Subject: Group dynamics of Greenlife
Analysis of the dynamics of this team yields information that that categorises this group as being in the Top or Bottom stage of development (Schutz, 1958). It is clear that many conflicts do exist under the smooth surface of Greenlife’s top team, and these include such problems members’ inability to understand their role in relation to others and members’ having the feeling that their ideas are not sufficiently appreciated. There also exists an underlying power struggle between Patrick Lam and Jane Donohue (Schutz, 1958). The former expectations of certain members that have proven not to come to fruition are real concerns that should be dealt with as a group, and not left solely as the responsibility of those individuals. Also, the leader hasn’t taken the time to officially assess not just the team being created but his/her own actions in order to make sure that room is left for the significant input of the subordinate members of that team.
Greenlife’s place on the Productivity chart (Robbins, 2005)
The overall assessment of Greenlife finds that deviation from structural norms and the resultant change in interpersonal relations affects its cohesiveness. This makes decision making artificial and the result is that productivity suffers.
The structure of the company has recently changed, and as a result, the members of the team have been experiencing uncertainty not just about their roles but about the expectations that their new CEO will be placing on them. The employees are aware that the norms of the Greenlife organisation a likely to undergo change and are concerned about the possibility of their roles changing (Feldman, 1984). Confusion about the methods of relating to their new boss is a necessary part of the transitional period groups must go through when they experience changes of the magnitude taking place at Greenlife. Changes in job description which some have faced has only compounded the issue of confidence in their ability to work effectively in their new environments.
While Jane is both good at her job and keen on building team dynamics, she is apparently not familiar with the different aspects of building a good team. McKenna (1994) has proposed that cohesiveness is affected by the extent to which the group has similar goals, and Jane Donohue has not utilised her influence (as CEO) in ascertaining the goals and expectations of her team members. She does employ the McKennan aspect of cohesion that requires that the members spend time together (1994). Yet the effectiveness of this time is questionable. While exposing the team to activities and pep talks may have their place, such actions cannot be effective if underlying problems faced by individuals are not sought out and dealt with. During the six months that she has been running the team, she seems not to have grasped the undercurrent of non-cohesiveness that exists within the company. She lacks a thorough understanding of the roles and strengths (as put forth by Belbin, 1981, 1993, 2004) of the individuals who work for her, and appears to disregard the importance of this. Rather, she requires strict conformity to her methods of running Greenlife without any real consultation with the persons who have contributed to making it successful thus far.
Real consultation with the individuals of the group and a genuine concern for their emotional security would yield the following information. Patrick struggles with resentment of being overlooked for the position of CEO and has been operating in the role of subversive rebel (Hede, 2007). He has been operating as an inner observer who struggles to balance his overt conformity with a shadow self that seeks to alleviate the problems he sees with the Greenlife team and its new leader (Hede, 2005). This inner observer role malfunctions during the incident that brought Greenlife to such a crisis.
In addition, Patrick’s competence and confidence suffers seriously from having such an ill-defined role as Strategic Advisor. He continually faces embarrassment when at meetings others are able to provide clear-cut progress reports and his are necessarily and obviously vague. The lack of definition of his role as Strategic Advisor violates the criteria of what makes a team (West, Borrill & Unsworth, 1998). A lack of understanding of these pressures means no efforts are made to alleviate them, and this contributes to this team’s bad dynamic. It is to be noted that Patrick does possess the diplomatic ability to reword the opinions of the other members and make them more acceptable to Jane. He uses this ability to undermine the team at present. However, this gift would make him very effective as shaper and team worker, which are the very antithesis of the role toward which his resentment has driven him.
Yani Zavros and Corrie Yang also face challenges that have to do with their roles and treatment in the organisation. Jane’s favour of Yani has placed her in a position in which she is uncomfortable, yet she has trouble making this clear to Jane. An inability to function in her new environment may cause problems for the team. Meanwhile, Corrie’s new role as the Beauty Products director places her in new territory, and she also faces the problem of adjusting to a new boss who does not appear to welcome dissention. As an employee who is dedicated and loyal, Corrie legitimately feels apprehension toward the direction that Jane appears to want to take Greenlife. Yet, she does not feel comfortable expressing these opinions because of the pressure she feels to conform to the group’s “consensus”—which should be defined here as any opinion that Jane puts forth. Corrie has not gained confidence in Jane enough to consider herself as really belonging to this new group that the Greenlife organisation has become (Hede, 2007). Instead, she has become preoccupied with avoiding the underlying power struggle in which Jane and Patrick are so active (Whitakker, 1970). Her voice therefore often goes unheard.
