaches to leadership (see Figure 5.2).
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Figure 5.2 Leadership Theories
We now know that there isn’t a single trait or style characteristic of effective leaders. Harvard University’s Richard Hackman explains that effective leadership “involves inventing and competently executing whatever actions are most likely to create and sustain” an effective group.34 Situational Leadership Theory and Functional Leadership Theory take on Hackman’s challenge of describing the actions needed to achieve a group’s common goal.
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Situational Leadership Theory
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Situational Leadership Theory claims that effective leaders use different leadership styles and strategies depending on the situation. Most of us do this in our daily interactions with other people. We may be extra patient with nervous colleagues on their first few days at a new job. We check up on some group members more than others because we know they’ll forget meeting times and deadlines.35 Situational Leadership Theory gives us the tools we need to become more effective leaders once we have carefully analyzed ourselves, our group, and the circumstances in which we work together.
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Fiedler’s Contingency Model of Leadership Effectiveness.
One of the most influential theories of situational leadership was developed by managerial expert Fred Fiedler. His Contingency Model of Leadership Effectiveness contends that effective leadership occurs only when there is an ideal match between the leader’s style and the group’s work situation.36 Fiedler characterizes leaders as being either task motivated or relationship motivated. Notice the dialectic tensions between these two leadership styles in Figure 5.3.
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Fiedler acknowledges that a small group of leaders are both task motivated and relationship motivated. Maintaining this delicate balance, however, is difficult given that most leaders are more motivated by one style than the other. At the same time, enlightened leaders recognize the leadership style they prefer and try to compensate by adopting the opposite style when it best serves the group and its members.
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Once you have determined your leadership style, the next step is to analyze how your style matches the group’s situation. According to Fiedler, every situation has three important dimensions: leader–member relations, task structure, and power.
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Leader–member relations:  Because leader–member relations can be positive, neutral, or negative, they affect the way a leader mobilizes a group toward its goal. Are group members friendly and loyal to the leader and to the rest of the group? Are they cooperative and supportive? Do they accept or resist the leader?
Task structure:  The second situational factor requires leaders to analyze the structure of the task. Task structure ranges from disorganized and chaotic to highly organized and rule driven. Are the goals and the task clear? Is there an accepted procedure or set of steps for achieving the goal? Are there well-established standards for measuring success?
Power:  The third situational factor is power, the ability or authority to influence and motivate others. Is the source of that power an outside authority, or has the leader earned it from the group? What differences would the use of reward, coercive, legitimate, expert, referent, informational, persuasive, and charismatic power have on the group?
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Figure 5.3 Task- and Relationship-Motivated Leaders

Figure 5.4 Fiedler’s Contingency Model of Leadership Effectiveness
Fiedler’s research suggests that there are ideal matches between leadership style and group situations. As depicted in Figure 5.4, a task-motivated leader performs best in extremes—such as when the situation is highly controlled or when it is almost out of control. These leaders shine when there are good leader–member relationships, a clear task, and a lot of power. They also do well in stressful leadership jobs where there may be poor leader–member relationships, an unclear and unstructured task, and little power. Task-motivated leaders do well in extreme situations because their primary motivation is to take charge and get the job done.
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Relationship-motivated leaders are most effective when there is a mix of conditions. They may have a structured task but an uncooperative group of followers. Rather than taking charge and getting the job done at all costs, the relationship-motivated leader uses diplomacy and works with group members to improve leader–member relationships. If there are good leader–member relationships but an unstructured task, the relationship-motivated leader may rely on the resources of the group to develop a plan of action. Whereas a task-motivated leader might find these situations frustrating, a relationship-motivated leader will be quite comfortable in them.
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Fiedler proposed that effective leadership occurs only when there is an ideal match between the leader’s style and the group’s work situation. How might an athletic coach match his or her style to the situation of team competition?
According to Fiedler’s Contingency Model of Leadership, when you know your leadership style and understand the situation in which you must lead, you can begin to predict how successful you will be as a leader. Of course, you cannot always choose when and where you will lead. You may find yourself assigned or elected to a leadership situation that does not match your leadership style. In such a case, rather than trying to change your leadership style, you may find it easier to change the situation in which you are leading. For example, if leader–member relationships are poor, you may decide that your first task is to gain the group’s trust and support.
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If your task is highly unstructured, you can exert your leadership by providing structure or by dividing the task into smaller, easier-to-achieve subunits. On the other hand, you may find yourself in a leadership situation where the task is highly structured and members know exactly what to do. Rather than accepting business as usual, ask for or introduce new and less structured tasks to challenge the group.
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Finally, you may be able to modify the amount of power you have. If you are reluctant to use coercive power, or if you don’t have enough legitimate power, you can earn referent and charismatic power by demonstrating your leadership ability. If you have a great deal of power and run the risk of intimidating group members, you may want to delegate some of your duties and power.
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The Hersey-Blanchard Situational Leadership® Model.
The Hersey-Blanchard Situational Leadership® Model links leadership style to the readiness of group members.37 Member readiness is the extent to which group members are willing (confident, committed, and motivated) and able (knowledgeable, expert, and skilled) to work together in order to achieve a common goal.
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According to Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard, as a group’s readiness increases, leaders should rely more on relationship behaviors and less on task behavior. Here is a summary of guidelines for leaders based on the Hersey-Blanchard Situational Leadership Model, which is also illustrated in Figure 5.5:38
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Situation 1. Low Readiness—The Telling Stage.  When followers are unable, unwilling, or insecure, the leader should emphasize task-oriented behavior while being very directive and even autocratic. The leader tells the group what to do and closely supervises the work.
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Situation 2. Moderate Readiness—The Selling Stage.  When group members are unable but willing or confident, the leader should focus on being more relationship
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Figure 5.5 The Hersey-Blanchard Situational Leadership® Model
Follow the Research
The Two Sides of “Great” Leadership
In Leadership without Easy Answers, Ronald Heifetz describes effective leaders as people who walk a razor’s edge (ouch!). He offers this example: If you challenge group members too quickly with too much, they will resist your leadership and resent the chaos your expectations create for them. If you challenge members too slowly with too little, they will blame you for their lack of motivation and progress. Heifetz claims that effective leaders stay balanced on the edge by adapting to the group, its members, and changing situations.39
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Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, assembled a research team with the goal of comparing the attributes of “good” and “great” companies in similar industries, as well as those of companies that had tried to move from “good” to “great” status but failed. In terms of leadership, he found that the great leaders of great companies balanced two dimensions: professional will and personal humility.40
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Collins contends that to lead your group to greatness, you must be willing to keep your ego in check for the sake of the group’s goal and its well-being. Those who aren’t willing to do this are not “made” for this kind of leadership. “For these people, work will always be first and foremost about what they get—fame, fortune, adulation, power, whatever—and not what they build, create, and contribute.”41 Notice how the “two sides” of leadership balance one another.42
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oriented. The leader sells by explaining the rationale for decisions and providing opportunities for member input.
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Situation 3. Moderate to High Readiness—The Participating Stage.  When group members are able but unwilling or insecure, the leader should provide a high degree of relationship-oriented behavior. The leader participates by sharing ideas, facilitating decision making, and motivating members.
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Situation 4. High Readiness—The Delegating Stage.  When group members are able as well as willing and confident, they are self-sufficient and competent. The leader delegates by granting group members independence and trust.
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Functional Leadership Theory
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Functional Leadership Theory claims that the leadership role is “to do, or get done, whatever is not being adequately handled for group needs.”43 Rather than focusing on who a leader is, the functional approach focuses on what a leader does to help the group achieve its common goal. According to this approach, leadership is not the sole responsibility of the leader; it is a job, not a person.
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Remember This
Functional Leadership Theory focuses on how to lead instead of who is the leader.
Functional Leadership Theory asks whether, and how well, group members assume critical leadership functions. Think back to the group roles in Chapter 3, “Group Membership,” and how many of them assume leadership functions, such as coordinator, energizer, monitor–evaluator, information/opinion giver, implementer, and completer.
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Regardless of whether you are a leader or a follower, Functional Leadership Theory poses the following questions:44
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Do your behaviors and decisions help your group achieve its common goal?
Do your personal traits and skills match the group’s needs?
Do your intelligence, creativity, knowledge, skills, and emotional maturity promote the common good?
Do the members of your group assume essential leadership functions as needed?
