Human Resource Management : How Groups Behave Differently From Individuals

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ORGANISATIONAL BEHAVIOUR AND ANALYSIS COURSE ASSIGNMENT QUESTION 2 IN WHAT WAYS DO GROUPS BEHAVE DIFFERENTLY FROM INDIVIDUALS? This essay will attempt to answer the above question by not only studying the conduct of individuals and groups in a work context, but also by looking at the causes of behaviour. Organisational behaviour theories, experiments and case studies will be used to investigate the behaviour of first the individual and then the group in a work environment. The term "group" for the purposes of this assignment as been defined as a formal group which has been established by an organisation at a point in time in with the purpose of achieving a specified goal. Although it is noted that many friendship and informal groupings do develop. When both the behaviour of the individual and the group have been assessed, a discussion will be made as to how these behavioural patterns differ, why they differ and to what extent they differ. Individual Behaviour There are many theories of human behaviour used for the purposes of management and these are constantly being updated. Traditional management thinking focuses on the idea that in order to understand how a person will act in a given set of circumstances, individuals motives have to be assessed. A more modern approach looks at the individuals: abilities, personality, personality traits, ethics and culture. Traditional View In earlier models it was first assumed that people were basically the same, that they had the same wants and needs. Leavitt [1] suggested that there are certain generalisations, which are useful in predicting human behaviour. In order to illustrate these generalisations he asked this question, "What are the fundamental, unexceptionally truths of human behaviour?" Some of the answers he found included: People are products of their environment. People want security. All people want is bread and butter. People are fundamentally lazy. People are fundamentally selfish. People want the chance to show what they can do. Although many of the answers that were received were contradictory, Leavitt believed that at another level the contradiction disappears and that there are three basic assumptions that can be made about human behaviour. Firstly that human behaviour is caused by outside influences this is termed as causality. Secondly is the idea of directness, which assumes that a person's behaviour when caused is directed towards something, i.e., it is goal orientated. Thirdly is the belief that underlying behaviour there is always a motivation, a need or a want. By using these assumptions a model can be developed for understanding an individual's conduct. It was thought that if motive influences a behaviour, which allows an individual to arrive at a goal, when the goal is reached the motive no longer exists and so a new motive is created. This has been illustrated in the diagram below. Basic Model of Behaviour Stimulus Need Goal Want Tension Discomfort behaviour Individual Source Leavitt [1] This idea is related to Maslow's hierarchy theory [2] were there are two basic premises. Firstly that people have needs such as: security, social interaction and self esteem, secondly that these needs are arranged in a hierarchical form. A person will attempt to attain each need in order from the bottom (the most immediate) need to the top need. Maslow's ideas were generally accepted in business, however they were solely based on observations and never actually proved by empirical, statistical or experimental data. Mangers thought the model to be true because it "sounded" logical. The Hierarchy Theory has since been updated and improved most notably by Murry H A who suggested that needs are not necessarily arranged in a hierarchical form, his model is more flexible in describing people. Contemporary View Another way of studying behaviour is through individual differences, Steers [3] believes that these differences are the main components that will affect the way a person behaves. If we consider this from work perspective the main elements of behaviour are an individual's distinct: abilities, personality, values and ethics and culture. A worker's ability, refers to their capacity and desire to respond to any given situation or problem. Capacity to respond include elements such as mental and physical skill, perception capability and stress tolerance, while desire to respond refers to motivation. It could be argued that the characteristic of ability refers more to performance than to behaviour, this maybe true however performance effects behaviour. A good definition of personality for the purposes of organisational behaviour is made by Salvatore Maddi [4] who states that it is - a stable set of characteristics and tendencies that determine those commonalties and differences in psychological behaviour (thoughts, feelings and actions) of people that have continuity in time and that may not be easily understood as the sole result of social and biological pressures of the moment. How personality effects behaviour Influences on Personality Personality Differences Development e.g. Work- - Physiology - Self esteem Related - Culture - Locus of control - Family/Group - Introversion/ Behaviour - Role Extroversion - Situation - Authoritarianism - Dogmatism - Dependability Source Steers [3] From the above chart it can be seen that there are a number of different elements, which can effect an individual personality, these are called determinants and effect personality differences. There are many personality differences, recent research has found over 17,000; the most important ones in the context of work are shown above, these are often referred to as traits. These traits when taken together can provide an insight into how an individual will behave. Traits are identified as