Small Group Functioning

Published: 2019-05-10 22:04:43
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The number of institutions that apply the use of teamwork is significantly increasing. These facilities include schools, hospitals, banks and other corporate organizations that will depend on teamwork. However, the groups do not just come to be, and they take a subsequent process to develop into teams that are functional. Many authors distinguish the five steps of group development (Natvig & Stark, 2016). The initial stage is forming where the individuals are trying to create familiarity with the rest of the group. Here members gather information for survival in the group and which will also determine the creation of groups in the future (Natvig, & Stark, 2016). Team members will often look to the group leader for direction and guidance. The group often avoids the discussion of serious issues and topics during the first stage. Members will focus on getting to know one another and defining the task at hand.

It is necessary for team members to overlook their preference of a particular topic and prepare for the possibility of conflict (Natvig, & Stark, 2016). When members prepare themselves for conflict, it becomes easy to move to the next stage. For the class group, I became part of a team that had already been working together for four years. Therefore, I did not get the opportunity to witness the conflict that could have been present at this stage. However, I was the new member of the group and lacked the ability to develop a sense of belonging. I would observe as each member gave their contribution to the team to learn as much as I could about them. I was required to introduce myself because I was new and the rest of the group wanted to get acquainted with me. I felt that the group was at a level where they were comfortable with each other due to the feedback they gave and the type of contribution each member made towards the group.

The second stage is known as storming where team members engage in competition and conflict because of personal relations and the task function that each member engages in (Seck & Helton, 2014). Each person has to mold his or her ideas, attitudes, emotions and feeling to suit the needs of the group. As they work on organizing the task, there is a high likelihood of the occurrence of conflict. There will be conflicts concerning leadership, and members will have questions about who will do what and how the evaluation of the task will be done. The movement to the next stage will be determined by the members; ability to listen and their transition from a 'testing and proving' thought the system to one of problem-solving (Seck & Helton, 2014). I was new in the group and therefore lacked knowledge of what happened to the individuals and the group during the storming stage. I would speak out things that were important to me and which I thought were significant but even when I did, I was anxious. I feel that I did not develop the comfort within the group and participated at this level because I had to. The dynamics within the group were at a level where I required time to catch up with the rest of the members. I would listen to what the group contributed and tried to work through developing interpersonal relationships with each group member. However, my focus at this point was on the task at hand and how the group would help in accomplishing it.

The next stage in group formation is norming, where there is the development of cohesion within the group (Seck & Helton, 2014). Each member starts to recognize the importance and contribution of the other. Members will ask questions of one another, and preconceived ideas will be dropped as a result of the facts presented by others (Seck & Helton, 2014). There are quick knowledge and identification of one another, and therefore cohesion within the group is developed. If the team gets to this stage members will develop a sense of belonging due to the resolution of previously help personal conflicts (Seck & Helton, 2014). It is at this level that they can work through the task efficiently, give their ideas and share feedback. There is often a major drawback at this stage where members develop the fear for the inevitable breakup and thus may develop resistance towards change. I would observe that there was good cohesion among the group members. People would freely give their opinion and suggestions and get feedback from the rest of the group. Members were all familiar with one another because of the time they had been together.

Each member was recognized and referred to by his or her name. The group had an unofficial leader who would take charge when he was present. Despite the leader being unofficial, he would address the rest of the members politely and respectfully. During a group discussion, the leader would ask for a contribution from each member to ensure that there was active participation from all members. He was not appointed by any member but took charge at will. I viewed it as a representation of a patriarchal society where men will take charge in instances where they felt it necessary. Therefore, I believe that the leader took charge from the initial stages of the group because he viewed it as his responsibility. His power within the group was a representation of the society which remains male-dominated.

How we interacted within the group especially during our discussions helped build on the cohesion among the group members. Some of the members, I included, would use humor to ensure that the social, emotional needs of the group members were met. Humor would create a more comfortable environment with calm, peace and acceptance which provided that every member had a sense of belonging to the group (Macgowan, 2003). I also observed that the group followed some norms like keeping cell phones on silent or not taking calls during a group discussion and respect for every individual. These rules had been developed during the initial stages of creating the group and each member readily adhered to them. It was an indication of the level of maturity the group had achieved together to that point.

Cohesion in the group was also because of the autonomy among the members. Each person had the freedom to participate and give contribution as he or she pleased. Such an interaction also meant that group members had high levels of self-esteem, self-confidence, strong motivation towards the achievement of goals and accountability. These are the types of positive behaviors that Toseland and Rivas (2001) associate with a group that has developed significant levels of group cohesion. When the unofficial group leader was present he would exercise autonomy, allow for self-expression among members and individuality in the group. Yes, we were working as a group, but he remained individuals first before we developed the group. It was, therefore, necessary to allow each group member to be themselves thus gaining the confidence to participate. It was a factor that also contributed to cohesion within the group. Despite not being with the group for long, the type of interaction and cohesion that already existed helped me gain a sense of security in the group.