Do you have the courage to move toward and learn from difficult situations, rather than avoid them to reduce personal and group anxieties?
If you answer yes to most of these questions, you and your group have probably integrated essential leadership functions into the way you work toward achieving a common goal.
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The 5M Model of Leadership Effectiveness
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Given the millions of words about leadership published by scholars, management gurus, and popular press writers, you may have difficulty sorting out the dos and don’ts of effective leadership. To help you understand and apply the contributions made by these various approaches, we offer an integrated model of leadership effectiveness that focuses on specific communication strategies and skills that are appropriate for a particular group in a particular context.
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The 5M Model of Leadership Effectiveness, shown in Figure 5.6, divides leadership tasks into five interdependent leadership functions: (1) model leadership, (2) motivate members, (3) manage group process, (4) make decisions, and (5) mentor members. These strategies incorporate the features of several theories and provide a set of behaviors characteristic of effective leadership.45
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Figure 5.6 The 5M Model of Leadership Effectiveness
Model Leadership
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Model leaders project an image of confidence, competence, trustworthiness, and optimism. They provide a model of member effectiveness and build a climate of mutual trust between the leader and group members. Leadership expert Martin Chemers refers to this function as image management and notes that when “image management is particularly successful, the leader may be described as charismatic.”46 Yet no matter how much you may want to be a model leader, only your followers can grant you that honor. In The Leadership Secrets of Colin Powell, the author quotes Powell’s view on modeling behavior:
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The leader sets an example. Whether in the Army or in civilian life, the other people in an organization take their cue from the leader—not from what the leader says but what the leader does.47
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We recommend the following strategies for modeling effective leadership:
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Publicly champion your group and its goals. In addition to praising group members directly, praise them to others outside the group.
Speak and listen effectively and confidently.
Behave consistently and assertively. Think about how you would want to be treated and make sure to follow your own golden rule.
Demonstrate competence and trustworthiness. Roll up your sleeves and take on difficult tasks. Stick with the task and the group until the goal is achieved.
Motivate Members
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Motivation provides the inspiration, incentives, and reasons that move group members to work together to achieve a common goal. Without motivation, members may know what they need to do and even how to do it, but lack the will and energy to get it done. In Chapter 2, “Group Development,” we introduced Kenneth Thomas’s categories of intrinsic motivators—shared feelings of meaningfulness, choice, competence, and progress—all of which are available to leaders.
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Mike Krzyzewski (Coach K), the highly successful men’s basketball coach at Duke University, believes that motivating team members is the key to his success. “As a coach, leader, and teacher, my primary task is motivation. How do I get a group motivated, not only to be their individual best but also to become better as a team?”48
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Remember This
Effective leaders use carrots, not sticks, to motivate members.
Motivating leaders guide, develop, support, defend, and inspire group members. They develop relationships that “match the personal needs and expectations of followers.”49 Four leadership skills are central to motivating members:
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Seek members’ commitment to the group’s common goal. Even if it takes extra time and effort, make sure members genuinely support a clear and elevated goal.
Appropriately reward the group and its members. You can be firm as long as you are fair in recognizing and rewarding outstanding group work.
Help solve interpersonal problems and conflicts. Use the conflict resolution skills described in Chapter 8, “Conflict and Cohesion in Groups,” to resolve conflicts constructively.
Adapt tasks and assignments to members’ abilities and expectations. Don’t try to fit the “square peg” member into a “round hole” role. Use group members’ talents to enhance group productivity and members’ satisfaction.
Manage Group Process
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From the perspective of group survival, managing group process may be the most important function of leadership.50 If a group is disorganized, lacks sufficient information to solve problems, or is unable to make important decisions, the group cannot be effective. Four leadership skills can enhance this important function:
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Organize and fully prepare for group meetings and work sessions. In some cases, you may take more time to prepare for a meeting than to lead one.
Understand and adapt to members’ strengths and weaknesses. Capitalize on member strengths and help compensate for weaknesses.
Help solve task-related and procedural problems. When group members are working productively, help them organize their tasks and adjust timetables. Secure necessary resources.
Monitor and intervene to improve group performance. If you see a problem developing, intervene and assist members before it becomes a crisis.
Make Decisions
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A leader’s willingness and ability to make appropriate, timely, and responsible decisions characterize effective leadership. Too often we hear disgruntled group members talk about their leader’s inability to make critical decisions. A high school teacher described this fatal leadership flaw as follows:
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Everyone agrees that our principal is a “nice guy” who wants everyone to like him. He doesn’t want to “rock the boat” or “make waves.” As a result, he doesn’t make decisions or take decisive action when it’s most needed. He listens patiently to a request or to both sides of a dispute, but that’s all he does. Our school comes to a standstill because he won’t “bite the bullet.” The teachers have lost respect for him, students and their parents know that they’ll get what they want if they yell loudly enough or long enough, and the superintendent often intervenes to fix the problem.
When you assume a leadership role, you must accept the fact that some of your decisions will be unpopular, and some may even turn out to be wrong. But you still have to make them. In The New Why Teams Don’t Work, Harvey Robbins and Michael Finley contend that it’s often better for a group leader to make a bad decision than to make no decision at all: “For if you are seen as chronically indecisive, people won’t let you lead them.”51 One company executive also noted that as much as you may value collaborative consensus, “sometimes you just need to make a decision.”52 The following strategies can help you determine when and how to intervene and make a decision:
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Make sure that everyone shares the information needed to make a quality decision.
If appropriate, discuss your pending decision and solicit feedback from members. As long as members don’t interpret your “out-loud” thinking as an order, you and your group will benefit by discussing proposed options.
Listen to members’ opinions, arguments, and suggestions. When you listen effectively, you may discover that the group only needs a little help to make a decision or solve a problem on its own.
Explain the rationale for the decision you intend to make. When you are about to make a decision, let your group know. Not only will they be prepared for the outcome, they may help you make a better decision.
Mentor Members
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Most successful people tell stories about significant mentors who helped them mature and move ahead. The word mentor comes from ancient Greece. In Homer’s Odyssey, Mentor was the tutor and adviser to the hero Odysseus’s son, Telemachus. Thus, the word mentor has come to mean a wise and trusted counselor who is usually older and more experienced than the mentee—that is, the person being mentored.
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Good leaders are very busy people, particularly if they model leadership, motivate members, manage group process, and make decisions. Even so, great leaders find the time and energy to mentor others. They know that good mentoring does more than teach someone how to do a job—it also motivates that person to set high standards, seek advice when needed, and develop the skills characteristic of an excellent leader.
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In his book Great Leadership, Anthony Bell urges would-be leaders to find a mentor because a good “mentor will challenge you to ask (and answer) the tough
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Virtual Groups
Sharing Leadership Functions
Virtual groups need strong leadership. According to Jessica Lipnack and Jeffrey Stamps, the authors of Virtual Groups, “each member of a virtual team must adopt a leadership perspective.”53 Why? Consider the added responsibilities required of someone who leads a virtual group—be it a teleconference, an email discussion, or an intercontinental videoconference.
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When participants live in different cities or time zones, arranging a virtual meeting can be more difficult than calling a regular meeting in a conference room down the hall. To prepare members for a virtual meeting:
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Someone must develop and send a detailed agenda to all members well in advance.
Someone must make sure that the technology required for the conference is up and running.
Someone must lead the discussion in which participants may neither see nor hear one another in real time.
Effective virtual groups manage these added tasks by sharing leadership roles rather than by assuming that one superhuman leader can handle all of these challenges.
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The 5M Model of Leadership Effectiveness also applies to the unique responsibilities of a virtual group leader. When virtual groups first “meet,” they often depend on a leader to model appropriate behavior for other virtual group members. Motivating a virtual group can be more difficult than motivating participants in a face-to-face discussion. Unmotivated members may ignore messages or respond infrequently. When this happens, a group is vulnerable to miscommunication, poor quality of work, missed deadlines, lack of cohesion, inefficiencies, and frustrated team members.
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A virtual group leader also has additional managerial duties. For example, members may need training in the use of specialized software. In virtual groups, the leader may be responsible for determining when the virtual group will “meet,” the rules of interaction, and the criteria for group decision making. Finally, leaders can mentor members who are apprehensive about interacting in a virtual environment or members who lack the technical skills needed to keep up with the group.
questions.”54 The following strategies can help a leader decide when and how to mentor group members:
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Be ready and willing to mentor every group member.  Although you cannot be a full-time mentor for everyone, you should be open to requests for advice. Eventually, you may develop a close relationship with a few mentees who share your vision.