measurable and tend to remain relatively stable over time. It is easy to make comparisons of individuals using these tangible qualities. Self-esteem is defined, as one's own opinion or belief about yourself and your self-worth. It is therefore a key variable in determining work behaviour. According to Ellis and Taylor [5] people with high self esteem often find it easier to give and receive affection, set higher goals for personal achievement and exert energy to try and attain them. Locus of control refers to the tendency among individuals to attribute the events affecting their lives to their own actions or external forces. People with an external locus are said to attribute successes and failures to outside influences and internal locus individuals attribute them to themselves. People with more of an internal locus are said to have: greater work motivation, stronger expectations that effort will lead to actual high job performance and perform better on tasks requiring problem solving or learning. The personality trait, which defines introversion and extroversion, refers to the extent to which a person maybe shy or socially out going. It is generally accepted that extroverts perform better in first-line management jobs using superficial people skills e.g. sales representatives. Introverts perform better in positions that require more reflection, analysis and sensitivity, e.g. accounting, personnel or computing. Authoritarianism refers to an individual's orientation towards authority. A high authoritarian believes that it is right and proper for there to be clear status and power differences among people in the work place. Adorno T W [6] states that a high authoritarian would typically: be directive to subordinates and submissive to supervisors, intellectually rigid, fearful of change, highly judgmental and distrustful. Dogmatism refers the extent to which a person maybe close minded and inflexible This trait is highlighted in the decision making process. Taylor [7] found that dogmatic mangers tend to make decisions quickly based on only limited information and with a high degree of confidence in the correctness of their decisions. The last trait, dependability refers to the fact that people can be assessed with respect to their behavioural consistency. An individual who is dependable is generally seen as self-reliant, responsible and consistent. Personal values and ethics are an important influence on behaviour they serve as: standards of behaviour for determining the correct course of action, guidelines for decision making and conflict resolution and influences on employee motivation. It is interesting to note that many firms have now started to conduct integrity and honesty tests. This is based on the idea that honest or dishonest behaviour is a direct result of a person's underlying values. Culture refers to the norms and values, which have been installed into an individual by the society in which they live. It generally affects how a person sees the world and can virtually influence every aspect of behaviour. An example of this would be cultures such as those of Japan and Korea; both of these nations value the importance of hard work. The chart below highlights these differences. Differences in work habits Source [8] Steers In conclusion there are many different aspects which can effect how a person behaves, the contemporary view looks at all of these main elements, and it also incorporates some of the ideas put forward in the more traditional view. The ideas on motivations, wants and needs can be examined by looking at an individual's ability, personality, values and ethics and culture because these are the elements which influence them. Therefore from this point on the contemporary view of individual behaviour shall be used to compare it with group behaviour. Group Behaviour Since a group is made up of a number of individuals it seems logical that the behaviour of a group would reflect the sum of its members. If this were true a group's actions could be determined by using the same techniques described previously. Instead of evaluating the importance culture has on an individuals work habits, we would assess the importance it has on the group as a whole. (This would be easier if all the members of the group came from the same background, with they did not we could simply sum the estimated work ethic of each group member and then divide by the number of members.) To a certain degree this may work, it seems reasonable that a group would be effected by it's accumulated abilities, personality, values and ethics and culture. However there are other processes which take place when people interact with one another. These processes can effect the performance and behaviour of a group in a positive or negative way. In an organisational behaviour context 2 + 2 does not always necessarily equal 4. There are two main reasons why a formal group maybe created. One is that it would be physically impossible to complete a task without using different individual's skills or effort. The second reason is that while an individual maybe able to perform a job alone, by working in a group the results maybe improved. An example of this can be taken from the Organisational Behaviour and Analysis class tutorial sessions. In this case each student is given a case study to read and make an evaluation on before the tutorial takes place. During the tutorial students discuss their findings and a group answer is decided upon. In most cases the group answer is better than any one of the separate individual students answer. The reason for this is quite simply that when groups talk things over, the logical strengths and weaknesses of certain opinions become clearer to all concerned. Another reason is that more information and knowledge is available from a group then from an individual. When this process of a group being able to outperform it's best members has taken