Strategies for a healthy group dynamic with colleagues

by Manto Antoniotti Solares in — August 2023
You have brought together the brightest minds to solve a problem and expect good results. However, something is amiss in the team. Frustration is building up. Why is the team not delivering results? Here's how you can optimize the group dynamics with your colleagues.
Blog 2023 Talentor International Partner Meeting Basel 2023 Group Dynamics

You are in a meeting. One colleague constantly criticizes others' ideas. Another remains silent, nodding in agreement with another colleague when asked for their opinion. Someone cracks jokes just when the group finally starts a serious discussion. Clearly, something is going wrong in the group dynamics.

What is group dynamics, anyway?

Kurt Lewin is considered one of the most important developers of group dynamics theory in the 1930s and 1940s. According to this theory, people exhibit different behavioral patterns within groups, assuming various roles that influence the group as a whole. A well-functioning group dynamic is easily recognizable. Team members trust each other, support one another, and ensure everyone contributes to the team's efforts. A healthy group dynamic promotes productivity, while a poor one significantly hampers progress.

What factors cause an unhealthy group dynamic?

Both team leaders and team members can contribute to an unfavorable group dynamic. Common problems include:

  • Groupthink, as defined by Irving Janis, is a "mode of thinking that people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive group, striving for unanimity, and overriding their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action."
  • Weak leadership, leading to confusion or misplaced priorities.
  • Distracting or blocking behavior dominating team meetings, hindering productive exchanges.
  • Submissiveness: Team members pretend to agree with the team leader instead of expressing their own ideas.
  • Free-riders: Individuals who do not contribute to the group and merely go along with others. Ironically, some individuals work diligently when they are alone.

Strategies to optimize team dynamics

  1. Define Roles and Responsibilities: Ensure every group member knows their specific tasks and responsibilities. Document the role distribution and make it available to all team members.
  2. Foster Effective Communication: Conscious and open communication is critical for a healthy group dynamic. Utilize tools like Asana or Basecamp to ensure everyone is well-informed. Use methods like the "Crawford Slip Method" to encourage input from all team members, even those who may be less vocal.
  3. Consider Tuckman's Team Building Model: Familiarize yourself with psychologist Bruce Tuckman's model, which identifies five stages of team development: forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning. Understanding the team's current phase will guide you in implementing appropriate strategies to enhance team effectiveness.
  4. Promote Openness: When forming a new team or integrating new members, prioritize creating a welcoming environment built on openness and trust. The Johari Window is a useful tool that illustrates blind spots in individuals' self-perception, facilitating better communication and openness among team members.
  5. Stay Vigilant: Group dynamics can shift unexpectedly. Be attentive to warning signs, such as unanimous decisions, which may indicate groupthink, bullying, or free-riding behavior. When warning signs appear, take prompt action. Employ the previously mentioned strategies, such as the Five-Phases Model or the Johari Window, to address and resolve any issues within the team.
Brief Explanation of the Johari Window:

Original article "5 Strategien für eine gesunde Gruppendynamik mit Kolleg:innen" by Andy Andrews/ epunkt:

Talentor International Team Manto Antoniotti

Manto Antoniotti Solares

Marketing Consultant