Encourage and invite others to lead.  Look for situations in which group members can assume leadership responsibilities. Ask them to chair a meeting, take responsibility for a group project, or implement a group’s decision. And make sure they know you’re there as backup.
Inspire optimism.  When problems or setbacks occur, do not blame the group or its members. Instead, convert the situation into a teachable moment and make sure members learn to accept personal responsibility for a problem and its consequences.55
Effective mentors create appropriate balance and boundaries. They know when to intervene and when to back off. A mentor is neither a psychiatric counselor nor a group member’s best friend. At some point, even the best mentors must let their mentees succeed or fail on their own.
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Diversity and Leadership
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In Chapter 4, “Diversity in Groups,” we urged you to use appropriate communication strategies and skills to understand, respect, and adapt to member diversity. Here we issue a similar challenge at two levels. First, we tackle the negative stereotypes that often prevent women and culturally diverse members from becoming leaders. Second, we address the challenge of leading multicultural groups.
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Gender and Leadership
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In the early studies of leadership, there was an unwritten but additional prerequisite for becoming a leader: Be a man. Even today, despite the achievements of exceptional women leaders, some people still question the ability of women to serve in leadership positions.
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In a summary of the research on leadership and gender, Susan Shimanoff and Mercilee Jenkins conclude that “women are still less likely to be preselected as leaders, and the same leadership behavior is often evaluated more positively when attributed to a male than a female.”56 In other words, even when women talk early and often, are well prepared and always present at meetings, and offer valuable ideas, a man who has done these same things is more likely to emerge as a leader. After examining the research on gender and leadership, Rodney Napier and Matti Gershenfeld conclude, “even though male and female leaders may act the same, there is a tendency for women to be perceived more negatively or to have to act differently to gain leadership.”57
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Unfortunately, such negative perceptions can make it difficult for women to assume and succeed in leadership positions. If their behavior is similar to that of male leaders, they are perceived as unfeminine. If they act “like a lady,” they are viewed as weak or ineffective. One professional woman described this dilemma as follows:
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I was thrilled when my boss evaluated me as “articulate, hard-working, mature in her judgment, and a skillful diplomat.” What disturbed me were some of the evaluations from those I supervise or work with as colleagues. Although they had a lot of good things
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Researchers conclude that women are less likely to be selected as leaders and that the same leadership behavior is often evaluated more positively when attributed to a male than a female. What, then, should female group members do to ensure their selection and success as leaders?
to say, a few of them described me as “pushy,” “brusque,” “impatient,” “a disregard for social niceties,” and “hard-driving.” What am I supposed to do? My boss thinks I’m energetic and creative, while other people see the same behavior as pushy and aggressive.
Even though extensive research indicates that there are only slight differences between men and women leaders, stereotypical, negative expectations persist. These expectations make it more difficult for women to gain, hold, and succeed in leadership positions.58 Our best advice is that instead of asking whether a female leader is different from a male leader, it is more important to ask whether she is an effective leader.
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Culture and Leadership
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The ways in which a leader models leadership, motivates members, manages group process, makes decisions, and mentors members may not match the cultural dimensions of all group members. According to management scholar Andrew Dubrin, a successful multicultural leader has “the skills and attitudes to relate effectively to and motivate people across race, gender, age, social attitudes, and lifestyles.”59
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A much-quoted academic program named Global Leadership and Organizational Behavior Effectiveness (GLOBE) studies leadership attributes in a variety of cultures to determine which ones are associated with outstanding leaders. Their results show that some attributes are universal regardless of the culture, whereas others are valued only in some cultures.60 For example, which of the following two attributes is, in your opinion, universal and which attribute is valued in only some cultures: (1) ambition and (2) decisiveness? The answer: Ambition is not valued as a leadership attribute in some cultures, whereas decisiveness is valued universally.
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If, as a leader, you model leadership by strongly and publicly advocating group goals, you may upset members from high-context cultures who would be less direct. Your way of modeling leadership behavior may not reflect their view of a model leader. For example, people from Western cultures (the United States, Canada, and Europe) often assume that group members are motivated by personal achievement and status. However, when group members’ cultural backgrounds are more collectivist, the same motivational strategies may not work. A collectivist member may act out of loyalty to the leader and the group rather than for personal achievement or material gain.61
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Managing group process in a group composed of culturally diverse members can be difficult. If your leadership style reflects feminine values (nurturing, collaborative, caring), you may find yourself fighting a losing leadership battle with members who are more competitive, independent, and aggressive. Your feminine-value leadership style may be interpreted as weakness or indecision.
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The decision-making style of a leader may not match that of a culturally diverse group. If members come from a low-power-distance culture, they will not welcome an authoritarian leader who takes control of all decision making. Conversely, a leader who prefers a more democratic approach to decision making may frustrate members who come from high-power-distance cultures, in which leaders make most decisions with little input from group members.
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Before accepting any list of multicultural leadership attributes, remember that these findings are generalizations. Some members from collectivist cultures may seek public praise from a leader, while some members from an individualistic culture may shun or be embarrassed by being singled out for praise.
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Negative stereotypes about leaders from minority groups are prevalent, and such members have more difficulty moving up the leadership ladder.62 Balancing the needs of culturally diverse group members may be difficult but is essential for effective leadership.
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The leader of this FEMA logistics team must understand, respect, and adapt to the diversity of his team members in order to model effective leadership, motivate his members, manage the group process, and appropriately mentor team members.
Summary Study Guide
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What Is Leadership?
Leadership is the ability to make strategic decisions and use communication effectively to mobilize group members toward achieving a common goal.
Successful leaders effectively manage many dialectic tensions, especially the dialectics of individual goals ??group goals, conflict???cohesion, and structure?? spontaneity.
Becoming a Leader
Designated leaders are selected by group members or by an outside authority. Emergent leaders gradually achieve leadership by interacting with group members and contributing to the group’s goal.
Strategies for becoming a leader include talking early and often, knowing more, and offering opinions. At the same time, aspiring leaders should listen to others, share information, and welcome disagreement.
Leadership and Power
Power associated with the position of leadership can be categorized into legitimate power, informational power, coercive power, and reward power.
Power associated with the personal characteristics of the leader can be categorized into referent power, expert power, persuasive power, and charismatic power.
Leadership Theories
Trait Leadership Theory identifies and prescribes individual characteristics and behaviors needed for effective leadership.
Styles Leadership Theory describes a collection of specific behaviors that can be categorized into autocratic, democratic, or laissez-faire leadership styles.
Fiedler’s Contingency Model of Leadership Effectiveness seeks an ideal fit between a leader’s style (task motivated or relationship motivated) and three dimensions of the group’s situation (leader–member relations, task structure, and leadership power).
The Hersey-Blanchard Situational Leadership® Model links leadership style to member readiness and ability. The more willing and able a group is to work together, the more a leader should rely on relationship behaviors and less on task behaviors.
Functional Leadership Theory focuses on what a leader does rather than who a leader is by assuming that all group members can take on appropriate leadership functions when necessary.
The 5M Model of Leadership Effectiveness
The 5M Model of Leadership Effectiveness divides leadership tasks into five interdependent functions: (1) model leadership, (2) motivate members, (3) manage group process, (4) make decisions, and (5) mentor members.
Diversity and Leadership
In general, women are less likely to be selected as leaders, and the same leadership behavior is often evaluated more positively when attributed to a man rather than a woman.
Multicultural leaders relate effectively to and motivate people across race, gender, age, social attitudes, and lifestyles.
Negative stereotypes about leaders from minority groups make it more difficult for such members to gain leadership positions.
GroupWork The Least-Preferred-Coworker Scale63
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Directions: All of us have worked better with some people than with others. Think of the one person in your life with whom you have worked least well, a person who might have caused you difficulty in doing a job or completing a task. This person may be someone with whom you have worked recently or someone you have known in the past. This person must be the single individual with whom you have had the most difficulty getting a job done, the person with whom you would least want to work.
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On the scale below, describe this person by circling the number that best represents your perception of this person. There are no right or wrong answers. Do not omit any items, and circle a number for each item only once.
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Scoring: Obtain your Least-Preferred-Coworker (LPC) score by adding up the numbers you circled on the scale. Your score should be between 18 and 144.