place, it is referred to as synergy. This term is often illustrated by "2 + 2 = 5." However synergy does not always take place. In 1981 Meredith Beblin conducted a study to determine the characteristics of effective groups. During management courses mangers had to make an analysis of case studies. Beblin used tests to find the most intelligent people and then arranged for them to be in the same group. Instead of out performing the other groups the most intelligent group performed terribly. Beblin found that the mix of individual personalities was to blame. He believed that in order for a group to perform well individuals must have certain team roles. Another negative aspect of group behaviour is that certain group pressures can effect the logical thinking of group members. When this happens groupthink is said to have occurred. The term groupthink was first coined by Irving Janis [9] who refers to it as a mode of thinking in which the pursuit of agreement or consensus among members becomes so dominant that it overrides any realistic appraisal of alternative courses of action. Janis discovered groupthink whilst studying the high level policy decisions made by the US Government, most notably the Bay of Pigs Fiasco which occurred during the Kennedy administration. Here he found the development of group norms. Different psychologists have developed the idea of group norms over several years. They can be defined as a standard set of rules that are shared by the individuals in a group; these rules will effect the individual's behaviour. They may or may not be rules that have been formal drawn up and written down. An example of normal rules of behaviour or norms can be seen during a typical student group assignment. The students in the group would expect group members to behave in a certain way for example: arrive to meetings on time, provide an acceptable level of effort, and complete work on time. Group norms therefore have the ability to change a person's behaviour. For example an individual may, due to their personality traits and/or culture, put little emphasis on arriving to student group assignment meetings on time. However if this student were to arrive late to group meetings the other members of the group would exert pressure on them to stop. Group norms exist to: facilitate group survival and performance, simplify expected behaviour, help avoid embarrassing situations and express the group's identity and values. People often comply with group norms when they may not necessarily be in the in their own best interests. Situations can arise when an individual is swept along by the group in ways that they would prefer not to. The classic study of this phenomenon was made Solomon Asch. Asch proved that under the correct circumstances individuals would accept the thinking of the group even when they knew it was wrong. In the experiment Asch asked an individual which of the lines (drawn below) was the longest. Asch Experiment A B C D E Source [10] Amazingly 32% of people asked said that line A was the longest after group pressure was exerted on them. Asch believed that an individual could either conform or comply with the group. When an individual conformed in this incidence they actually believed that line A was the longest, when an individual complied they suppressed their feelings of what they thought was right. When an individual fails to conform or comply with the group, other members will try to bring the "deviant" back into the acceptable group boundaries. An example of this from Janis's study of Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, is when Arthur Schlesinger, an advisor to President Kennedy, expressed opposition to the plan at a meeting, even though no one else expressed similar doubts. After listening to his opposition for a while, Robert Kennedy took Schlesinger aside and told him, "You may or may not be right, but the President has made up his mind. Don't push it any further. Now is the time for everyone to help as much as they can." This pressure that is applied to anyone who deviates from the group norm can be applied explicitly, as shown in the case above or implicitly. Implicit methods may include exclusion and ridicule. Hence this is what causes groupthink. It should be noted that an individual doe not always necessarily give into the group, compliance and conformity occurs to lesser degrees when an individual's own personality has traits of high self esteem and low authoritarianism. In a business context groupthink can have a seriously negative effect. It can cause the group to: limit the search for alternative solutions, fail to consider all the evidence available, fail to seek out new information, ignore expert advice, ignore ethical principals, fail to make contingency plans and ignore the risks of a plan or project. An interesting component of groupthink is the concept of polarisation. This was investigated by a postgraduate student in Boston (Stoner, 1961) and refers to the idea that when decisions are compared or discussed they become polarised. So risky decision would become riskier and a cautious decision would become even more cautious. In summary the main processes that would effect how a group will behave include team roles, group norms, groupthink and polarisation. The Differences During this assignment I hope that it has been established that there are a number of aspects which effect an individuals behaviour, and that when a group is formed certain group processes can override an individuals personal behaviour patterns, thus creating an entirely new group behaviour pattern. To highlight how an individual may behave differently from a group we can consider the case of Citibank [3]. Davis Edwards was a senior manager at Citibank. For over two years, Edwards had gone to his bosses to tell them of tax evasion and currency-trading violations within his department. He had discovered that his bank was making