Building Group Cohesion in the Workplace
by Alexander S. Alvarez, London Butterfield, and Derek Ridgeway
all rights reservedClinical Psychology Associates of North Central Florida
2121 NW 40th Terr. Ste. B Gainesville, FL 32605 www.cpancf.com 352-336-2888
Group cohesion is “the total field of forces causing members to remain in the group” (Festinger, Schachter, & Back, 1950, p. 164). In other words, group cohesion is the extent to which the members within a group are attracted to the ideas held by the group.
In the work environment, it is important for all employees to share a common goal, namely, to complete tasks that will benefit the company or organizational group. Having employees work toward a common goal promotes an interdependency among the coworkers; if each team member does their part, the task will ultimately come together. A cohesive work environment increases the likelihood of employee satisfaction and serves as an incentive for employees to arrive prepared and willing to conquer the tasks of the day. Lack of cohesion within a working environment is certain to result in unnecessary stress and tension among coworkers. As might be expected, when employees do not get along together, work suffers. Thus, cohesion in the work place could, ultimately, be the rise or demise of an organization or company’s success.
Understanding the root of group formation, as seen through the progression of stages, is an important element in maintaining cohesive relationships within the work place; in fact, the development and maintenance of cohesive relationships within a given workplace is often and important key to a company’s success. Prior to entering into a group, team members usually differ in many aspects, including personal background, work ethic, attitude, and commitments. To best ensure cohesion and increase productivity for the group as a whole, team members must find a common ground.
Tuckman (1965) published an article identifying and explaining the critical factors of building and developing groups. These stages explain the process of group unification and cohesiveness.
Stages of Team Development
Forming: Group members learn about each other and the task at hand.
Indicators of this stage might include: unclear objectives, limited involvement, uncommitted members, confusion, low morale, hidden feelings, poor listening, etc.
Storming: As group members continue to work, they will engage each other in arguments about the structure of the group. Such arguments often are significantly emotional and illustrate a struggle for status in the group. These activities mark the storming phase: lack of cohesion, subjectivity, hidden agendas, conflicts, confrontation, volatility, resentment, anger, inconsistency, and failure.
Norming: Group members establish implicit or explicit rules about how they will achieve their goal. They address the types of communication that will or will not help with the task. Indicators include: questioning performance, reviewing/clarify objective, changing/confirming roles, opening risky issues, assertiveness, listening, testing new ground, and identifying strengths and weaknesses.
Performing: Groups reach a conclusion and implement the solution to their issue. Group cohesiveness is developed. Indicators include: creativity, initiative, flexibility, open relationships, pride, concern for people, learning, confidence, high morale, success, etc.
Among the most important factors in constructing group cohesion within a workplace is trust. Since individual employees possess their own values and beliefs, it can take time for each team member to develop trusting relationships with other coworker. Once trust is established, an employee is better able to focus on their individual tasks and trust that other employees abide by similar standards. Trust also permits employees to share advice within their cohort when finding themselves in an unfamiliar situation. Ultimately, trust enhances connectedness among coworkers and serves to promote group cohesion.
Group similarity is another important factor in building cohesive relationships within the workplace. Greater similarity among coworkers increases the ease at which a group can attain cohesiveness (Wikipedia, 2009). Similarities among coworkers become more apparent when placed in stressful situations, since conditions possessing high external threat or competition strengthen group cohesion and promote success.
In order to achieve group cohesion, an employer must examine entry criterion for a particular group. The more difficult it is to join a company’s network of employees, the more likely group cohesion can be obtained. Feeling as if one is part of an elite work group promotes closer relationships among team members and increases one’s drive to remain motivated and dedicated within the group, thus building group cohesiveness.
Now that group cohesion and its contribution to the success of a team have been discussed, it is important to recognize how an employer might promote group cohesion in his or her organization over time. Below are listed suggestions on how one might strive to establish and enhance cohesive relationships within the workplace. These suggestions are to be utilized as basic guidelines yet can be altered to accommodate varying offices/organizations.
Three Tips to Maintaining Group Cohesiveness in the Workplace Throughout the Year
1. In the summer, plan a fun activity, possibly outdoors, like a family day at the park to allow employees and their family members interact with one another. This will be especially helpful to new employees, allowing them to introduce their family and to meet their co-workers families. This day will allow everyone to get to know each other and to feel a part of the workplace family, thus strengthening group cohesiveness.
2. Throughout the year, try to celebrate each employee’s birthday, providing refreshments for all employees to enjoy. This will allow each employee to feel special and realize that their employers care about them. Allowing employees to eat and celebrate together furthers co-workers appreciation for each other and for their employers, enhancing cohesion. If the company is too big to celebrate each employee individually, consider holding a party at the end of each month to celebrate all those whose birthdays fell during that month.
3. At the end of year, hold a Holiday/New Year’s Party, another great opportunity for families to interact with one another. At some point during the party, announce or discuss group and individual accomplishments that were achieved during that year. This will strengthen group cohesion and employees who are recognized may be likely to work harder. Also, discuss goals for the following year. You may also do a fun activity, such as funny awards to recognize individuals.
Related Articles on the CPANCF.COM website:
Festinger, L., Schachter, S., & Back, K. (1950). Social pressure in informal groups. New York: Harper and Row.
Tuckman, B. W. (1965). Developmental sequence in small groups. Psychological Bulletin, 63, 384-399.