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Relationship-Motivated Leader.  If your score is 73 or above, you derive satisfaction from good relationships with group members. You are most successful when a situation has just enough uncertainty to challenge you: moderate leader–member relationships, moderate task structure, and moderate power.
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Task-Motivated Leader.  If your score is 64 or below, you derive satisfaction from getting things done. You are most successful when a situation has clear guidelines or no guidelines at all: excellent or poor leader–member relationships, highly structured or unstructured tasks, and high or low power.
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Relationship- and Task-Motivated Leader.  If your score is between 65 and 72, you may be flexible enough to function in both leadership styles.
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Group Assessment Are You Ready to Lead?64
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Directions: Indicate the extent to which you agree with each of the following statements, using the following scale: (1) strongly disagree, (2) disagree, (3) neutral or undecided, (4) agree, (5) strongly agree.
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Scoring and Interpretation: Calculate your total score by adding the numbers circled. A general interpretation of the scoring follows:
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If you are already a successful leader and you scored low on this questionnaire, ignore your score. If you scored surprisingly low and you are not yet a leader or are currently performing poorly as a leader, study the statements carefully. Consider changing your attitude or your behavior so that you can legitimately answer more of the statements with a 4 or a 5.

Chapter 8 Conflict and Cohesion in Groups
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Chapter Outline
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Conflict in Groups
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Substantive Conflict
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Affective Conflict
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Procedural Conflict
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Constructive and Destructive Conflict
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Conflict Styles
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Avoidance Conflict Style
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Accommodation Conflict Style
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Competition Conflict Style
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Compromise Conflict Style
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Collaboration Conflict Style
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Choosing a Conflict Style
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Conflict Management Strategies
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The A-E-I-O-U Model
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Negotiation in Groups
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Third-Party Intervention
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Conflict and Member Diversity
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Cultural Responses to Conflict
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Gender Responses to Conflict
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Group Cohesion
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Enhancing Group Cohesion
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Groupthink
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Case Study Sociology in Trouble
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Five faculty members in a college’s sociology department meet to discuss the course offerings for the next semester.
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Steve, the department chair, thanks everyone for the brainstorming session they just completed. He then asks the tired faculty members to address an important issue: Which courses should they eliminate and which new courses should they add to the curriculum? “We need,” he says, “to balance the integrity of our department and our offerings with the need to bring in more students and the need to have a strong curriculum.” Although faculty members nod their heads, they don’t seem to have much enthusiasm for the task.
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Trevor declares, “We don’t want enrollment to dictate—you know—what our offerings .?.?.?.” Before he finishes his sentence, Helen interrupts. “Here we go, here we go. Trevor, you need to look at the enrollment numbers!” The group senses that Trevor seems more interested in preserving his own low-enrollment courses than developing new ones that attract more students. The faculty has dealt with this issue before. Should they allow professors to protect their smaller courses or should they cut these courses? Should they offer more popular courses to improve their numbers even if it means cutting time-honored sociology courses?
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Art interrupts the interaction by telling everyone that he has an exciting idea for a new course, the Sociology of Time. He explains that the course would look at time as a commodity that people use for various sociological purposes. The group has mixed reactions. Trevor questions whether the course is rigorous enough and worthy of a separate course on its own. Georgia just nods her head at everything group members say. Helen supports Art’s proposed new course. Steve reminds everyone they have to eliminate, not just add, courses. Group members suggest cutting Trevor’s Culture of Consumerism course. He strongly opposes this move. Helen raises her voice and declares that the enrollment numbers speak for themselves. Finally Georgia says, “We can do this without an argument happening.” Helen accuses Trevor of living in the past. At this point, the chair intervenes again and tells his colleagues that they need to look at the bigger goal, not individual courses.
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The lines of conflict are drawn. Art wants his course on the Sociology of Time approved; Trevor opposes it on academic grounds. He also doesn’t want the department to cut his Culture of Consumerism course. The chair again reminds everyone that if they add new courses to attract more students, they must cut existing courses. Helen seems very aggravated—maybe she’s heard all these arguments before, maybe she has a grudge against Trevor for something he did in the past, maybe she wants to stay in the department chair’s favor, or maybe she’s just tired. Georgia seems drained by all the agitation and only wants it to stop.
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When you finish reading this chapter, you should be able to answer the following critical thinking questions about this case study:
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What are the individual conflict styles of Steve, Trevor, Helen, Georgia, and Art? How could the group move toward a more collaborative group conflict style?
To what extent do group members’ responses to conflict reflect diversity factors such as gender, culture, ethnicity, seniority, age, and personality traits?
Which conflict management strategy or strategies have the potential to resolve the sociology department’s conflict in this situation?
Based on this meeting, how cohesive does the sociology department appear? What strategies could the group use to enhance group cohesiveness?
Which dialectic tensions are most evident in this group, and what could be done to achieve a both/and resolution to these tensions?
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Before you read any further, visit Pearson’s MySearchLab website and watch this case study’s video, “The Politics of Sociology.” You may also want to watch the short video “The Reunion,” which illustrates Chapter 8 concepts. Each video comes with a set of study questions to keep in mind as you read this chapter.
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The Reunion
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The Politics of Sociology
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Conflict in Groups
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Effective groups balance the conflict?cohesion dialectic. Whereas group members with different perspectives and opinions can promote critical thinking and creative problem solving, “too many differences, or one difference that is so strong it dominates group resources, can overwhelm the group” and its ability to achieve the group’s goal.1
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In a summary of research examining the links between conflict and cohesion, communication researcher John Gastil observes that cohesive groups gain a boost in effectiveness, whereas conflict—particularly when it is personal—can have the opposite effect.2 In terms of resolving this dialectic tension, groups must find ways to balance constructive conflict with the need for unity and cohesiveness. In short, highly effective groups are cohesive and also willing to engage in conflict.
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Many people believe that good groups never have conflicts. Quite the reverse is true: Conflict in groups is inevitable. Unfortunately, some groups try to avoid or suppress conflict because they believe that effective groups are conflict-free. Here, too, researchers claim the opposite. “Many effective teams look more like battlegrounds.?.?.?. Teams with vastly competent members embrace conflict as the price of synergy and set good idea against good idea to arrive at the best idea.”3
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Remember This
Conflict management requires “a delicate balancing act, like that of a tightrope walker, or a rock climber who must find just the right handholds.”4
The word conflict is frequently associated with fighting, anger, and hostility. Conflict does not have to involve negative emotions. When treated as an expression of legitimate differences, conflict can improve group problem solving, promote cohesiveness, increase group knowledge, enhance creativity, and promote the group’s goal.5
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We define conflict as the disagreement and disharmony that occur in groups when members express differences regarding group goals; member ideas, behavior, and roles; or group procedures and norms. This definition reflects three types of conflict: substantive, affective, and procedural.6
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Substantive Conflict
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Substantive conflict occurs when members disagree about issues, ideas, decisions, actions, or goals. For example, when members of a student government council try to answer the question, “Should student activities fees be raised?” their conflict is substantive because it focuses on the group’s goal of serving students’ cocurricular needs.
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When a group cannot negotiate a both/and approach to the individual goal?group goal dialectic, hidden agendas emerge. As we noted in Chapter 2, “Group Development,” when members’ hidden agendas become more important than
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Figure 8.1 Sources of Group Conflict
a group’s stated goal, the result can be group frustration, unresolved conflict, and failure. Dean Barnlund and Franklyn Haiman, two pioneers in the study of group communication, described hidden agendas as arising when “there are a significant number of private motives, either conscious or unconscious, lurking beneath the surface and influencing the course of the discussion in subtle, indirect ways.”7 Conflicts become serious problems when the members’ hidden goals conflict and interfere with the group’s goal.
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Affective Conflict
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Affective conflict is the result of interpersonal disagreements, differences in personalities and communication styles, and members’ conflicting core values and beliefs. Affective conflict also occurs when members do not feel appreciated, feel threatened by the group, or struggle for power. Affective conflict is more difficult to resolve than substantive conflict because it involves people’s feelings and the way members relate to one another.