bogus transfers of foreign deposits to shift bank profits to countries with low tax rates. Edwards also uncovered kickback schemes associated with the illegal monetary transfers. Since the regulations were ambiguous in this area the bank officers involved in the scheme failed to see either the ethical, legal or public relations consequences of the practise. Groupthink was in practise and it was believed that the bank was right and that Edwards was wrong. Edwards noted that it was, "…bad for business, We risk being thrown out of these countries." When the bank regulators finally investigated, Citibank received heavy fines for back taxes in several European countries and the bank's reputation was damaged and hence it lost business. Edwards who has not a part of the group involved in the shady practice, saw the problems it would create. He as an individual behaved differently from the group. Edwards' own individual traits effected how he behaved in the situation. He had the ability to see there was a problem and that it could be bad for business, he had the personality traits which gave him the confidence to raise the issue with his superiors and he also had the honesty which made him believe that the practise was wrong. Does this mean that Edward was morally superior and more intelligent or more aware of the risks then every other single person in top management who was involved? This is extremely unlikely. The main reason why he as an individual behaved differently from the group was because he was not a part of it; hence the group processes did not affect him. Perhaps if he had been a part of the group when the decisions were being made and discussed he would have behaved differently. It is interesting to note that after the investigation the bank changed its behaviour but Edwards was still sacked. It should be remembered that, although most organisational behaviour literature focus on group behaviour from a decision making perspective, there are other general behavioural patterns which are important. If we take for example The Southwestern Company [11], a US direct sales company. It recruits college and university students to sell educational books door to door in North America and Europe. The student receives a week of sales training and then works independently in a specified sales area on a commission basis during the summer break. By the early 1980's average sales per student had been falling since the 1960's. The company's sales manger Dan Moore decided that in order to increase sales levels each students work habits needed to be improved; they needed to work longer hours and at a greater intensity. In order to increase the number of hours worked and the number of sales demonstrations made, groups were constructed. These groups were generally made up of students from the same universities. Rewards were given for groups with the highest total sales and average sales per student. Therefore within the groups norms began to form for acceptable levels of work, for example; a minimum of 70 hours of work a week and 30 sales demonstrations a day. Individuals who met these targets received recognition and were accepted by the group. Anyone, who did not reach these targets, while not formally punished, was subjected to sarcasm and ridicule. Also a sense of loyalty and identity developed which in turn increased motivation. Although other factors may have also contributed to the dramatic rise in average sales figures, it was generally believed that the formation of formal groups, was the fundamental reason for the increase in work habits and hence the rise in sales. In this example we can see a clear indication that when a group is formed it can behave very differentially than it's separate individuals. In many cases a student's own individual traits; ability, personality, values and ethics and culture, the elements which would normally govern their work behaviour have been cancelled out by the group process of norms. In the Southwestern example - before the introduction of sales teams, there was a large variance in output. After group pressures effected behaviour, the majority of students conformed to the new level of work habits and conduct, and the variance in sales levels decreased and the average sales levels increased. Hopefully this essay has now highlighted that groups can behave differently from individuals, showed the ways in which the behaviour can vary and the reasons for this. However one aspect that has not yet been mentioned is to what extent the behaviour differs. This is very subjective and difficult to assess. Can you put an actual figure on the benefits or disadvantages of working in a group? This is maybe an area for future research. Bibliography Bibliography Brewer M and Miller N (1996) Intergroup Relations Fincham and Rhodes (1999) Principals of Organisational Behaviour Huczynski and Buchanan (1991) Organisational Behaviour Hunt J (1992) Managing People at Work Leavitt H (1972) Managerial Psychology Makin P, Cooper C, Cox C (1989) Managing People at Work McCaskey M (1992) A Framework for Analysing Work Groups Steers R (1992) An Introduction to Organisational Behaviour Wilson and Rosenfeld (1991) Managing Organisations Source References [1] Leavitt H (1972) Managerial Psychology [2] Maslow (1961) Motivation and Personality [3] Steers R (1992) An Introduction to Organisational Behaviour [4] Salvatore Maddi - Personality Theories: A Comparative Analysis [5] Ellis and Taylor (Journal of Applied Psychology) - Role of Self Esteem [6] Adorno T W - The Authoritarian Personality [7] Taylor (Journal of Applied Psychology) - Influence of Dogmatism [8] Steers R (1989) Korea's New Industrial Might [9] Janis Irving (1972) Victims of Groupthink [10] Wilson and Rosenfeld (1991) Managing Organisations [11] Dan Moore (1997) Sales Conference / Notes and Personal Experience Word Count: 3648

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