My impression of the members was that they were non-judgmental and appreciative of personal opinions. They encouraged creativity and would fully support contributions that were relevant to the group discussion. The group was well knit to the point that members would be corrected if they had made a mistake and they would take it positively. It is the feedback and the overall attitude among the group members that enhanced socialization, feelings of being valued, high levels of self-esteem and fostered a sense of competence. Despite the presence of a leader during some instances, the interaction within the group remained free-floating. All members were free to communicate, give their contribution and air their disputes during a group meeting. The free-floating type of interaction was essential for the group because it allowed for the full participation of every group member. Verbal and non-verbal communication was also evident in the group as members would use non-verbal cues like nodding their heads to agree with a contribution made by one of the members. Every individual was given the opportunity to talk, and no two people would talk at the same time. Each member gave the other the chance to express him or herself and then bring in their thoughts.

I believe that the power attributed to the unofficial group leader or facilitator was developed during the early stages of developing the group. I might not have been part of the group by then, but I feel that members preferred to refer to the facilitator during the initial stages other than each other. It is because the facilitator provided direction in a group that was not comfortable with each another at that point. Members had not developed the necessary interpersonal skills necessary to address one another and therefore found the facilitator helpful in such instances. The leader encouraged communication among all group members and implementing the ideas of every person into the group discussion. Being a social work group, it was necessary for members to support the leader as is characteristic of social workers. However, our support was not blind but was based on the effective leadership the individual exercised. It ensured an overall motivation of group members towards the group work.

The performing stage comes after, and not all groups will make it to the stage (Seck & Helton, 2014). They have the ability to work as individuals, subgroups or as an entire group and members will adjust according to the needs of each member and the task at hand. Team members are most productive as they work towards the development of the group discussion. Group members become the task and people oriented (Seck & Helton, 2014). Every aspect of the team becomes genuine, and members focus on problem-solving. They will support experimentation and to engaged in group work with a significant emphasis on achievement. The focus of the group is on work, productivity and problem-solving. The class group was significantly cooperative, and attainment of set goals was easy. Every member played a role in working towards the goal of the group discussion. In my opinion group members had carried out the necessary research and were fully equipped with information that was required for the discussion. Therefore, when we met there was an incredible flow of useful and scholarly information from the group members.

Members would give their thought and information together with references that some of us would refer to later on. It was an exciting stage for the group, and I appreciated the role every member played in helping me get conversant with the topics of discussion and gain a form of comfort within the group. In the process of group development, we adjusted how the group operated by scheduling our meetings before the lecture. The strategy was effective in ensuring punctuality, and it also led to increased interest and engagement among the group members. It was easier to achieve the aim of each meeting and meet the goals the group had set for every discussion. The group then moves to the adjournment stage where the primary task is termination of the discussion and members disengaging from any relationships.

The group conclusion process will be most effective if those who facilitate the termination will engage the whole group (Macgowan, 2003). It was significant for me especially as a social worker because it helped me develop healthy interpersonal relationships with those I was working with. I learned that I would work well in groups that are cohesive and with individuals who appreciate the opinion of other people. I managed to achieve various requirements of the class and gained more information about social work in general. I also developed emotional intelligence as I was able to express my emotions in the appropriate way and appreciate the emotionality of the rest of the group. The group process taught me that the success of any team depends on the cooperation among the members and the development of interpersonal relationships that are healthy (Andrews, 2001). I also learned that leadership does play a critical role in ensuring the group works towards its goals. Our group was able to function even in the absence of the leader because we understood each other and appreciated the input every member gave to the group. I believe that through my experience I developed my social interaction to a level that I was not at before I joined the group. I have learned how to interact well with people and appreciate the diversity of every individual. I believe these aspects are necessary for any successful social worker. The group helped improve the knowledge and experience I had in social work. The class assignments ensured that I explored areas of social work that I may not have learned about. It helped me develop a positive outlook at group work and dynamics within a group. I feel that I can now interact better with others and operate efficiently within a group.

References

Andrews, J. (2001). Group work's place in social work: A historical analysis. J. Soc. & Soc. Welfare, 28, 45.

Macgowan, M. J. (2003). Increasing engagement in groups: A measurement based approach. Social Work with Groups, 26(1), 5-28.

Natvig, D., & Stark, N. L. (2016). A project team analysis using Tuckman's model of small-group development. Journal of Nursing Education, 55(12), 675-681.

Seck, M. M., & Helton, L. (2014). Faculty development of a joint MSW program utilizing Tuckman's model of stages of group development. Social Work with Groups, 37(2), 158-168.

Toseland, R. W., & Rivas, R. F. (2005). An introduction to group work practice. Allyn & Bacon. Web

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