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In The Group in Society, John Gastil notes that when a personal relationship between two group members turns sour, the entire group may suffer, particularly if the conflict is characterized by insults, acts of revenge, or loss of time on task. “This often leads to avoidance. The parties in the conflict begin to seek ways to do their work without having to interact—a serious problem for groups undertaking collaborative tasks. From there, the conflict can spread quickly and change a two-member rift into a groupwide faultline, with members taking sides in the conflict.”8
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Substantive and affective conflict may occur at the same time. For example, imagine that students Dee and Charles are members of the student activities budget committee. Dee advocates an increase in student fees to fund more activities. Charles disagrees; he suggests using existing funds more efficiently rather than placing a larger financial burden on students. At this point, the conflict is substantive; it focuses on issues. However, when Charles rolls his eyes and says to Dee, “Only a fool believes higher fees are the answer,” not only does Dee disagree with Charles on the issues, she is also hurt and angry. The conflict has gone beyond substance; it has also become personal (affective).
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Procedural Conflict
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Procedural conflict is disagreement among group members about the method or process the group uses in its attempt to accomplish a goal. For example, some group members may want to begin a discussion by suggesting solutions to a problem, whereas others may want to gather information first. Some members may want to vote using secret ballots; others may want a show of hands.
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Procedural conflicts sometimes arise when groups have difficulty resolving substantive or affective conflict. Rather than facing the issues, they rely on procedures such as moving to the next topic or taking a vote to get them through.9
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Theory in Groups
Attribution Theory and Member Motives
When you make an attribution about a group member’s behavior, you are speculating about the causes of that behavior—attributing the behavior to one or more causes. For example, suppose Tyree says, “I propose we meet Thursday at 3:30 p.m. rather than Monday at 10:00 a.m.” You may attribute his statement to one of several motives:
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He proposed this because he knows only Melinda can’t attend at that hour. What’s he got against Melinda? That’s mean, self-centered, and heartless.
He proposed this because he knows only Melinda can’t attend at that hour. That was an ingenious way of getting rid of a highly disruptive member who causes most of our problems. He’s very clever, group centered, and goal focused.
He proposed this because he knows only Melinda can’t attend at the hour. That’s certainly better than the 10 a.m. hour when three other members can’t attend. He’s found the best option for the most members.
Attribution theory claims that we make judgments about people’s motives and characteristics that go beyond what we see and hear. Even though we know that we shouldn’t make snap judgments about others, we often attribute negative motives or blame others rather than considering alternative explanations. “It’s Melinda’s fault we didn’t finish the project on time” or “How could we expect to finish when three members couldn’t attend the 10 a.m. meetings?”
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Attribution theory is the brainchild of psychologist Fritz Heider, who applied it to all kinds of human interaction.10 Subsequent research used attribution theory to examine group conflict. Here, for example, are three attributions that could prompt anger among group members:
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What other members do seems to constrain what I want to do.
What other members do seems intended to harm me or others.
What other members do seems abnormal or illegitimate.11
All these attributions may be erroneous when, in fact, members are not trying to restrain a member, do harm, or behave illegitimately. One of the most significant types of attribution error is the “self-serving bias,” a tendency to blame negative consequences on external forces and attribute positive consequences to our own behavior.12 According to the self-serving bias, if your group has problems, it’s their fault, not yours, but if your group succeeds, it is because of the great contributions you made.
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At the same time, other group members may be thinking the same thing: “It’s not my fault we’re having problems; it’s everyone else’s fault” or “If I hadn’t stepped in and done such-and-such, we never would have reached our goal.” Because attribution errors occur all the time, group members should watch out for and openly discuss them when they arise.
Constructive and Destructive Conflict
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All groups, no matter how conscientious or well mannered, experience conflict. In and of itself, conflict is neither good nor bad. However, the way in which a group expresses and deals with conflict can be either constructive or destructive.
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Constructive conflict occurs when group members express disagreement in ways that value everyone’s contributions and promote the group’s goal. Kenneth Cloke and Joan Goldsmith of the Center for Dispute Resolution explain that all of us have a choice about how to deal with conflict. We can treat conflict as dialectic experiences “that imprison us or lead us on a journey, as a battle that embitters us or as an opportunity for learning. Our choices between these contrasting attitudes and approaches will shape the way the conflict unfolds.”13
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Figure 8.2 Constructive and Destructive Conflict
Destructive conflict results when members engage in behaviors that create hostility and prevent the group from achieving its goals. Complaining, personal insults, conflict avoidance, and loud arguments or threats contribute to destructive conflict.14 The quality of group decision making deteriorates when members are inflexible and not open to other views. Destructive conflict has the potential to disable a group permanently. Figure 8.2 characterizes the differences between destructive and constructive conflict.
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Groups that promote constructive conflict abide by the following principles:15
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Disagreement does not result in punishment. “I’m not afraid of being fired if I disagree with powerful members.”
Members work with one another to achieve a mutually satisfying resolution of conflict. “We can work this out. After all, we’re all after the same thing.”
Lower-status group members are free to disagree with higher-status members. “I know she’s the CEO, but I think there are some disadvantages to the approach she suggests.”
The group has an agreed-upon approach for conflict resolution and decision making. “Our group lets every member speak, so I know my ideas will be heard.”
Members can disagree and still respect one another. “The group may not like my idea, but members would never personally attack me for expressing my opinion.”
Conflict Styles
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A significant body of research indicates that all of us have individual conflict styles we tend to use regardless of the situation.16 Whereas some people will move heaven and earth to avoid conflict of any kind, others enjoy the competitive atmosphere and the exultation of “winning.”
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There are five traditional conflict styles: avoidance, accommodation, competition, compromise, and collaboration 8.3.17 These styles reflect the tension between seeking personal goals and working cooperatively to achieve the group’s goal. For example, if you are motivated to achieve your own goals, you may use a more competitive conflict style. If you are dedicated to achieving the group’s goals, you may use a more accommodating or collaborative conflict style. Kenneth Thomas, whose research with Ralph Kilmann identified the five conflict styles illustrated in Figure 8.3, acknowledges the dialectic nature of these dimensions. “They are not opposites,” he writes. Collaborating, for example, is both assertive and cooperative.18
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Figure 8.3 Conflict Styles
Avoidance Conflict Style
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Members use an avoidance conflict style when they are unable or unwilling to accomplish their own goals or contribute to achieving the group’s goal. In some cases, members who care about the group and its goals may adopt the avoidance style because they are uncomfortable with or unskilled at asserting themselves. Group members who use this style may change the subject, avoid bringing up a controversial issue, and even deny that a conflict exists. Avoiding conflict in groups is usually counterproductive because it fails to address a problem and can increase group tensions. Ignoring or avoiding conflict does not make it go away.
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Groups in Balance?.?.?.
Know When and How to Apologize
An apology can go a long way toward defusing tension and opening the door to constructive conflict resolution. It may even deter lawsuits. Studies indicate that 73 percent of legal complainants will accept a settlement offer when a full apology is given. When there is no apology, only 52 percent are willing to accept a settlement and avoid going to court.19
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In spite of the importance and simplicity of an apology, we often find it difficult to say, “I’m sorry.” When you apologize, you take responsibility for your behavior and the consequences of your actions. Although you may feel you’ve lost some pride, a willingness to own up to your actions can earn the respect of other group members and help build trust. Here are some suggestions for making an effective apology:20
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Take responsibility for your actions with “I” statements. “I failed to put all the group members’ names on the final report.”
Clearly identify the behavior that was wrong. “Everyone provided valuable input and should have been acknowledged.”
Acknowledge how others might feel. “I understand that most of you are probably annoyed with me.”
Acknowledge that you could have acted differently. “I should have asked the group about this first.”
Express regret. “I’m angry with myself for not thinking ahead.”
Follow through on any promises to correct the situation. “I’ll send an email out tomorrow acknowledging that your names should have been included on the report.”
Request, but don’t demand, forgiveness. “This group is important to me. I hope you will forgive me.”
In some circumstances, however, avoiding conflict can be appropriate, specifically when:
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the issue is not that important to you.
you need time to collect your thoughts or control your emotions.
other group members are addressing the problem effectively.
the consequences of confrontation are too risky.
Accommodation Conflict Style
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Group members using the accommodation conflict style give in to other members at the expense of their own goals. Accommodators have a genuine desire to get along with other members. They believe that giving in to others serves the needs of the group, even when the group could benefit from further discussion. A group member who always approaches conflict by accommodating others may be perceived as less powerful and less influential.
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Accommodation can be highly appropriate when:
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the issue is very important to others but is not very important to you.
it is more important to preserve group harmony than to resolve the issue.
you realize you are wrong or you have changed your mind.
you are unlikely to succeed in persuading the group to adopt your position.
