Volume 92, Issue 46

Wednesday, November 25, 1998



A dynamic group thing

By Paul-Mark Rendon
Gazette Staff

Workplace dynamics is the subject of a new year-long study being done to shed some light on what makes groups sink or swim.

Currently in the recruiting stage, the project is aiming to study 75-80 different workplace groups to evaluate how they work. "The purpose of the study is to understand what differentiates highly successful teams from unsuccessful ones," said Natalie Allen, a psychology professor at Western and the project's coordinator.

Allen explained the study will focus on two factors, which include the composition of a team, as well as how a team fits into an organization's structure.

Although Allen's study will not include students, she said it would remain relevant to those in university as they progress toward future occupations. "It might be of use to students in group-based classes because they eventually graduate and go on to form work groups in their careers," Allen said.

Studies such as the one being performed by Allen are not without inherent impediments, according to Anton Allahar, a sociology professor at Western.

Things may get in the way of a researcher or the project may experience bias on the part of the researcher, he said. "Studies of workplace dynamics pose problems because it may become difficult to remain objective."

Allahar said one of the possible obstructions to researchers is the Halo effect, in which interviewees could mould their responses according to what the interviewer is looking for.

Allen said the Halo effect plagues intervention-type research. Since the project takes more of an observational approach, this problem is avoided, she said.

Allahar said the study may be put to use here at Western, since the recent unionization of professors has increased existing problems within the administration. "Group dynamics among professors is terrible right now," he said.

The hardships of working in a group can mean the workload of a project becomes unbalanced, said Marsha Wong-Won, a third-year psychology student. "There's always one person that does all the work and one person that does none," she said.

In the workplace, people are often coerced into being willing to work as a team, Wong-Won said. "It's a 'have to' instead of a 'want to.'"

The attributes of a group which works well together is the focus of the study, Allen said. "I'm concerned about what makes a team good."

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Copyright The Gazette 1998