Solomon Abrams and George Brady also suffer identity crises within the new Greenlife organisation. Solomon has been recently recruited, and is experiencing an entirely different type of adjustment from the rest of the members of the Greenlife team. His job security has not yet become established, and conformity to the ideas of the boss appears to be his method of creating that kind of stability. He creates the illusion of cohesiveness through agreement, yet this is artificial as it merely stems from fear and intimidation. This tendency of his actually affects the group dynamic, however, as it often discourages Corrie from expressing her opinions.
George’s level of emotional intelligence prompts him truly to desire the cohesion of the team. He is aware of the team’s underlying problems and is an important resource person to whom Jane could look for tips on how to build an effective team. He represents a “teamworker” according to Belbin’s (1981) group roles, yet he often appears to sacrifice true evaluation of decisions to his determination to have agreement at any cost. George’s ability to run a good team is an asset that should be tapped by any person that rises to the position of leader within Greenlife. However, he needs to be aware that the avoidance of discussion should not be confused with team agreement, as the refusal to listen to the dissenting points made by other group members might be considered the antithesis of agreement (Milliken & Martin, 1996).
Framework for improving Greenlife’s team dynamics
The Greenlife team is a diverse on in dimensions of age, culture and gender (Milliken & Martin, 1996). It might be defined as a combination of types, which include action/negotiation, project and development, and advice/involvement teams (Hayes, 2002). The negotiation of a new leader (or the retention of the old leader) involves an assessment of the type of outcome that is desired within this type of team. It is important to note that the ultimatum given by Jane Donohue reflects a distributive bargaining situation, which one generally seeks to avoid in a team negotiation. Rather, an integrative bargaining negotiation method is preferable, as it facilitates a solution that has the potential to be favourable for all parties involved (Robbins, 2005). While the primary conflict exists between Patrick Lam and Jane Donohue, this situation stems from an underlying current of tension within the Greenlife team itself. It is therefore the organisation (and not just two of its members) for which strategies must be implemented.
Social-emotional norms need to be created and/or defined, as these will grant direction on how members should behave toward each other. More importantly for the Greenlife team is the fact that these norms will create and define rules about how its members should express their negative emotions (Hede, 2007). Not only should rules be created about such expression, but the proper environment for this type of expression needs also to be created. Such an environment is one of safety in which other members are trained at handling situations in which opinions are expressed that may be contrary to their own. In addition, Greenlife’s team members will become more comfortable with expressing their opinions once they become confident that those opinions are highly regarded by both fellow members and their leader (Milliken & Martin, 1996).
Team Management Wheel
(Margerison & McCann, 2007)
An initiative that would be of service to such members of the group as Patrick Lam and Yani Zavros is the development of a team management wheel.
This would necessitate a probe into the work preferences of members of the Greenlife team, and would thereby help place them in the roles that best fit their abilities and personalities (Margerison & McCann, 1995). One of the problems that Yani faces is that she has been moved from the role in which she was comfortable and placed in a position that gives her less confidence in her abilities. Likewise, Patrick faces a lack of definition in his role as Strategic Advisor, and insight into his strengths would help provide some clarity and direction into precisely how he could contribute to the team in this position. Further clarification of the role played by the founder Lucy Lam would also be of benefit to the organisation. Right now her role is completely lacking in definition, as with Jane as the CEO she has no job title or description. The management wheel might be of help in this situation as well. The other members of the team are also likely to benefit from this activity, as attention to their work preferences and personality strengths could only enhance their work in their positions (Margerison & McCann, 1995).
Further enhancement to this group will come from the implementation of group evaluation strategies (Carlopio et al., 2005). The tactics for improving the overall team dynamic must be evaluated for effectiveness, and certain methods exist for doing this. In addition to the team’s regular meetings, such methods might include questionnaires, interviews, and reports. Such assessments should include items that cover the employees’ overall level of comfort within the organisation. This should include such areas as how suited they consider themselves to be to the role that they have been assigned within the organisation. It should also include how secure they feel in expressing their opinions within Greenlife and the extent to which they think their ideas are regarded by their colleagues and leader (Milliken & Martin, 1996).
These assessment tools should also include employee or leader evaluation sheets that not only assess the effectiveness of leadership strategies, but also include prompts that welcome the suggestions of team members for the improvement of the overall team. This tool (or tools) should attempt to gauge the strengths and weaknesses of the leader and pinpoint specific examples of areas in which the leader has managed to gain or lose the confidence of her team members. It will, however, be important to reinforce the role that cultural norms and behaviours may play in this scenario, as Jane Donohue (as a continental European) brings to the team a different cultural perspective (Robbins, 2005). Members should therefore be reminded to remain sensitive to this fact while filling out leader evaluations.