Competition Conflict Style
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The competition conflict style occurs when group members are more concerned with their own goals than with those of the group. Competitive members want to win; they argue that their ideas are superior to alternatives suggested by others.
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Elected officials in Amsterdam, New York, negotiate with other municipalities to bring water service from one town to another. Successful groups use various conflict styles. Which style or styles does this group seem to be using: avoidance, accommodation, competition, compromise, and/or collaboration?
When used inappropriately, the competitive style generates hostility, ridicule, and personal attacks against group members. Approaching conflict competitively tends to divide group members into winners and losers. Ultimately, this may damage the relationships among group members and prevent a group from achieving its common goal.
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In certain group situations, however, the competitive approach may be appropriate, such as when:
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you have strong beliefs about an important issue.
the group must act immediately on an urgent issue or in an emergency.
the consequences of the group’s decision may be very serious or harmful.
you believe that the group may be acting unethically or illegally.
Compromise Conflict Style
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The compromise conflict style is a middle ground approach to conflict in which group members give in on some goals in order to achieve other goals they want more strongly. Group members who approach conflict through compromise argue that it is a fair method of resolving problems because everyone loses equally. “However, when each person gives up something in order to meet the others halfway, the result is only partial satisfaction for all concerned. Commitment to solutions will be questionable.”21
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The compromise approach works best when:
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other methods of resolving the conflict are not working.
the members have reached an impasse and are no longer progressing toward a reasonable solution.
the group does not have enough time to explore more creative solutions.
Collaboration Conflict Style
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The collaboration conflict style searches for new solutions that will achieve both the individual goals of group members and the goals of the group. Instead of arguing over who is right or wrong, the collaborative group seeks creative solutions that satisfy everyone’s interests and needs.22 Collaboration promotes synergy and resolves the dialectic tension between competition and cooperation. It also involves trying to find a win-win solution that enables the group to make progress toward achieving its common goal.23
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There are, however, two drawbacks to the collaborative approach. First, collaboration requires a lot of the group’s time and energy, and some issues may not be important enough to justify this investment. Second, for collaboration to be successful, all group members must participate fully. Avoiders and accommodators can prevent a group from truly collaborating.
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Groups should approach conflict resolution collaboratively when:
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they want a solution that will satisfy all group members.
they need new and creative ideas.
they need a commitment to the final decision from every group member.
they have enough time to commit to creative problem solving.
Remember This
Successful groups use various conflict styles to respond to different types and levels of conflict.
Choosing a Conflict Style
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While individuals may be predisposed to a particular conflict style, effective group members choose the style that is most appropriate for a particular group in a particular situation. As situations change, so may the approach. Consider the following example of a jury:
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During the first hour of deliberation, the jury engaged in a heated debate over a controversial, yet central, issue in the case. Tony was conspicuously silent throughout this discussion. Jury members asked his opinion several times. Each time, he indicated that he agreed with the arguments that Pam presented. On a later issue, Tony became a central participant. He argued vehemently that one of the defendants was not guilty. He said, “I’m just not going to give in here. It’s not right for the man to go to jail over this.” Eventually, one of the jurors suggested that Tony reexamine a key document presented as evidence of the defendant’s guilt. Tony was quiet for a few minutes and carefully reviewed the document. He then looked up at the group and said, “Well, this changes everything for me. I guess he really was a part of the conspiracy.”
Tony used several approaches to deal with conflict in the group. First, he avoided it altogether. He simply had nothing to add to the discussion. Tony then became competitive when he thought that a person might be unjustly imprisoned. He became accommodating, however, when a review of the evidence convinced him that he had been wrong.
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When selecting a conflict style, consider the following questions:
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How important is the issue to you?
How important is the issue to other members?
How important is it to maintain positive relationships with group members?
How much time does the group have to address the issue?
How fully do group members trust one another?24
Virtual Groups
Conflict in Cyberspace
Have you ever received emails that were not intended for you and that you found disturbing to read? Have you ever fired off an angry email, only to regret it later? The efficiency of email makes it easy to forward messages without reading them carefully, reply while you’re still angry, and send a message to many people without knowing if each will interpret it the same way.
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The time, distance, and possible anonymity that separate members of virtual groups may increase conflict. Unfortunately, some group members feel less obligated to behave politely when the interaction isn’t face to face. As a result, virtual groups tend to communicate more negative and insulting messages than face-to-face groups do.25 However, just because someone can’t challenge or reprimand you in person is no reason to abandon civil behavior. Susan Barnes, author of Online Connections, notes that “challenging comments can quickly turn professional working adults into ‘textual mud slingers.’ Curt email messages are rapidly thrown back and forth.”26
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Not responding properly to conflict in a virtual team significantly interferes with the group’s ability to solve problems.27 Some technologies are better suited for dealing with conflict than others. Audio-only (e.g., telephone) and data-only (e.g., email) technologies are less effective for resolving conflict than videoconferencing, which in turn is less effective than face-to-face interaction. Virtual group members need to be extra vigilant when conflict threatens to derail group progress and damage group morale.
Selecting an appropriate conflict styles requires an understanding and analysis of the group’s goal, member characteristics and perspectives, and the nature of the conflict situation. For instance, if group members do not trust one another, the compromising style would be less appropriate. If the issue is very important to everyone, and the group has plenty of time to discuss it, collaboration is ideal. Effective groups do not rely on one conflict style. Rather, they balance their choice of conflict style with the needs of the group.
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Conflict Management Strategies
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Appropriate conflict styles help resolve disagreements. Sometimes, however, a group must set aside the substantive, affective, or procedural issues under discussion and address the causes of the conflict directly. In short, groups need effective strategies for analyzing and resolving conflicts (see Figure 8.4).
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Figure 8.4 Conflict Management Strategies
The A-E-I-O-U Model
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Jerry Wisinski’s A-E-I-O-U Model focuses on collaboration and what he calls positive intentionality, the assumption that other people are not trying to cause conflict.28 In other words, every group member must want to resolve the conflict. If you sense that some members are not willing to cooperate or have hidden agendas, the method may not work. If your group is working on an important project that is behind schedule and group members are blaming one another for the problem, ask them to put aside the blame game in order to objectively analyze why the group is behind schedule. The five steps in the A-E-I-O-U model (illustrated in Figure 8.5 on the next page) can give you a constructive approach to managing this conflict.29
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Figure 8.5 A-E-I-O-U Model
Negotiation in Groups
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Negotiation is a process of bargaining in order to settle differences or solve a problem. Normally, negotiation takes the form of compromise, with group members conceding some issues in order to achieve agreement on other points. Group members may be more willing to bargain if they believe that they will be no worse off and might even be better off by the end of the negotiation process.
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Roger Fisher, William Ury, and Bruce Patton of the Harvard Negotiation Project offer a process for resolving conflict known as principled negotiation . 30 Four elements characterize this negotiation process: people, interests, options, and criteria (see Figure 8.6 on the next page). Keep in mind that principled negotiation is not a set of skills but a process for resolving conflict.31
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When group members only focus on defending their positions, the result is winners and losers. When the members focus on group interests, options, and fair criteria, the entire group wins. However, even principled negotiation can become deadlocked when members fail to recognize or appreciate the needs of others and are unwilling to make concessions. The following strategies can help break a deadlock:32
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Limit the scope of the problem by dividing it into manageable parts.
Minimize defensive behavior by having members explain or paraphrase the other side’s position.
Summarize areas of agreement to promote cooperation.
Take a break to relieve group tensions.
Ask for more information to avoid inaccurate assumptions.
Clearly, group members must balance a variety of needs during negotiation.33 They must be willing to cooperate with others while attempting to meet as many of their own needs as possible. They must openly communicate what they are willing to concede yet not sacrifice more than is necessary. And members must balance the need to gain their own short-term goals against the benefits of mutually desirable long-term conflict resolution.
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Figure 8.6 Elements of Principled Negotiation
Third-Party Intervention
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Sometimes group conflicts are so intense and potentially destructive that members turn to a third party for help. Third-party intervention occurs when a group seeks the services of an impartial outsider who has no direct connections to the group but has the skills needed to analyze the conflict and help resolve it. Here, we focus on two kinds of third-party interventions: mediation and arbitration.
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Mediation.
