Are Cohesive Groups more effective?

Group Cohesive: The degree to which members of a group are attracted to each other and share goals.

Intuitively, it makes sense that groups that experience a lot of internal disagreement and lack of cooperation are less effective than are groups in which individuals generally agree, cooperate and like each other. Research on this position has focused on group cohesiveness, the degree to which members are attracted to one another and share the group’s goals. The more the members are attracted to one another and the more the group’s goals align with their individual goals, the greater the group’s cohesiveness.

Previous research has generally shown that highly cohesive groups are more effective than are those with less cohesiveness, but the relationship between cohesiveness and effectiveness is more complex. A key moderating variable is the variable is the degree to which the group’s attitude aligns with its formal goals or those of the larger organization. The more cohesive a group is, the more its members will follow its goals. If these goals are favorable (for instance high output quality work, cooperation with individuals outside the group) a cohesive group is more productive than a less cohesive group. But of cohesiveness is high an attitudes are unfavorable, productivity decreases. If cohesiveness is low and goals are supported productivity increases, but not as much as when both cohesiveness and support are high. When cohesiveness is low and goals are not supported, cohesiveness has no significant effect on productivity.

Group Conformity:

Does the desire to be accepted as a part of a group leave one susceptible to conformity to the group’s norms? Will the group exert pressure that is string enough to change a member’s attitude and behavior? According to the research by Solomon Asch the answer appears to be yes.

Asch’s study involved groups of seven or eight people who sat in a classroom and were asked to compare two cards held by an investigator. One card had one line; the other had three lines of varying length. As shown in one of the lines on the three line card was identical to the line on the one line card. The difference in line length was quite obvious, under ordinary conditions subjects made errors of less than 1 per cent. The object was to announce aloud which of the three lines matched the single line. But what happens if all the members of the group begin to give incorrect answers? Will the pressure to conform cause the unsuspecting subject (USS) to alter his or her answers to align to those of the others? That was Asch wanted to know. He arranged the group so that the USS was unaware that the experiment was fixed. The seating was prearranged so that the USS was the last to announce his or her decision.

The experiment began with two sets of matching exercises. All the subjects gave the right answers. On the third set, however, the first subject gave an obviously wrong answer –for example, saying C.

Examples of Cards Used in Asch Study:

The next subject gave the same wrong answer and so is the other until it was the unsuspecting subject’s turn. He knew that B was the same as but everyone else said C. The decision confronting the USS was this: Do you publicly state a perception that differs from the pre-announced position of the others? Or do you give an answer that you strongly believe to be incorrect in order to have your response agree with the other group members? Asch’s subjects conformed in about 35 percent of many experiments and many trials. That is, the subjects gave answers that they knew were wrong but were consistent with the replies of other group members.

For managers, the Ach study provides considerable insight into group behaviors. The tendency as such sowed is for individuals members to go along with the pack. To diminish the negative aspects of conformity managers should create a climate of openness in which employees are free to discuss problems without fear of retaliation.