Mediation is “facilitated negotiation [that] employs the services of impartial third parties only for the purpose of guiding, coaching, and encouraging the disputants through negotiation to successful resolution and agreement.”34 Mediation is an appropriate approach to conflict resolution when group members cannot resolve the conflict by themselves and when everyone concerned is willing to participate in the process and abide by the final settlement. If members cannot agree to these terms, mediation is not a good option.
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Effective mediation has two basic requirements: an impartial mediator and a well-planned mediation session. The group must choose an impartial mediator who is not involved in the conflict and will not take sides in the dispute. The mediator guides the group through the process and facilitates negotiation. For a mediation session to be well planned, all group members must be prepared to tell their side of the story and express the reasons they believe a given outcome is fair.
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Effective mediators establish rapport with disputing group members through empathic listening.35 They explain the goals of the mediation sessions, list the issues that need to be negotiated, and then guide the group toward possible solutions. When a workable solution is found, they articulate what the parties have agreed upon. Finally, they make sure everyone understands the specifics of the solution and what each group member needs to do to implement it.
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Ethics in Groups
The Group and the Golden Mean
The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle equates ethics with virtue (such as goodness, moral excellence, righteousness, and integrity). Aristotle explains that virtue can be destroyed by too little or too much of certain behaviors. For example, someone who runs away is a coward while someone who fears nothing is reckless. The virtue bravery is the mean between two extremes. Aristotle offered his “doctrine of the mean,” also known as the “golden mean,” as a practical way of looking at ethical behavior.36 Ethical behavior is based on moderation and appropriateness. If, for example, you face an ethical decision, you should select an appropriate response somewhere between the two extremes of expressing mild annoyance and uncontrolled rage. Thus, if a group member says something that angers you, according to the golden mean, you should find an appropriate response somewhere between screaming back at the other person in anger or simply giving in. It may be much more appropriate and productive to state in a strong, but reasoned tone that you disagree. Aristotle maintained that anyone can become angry—that is easy. But to be angry at the right things, with the right people, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way—is worthy of praise.37 For Aristotle, being “brutally honest” in all situations is not an ethical virtue because your honesty may do more harm than good.38
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In examining the nature and consequences of group conflict, Aristotle’s golden mean represents a desirable balance of two dialectic extremes. Consider how the following table illustrates dialectic tensions and the golden mean for three of Aristotle’s virtues.39
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Arbitration.
If mediation does not work, a group may seek arbitration. Arbitration , like mediation, involves a third party. After considering all sides, the agreed-upon arbitrator decides how to resolve the conflict. The arbitrator may choose one person’s solution or may develop a solution the group has not considered. Whatever the final decision, group members are obligated to accept and implement the solution, no matter what they think about it.
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When turning to an arbitrator, group members “have acknowledged that their own decision-making powers are insufficient to resolve the dispute. Their function, therefore, is to present their side of the case as fully and as capably as possible so that fairness and justice can prevail.”40 Despite the hope for a just outcome, professional arbitrators understand that their decisions may not please everyone in a group. However, for groups that cannot solve problems on their own or with the help of a mediator, arbitration may be the only way to resolve a conflict.
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Conflict and Member Diversity
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Conflict becomes more complex in diverse groups. Differences in cultural and gender perspectives may result in misunderstandings, prejudices, and unintentionally offensive behavior. Organizations and companies that fail to understand, respect, and adapt to such differences are likely to have more strikes and lawsuits, low morale among workers, less productivity, and a higher turnover of employees.41
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Cultural Responses to Conflict
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The cultural values of individual members greatly influence the degree to which they feel comfortable with conflict and how it is resolved. Members from collectivist cultures that value cooperation are less likely to express disagreement than are members from cultures that place a higher value on individualism. While people from Japanese, German, Mexican, and Brazilian cultures tend to value group cooperation, people from U.S., British, Swedish, and French cultures are generally more comfortable expressing differences.42 As another example, Chinese group members may feel uncomfortable with adversarial approaches to conflict.43 Also remember that cultural differences may be regional rather than international. For example, Franco-Canadians are often more cooperative in negotiating a conflict, while Anglo-Canadians are slower to agree to a resolution.44
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Gender Responses to Conflict
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Researchers have devoted a great deal of attention to the impact of gender on conflict styles. Their conclusion is that—at least for conflict styles—there is less difference than you might think between the way women and men respond to conflict.
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Groups in Balance?.?.?.
Let Members Save Face
Collectivist cultures place a high value on face, or the ability to avoid embarrassment. From a cultural perspective, face is the positive image you wish to create or preserve. Cultures that place a great deal of value on “saving face” discourage personal attacks and outcomes in which one person “loses.” Here are some collectivist perspectives about conflict and face to keep in mind:45
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Conflict operates within the context of relationships and the need to preserve “face.”
Conflict resolution requires that “face” issues be mutually managed before discussing other issues.
Conflict resolution succeeds when both parties save “face” and claim that they have “won.”
In Chapter 4, “Diversity in Groups,” we note that the individualism–collectivism cultural dimension strongly influences how group members communicate. Not surprisingly, this dialectic also explains how members define and respond to conflict. For example, collectivist members may merge substantive and affective concerns, making conflict more personal. As Myron Lustig and Jolene Koester write in their book Intercultural Competence, “To shout and scream publicly, thus displaying the conflict to others, threatens everyone’s face to such an extreme degree that such behavior is usually avoided at all costs [in collectivist cultures].” In individualistic cultures, group members may express their anger about an issue and then joke and socialize with others once the disagreement is over. “It is almost as if once the conflict is resolved, it is completely forgotten.”46
Studies in the late 1990s claimed that women were more likely to avoid conflict or to leave a group when there is continuous conflict.47 Deborah Tannen claimed that women are more likely to address conflict privately rather than in front of the entire group.48 But as Ann Nicotera and Laura Dorsey conclude in their 2006 study, “conflict style is not driven by biological sex, regardless of how many studies try to find the effect; it’s simply not there.”49
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However, there are differences in how people may expect women to think and behave in a conflict situation. Women are often expected to value relationships, to be nice and supportive when they encounter conflict, whereas men are expected to be more assertive and focus on the task. And when women use competitive conflict styles, “there is some evidence that they are viewed more negatively than men who compete.”50 At the same time, women may compete more forcefully in reaction to what they perceive as betrayal or underhanded behavior by others.51
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Group Cohesion
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Working in groups requires group cohesion , the mutual attraction that holds the members of a group together. Cohesion is a shorthand term for strongly bonded groups; it encompasses group members’ attraction to one another, commitment to the group’s tasks, and pride in the group itself.52 A cohesive group has:
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high levels of interaction.
a friendly and supportive communication climate.
a desire to conform to group expectations.
the use of creative and productive approaches to achieving goals.
satisfied members.53
Remember This
Cohesive groups feel committed and unified; members develop a sense of teamwork and pride in the group.
Enhancing Group Cohesion
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Four general strategies for developing group cohesion are to establish a group identity and group traditions, to emphasize teamwork, to recognize and reward participation, and to respect group members.54
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Establish a group identity and traditions. Refer to the group by using terms such as we and our instead of I and my. Some groups create more obvious signs of identity, such as a group name, logo, or motto. Many groups develop rituals and ceremonies to reinforce their traditions.
Emphasize teamwork. Cohesive group members believe that their combined contributions are essential to group success. Group members feel responsibility for and take pride in both the work that they do and the work of other members. Rather than individual members taking credit for success, a cohesive group will emphasize the group’s accomplishments.
Recognize and reward contributions. Some group members become so involved in their own work, they don’t praise others for their contributions. Other members are quick to criticize others. Cohesive groups establish a supportive climate in which members continually thank others for their efforts.
Follow the Research
Does Diversity Enhance or Inhibit Group Cohesiveness?
Group researchers claim that cohesiveness almost always gives a modest boost to group performance. When a cohesive group also has a high level of “interpersonal liking, task commitment, and/or group pride,” researchers have observed a 5 to 10 percent gain in efficiency.55 Clearly, then, there are major benefits to group cohesion. But is it easier for some groups than others to develop cohesion?
Think of the groups to which you belong. In some groups, members will be quite homogeneous. A group of your best friends, for example, are likely to be similar in age, gender, race, and educational level. Researchers who study homogeneous (similar members) and heterogeneous (diverse members) groups conclude that cohesion develops a bit more quickly in homogeneous groups. For example, one study found that cohesion did not form as easily in work groups that mix men and women and full- and part-time employees.56 But—and it’s an important but—cohesiveness does develop in diverse groups, although maybe not as easily and maybe not as fast. In short, member diversity has only a small effect on group cohesion and outcomes.57
The bottom line is this: all groups—both homogeneous and heterogeneous—are capable of developing cohesion and will benefit from doing so.
Groups may also reward member contributions more formally with celebrations, letters of appreciation, certificates, and gifts.
Respect group members. When there are strong interpersonal relationships in a group, members become more sensitive to one another’s needs. Treating members with respect, showing concern for their personal needs, and appreciating diversity promote a feeling of acceptance.
Groupthink
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Although promoting group cohesiveness benefits groups in many ways, too much of it can result in a phenomenon that Yale University psychologist Irving Janis identified as groupthink. He defines groupthink as “a mode of thinking that people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive in-group, when the members’ strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action.?.?.?. Groupthink refers to a deterioration of mental efficiency, reality testing, and moral judgment that results from in-group pressure.”58
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Janis identified three preconditions or causes of groupthink.
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The group is highly cohesive. As a result, members may overestimate their competence and perceptions of rightness. To maintain cohesiveness and total consensus, members may discourage disagreement.
There are structural flaws. Such flaws “inhibit the flow of information and promote carelessness in the application of decision-making procedures.”59 For example, the leader or a few members may have too much power and influence, or the group’s procedures may limit access to outside or contrary information.
The situation is volatile. When a group must make a high-stakes decision, stress levels are high. Members may rush to make a decision (that turns out to be flawed) and they may close ranks and shut out other reasonable options.60
The homogeneous?heterogeneous dialectic discussed in Chapter 1, “Introduction to Group Communication,” and Chapter 4, “Diversity in Groups,” is particularly important when dealing with groupthink. The more members have in common, the more cohesive they may become. However, they also run the risk of being “more insulated from outside opinions, and therefore more convinced that the group’s judgment on important issues must be right.”61
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Symptoms of Groupthink.
Irving Janis developed the theory of groupthink after recognizing patterns in what he called “policymaking fiascoes.” He suggested that groupthink was a significant factor in several major political policy decisions with adverse consequences, including the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, the escalation of the Vietnam War in the 1960s, and the 1972 Watergate burglary and subsequent cover-up.62 Groupthink may also have contributed to the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger 63 in 1986 and the U.S. decision to invade Iraq in 2003. After analyzing many of these policy decisions, Janis identified eight symptoms of groupthink (see Figure 8.7).64
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Figure 8.7 Groupthink
Preventing Groupthink.
The best way to deal with groupthink is to prevent it from happening in the first place. For example, when commenting on the raid of Osama bin Laden’s compound in May 2011, President Barack Obama told a reporter that he encourages all White House team members to speak their minds and express any doubts they may have when a decision is to be made.65
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This now famous photo shows President Obama with his national security team in the White House Situation Room as they watched live video of the mission to capture and kill Osama bin Laden. The president met with senior intelligence, military, and diplomatic teams in the Situation Room days before the raid to review several options. His advisers were divided about which option to choose. Obama encouraged them to speak their minds openly and freely express their doubts (a strategy for avoiding groupthink). In the end, it was the President who made the decision.
The following list provides practical ways to minimize the potential of groupthink.66 Choose the methods that are most appropriate for your group.
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Ask each member to serve in the role of critical evaluator. Consider having members take turns serving as devil’s advocate, someone who will argue against a proposal or take an opposite side in an argument in order to provoke discussion, test the quality of an argument, or subject a plan to thorough examination.
If possible, have more than one group member work on the same problem independently.
Discuss the group’s progress with someone outside the group. Report that feedback to the entire group.
Periodically invite an expert to join your meeting and encourage constructive criticism.
Discuss the potential negative consequences of any decision or action.
Follow a formal decision-making procedure that encourages expression of disagreement and evaluation of ideas.
Ask questions, offer reasons for positions, and demand justifications from others.
Before finalizing the decision, give members a second chance to express doubts.
In the short term, groupthink decisions are easier. The group finishes early and doesn’t have to deal with conflict. However, such decisions are often misguided and may result in serious harm. Spending the time and energy to work through differences will result in better decisions without sacrificing group cohesiveness.
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Remember This
“Diversity and independence are important because the best collective decisions are the product of disagreement and contest, not consensus or compromise.”67
Summary Study Guide
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Conflict in Groups
Conflict is the disagreement and disharmony that occurs in groups when members express differences regarding group goals, member behavior and roles, and group procedures.
There are three types of conflict: substantive (disagreement over issues), affective (interpersonal disagreement), and procedural (disagreement over processes).
Constructive and Destructive Conflict
Constructive conflict results when group members express disagreements in ways that value everyone’s contributions and promote the group’s goals.
Destructive conflict results when group members engage in behaviors that create hostility and prevent the group from achieving its goals.
Conflict Styles
All of the five conflict styles—avoidance, accommodation, competition, compromise, and collaboration—reflect the individual goals?group goals dialectic tension.
Effective groups choose conflict styles appropriate for their members and the particular situation. As the situation changes, so may a group’s conflict style.
Conflict Management Strategies
The A-E-I-O-U Model is a five-step technique for expressing your concerns and proposing alternatives in a supportive and constructive manner.
Principled negotiation involves separating the problem from attitudes about members, focusing on common issues, generating a variety of options, and establishing fair criteria.
Mediation and arbitration are methods of conflict resolution that rely on a third party who is not involved in the conflict.
Mediation uses an impartial third party to guide a group in identifying possible solutions and coming to agreement.
Arbitration empowers an impartial third-party to dictate a final decision to the group.
Conflict and Member Diversity
The cultural values of individual group members influence the degree to which they feel comfortable with conflict and how it is resolved.
Men and women from similar cultures do not differ significantly in terms of conflict strategies and styles. However, men and women may differ in terms of their expectations of one another in conflict situations.
Group Cohesion
Groups can promote cohesion by establishing a group identity and group traditions, stressing teamwork, recognizing and rewarding contributions, and respecting individual members’ needs.
Groupthink occurs when group members value consensus so highly that they fail to think critically about their decisions. Highly cohesive groups have a greater risk of succumbing to groupthink.
GroupWork Conflict Awareness Log
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Directions: Recall two memorable conflict situations in which you did not behave in a way that helped minimize or resolve the conflict. Fill out the following Conflict Awareness Log to help you identify effective strategies to use in the future when you are called on to help resolve conflict in groups.
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Conflict Awareness Log
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In column 1, briefly describe the incident.
In column 2, explain your actions or the reason(s) for your unhelpful behavior.
In column 3, describe what you wish you had said or done to help resolve the situation.
Group Assessment How Do You Respond to Conflict?68
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The following 20 statements represent how people respond to conflict situations. Consider each message separately and decide how closely it resembles your attitudes and behavior in a conflict situation, even if the language is not exactly the way you would express yourself. Use the following numerical scale to select the rating that best matches your approach to conflict. Choose only one rating for each message.
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5 = I always do this.
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4 = I usually do this.
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3 = I sometimes do this.
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2 = I rarely do this.
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1 = I never do this.
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When I’m involved in a conflict …
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I try to change the subject.
I play down the differences so the conflict doesn’t become too serious.
I don’t hold back in a conflict, particularly when I have something I really want to say.
I try to find a trade-off that everyone can agree to.
I try to look at a conflict objectively rather than taking it personally.
I avoid contact with the people when I know there’s a serious conflict brewing.
I’m willing to change my position to resolve a conflict and let others have what they want.
I fight hard when an issue is very important to me and others are unlikely to agree.
I understand that you can’t get everything you want when resolving a conflict.
I try to minimize status differences and defensiveness in order to resolve a conflict.
I put off or delay dealing with the conflict.
I rarely disclose much about how I feel during a conflict, particularly if it’s negative.
I like having enough power to control a conflict situation.
I like to work on hammering out a deal among conflicting parties.
I believe that all conflicts have potential for positive resolution.
I give in to the other person’s demands in most cases.
I’d rather keep a friend than win an argument.
I don’t like wasting time in arguments when I know what we should do.
I’m willing to give in on some issues but not on others.
I look for solutions that meet everyone’s needs.
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Your scores identify which conflict style or styles you use most often. There are no right or wrong responses. Depending on the issues, the others involved, and the situation’s context, you may use different conflict styles. The conflict style or styles with the highest total scores reflect your behavioral preferences in conflict situations.

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