At the beginning of the course when I first heard about the group work that we would be doing I was excited because I worked in teams before and enjoy working with others. However, I was uncertain how well we would be able to perform as a team because the semester is so short and there was little time to work on building a great team that works effectively.
At first my fear was confirmed because over the course of the first three weeks of group work we faced several changes of members due to people switching courses. There were only two other people besides me who stayed in our group throughout the entire time. Students leaving our team generated disappointment because I felt that they let their team down. Moreover, I was anxious that these changes could negatively affect our team performance and this created a feeling of disappointment within me.
Belbin (2010, p.174) points out that well working teams can withstand team member changes through integration methods, however, at the early point of time the member changes occurred we had no real chance to go through the process of turning into an effective team until the members stopped switching. I felt that the group was not a team that worked together and communicated efficiently. According to Skyrme (1999, p͘149), “a team is a cohesive entity whose members share a common purpose and are committed to each other’s success”͘ Instead of appreciating the new team members and what they were going to contribute to the team I saw it as a threat and I was disappointed by the member changes as it was something that I did not experience before in any previous team work.
At each team meeting when we had an old member being absent or dropping out and a new member joining us I felt anxious because I had the impression that these changes affected our development as a team negatively. In order for a group to work together effectively, it undergoes a development of several social and task related steps. These steps are described in the Drexler-Sibbet High-Performance Team Model: orientation, trust-building, goal clarification, commitment, implementation, high performance, and renewal. (Attwood, Deeb, and Danz- Reece, 2004, p.323) Within the first weeks of our team work I felt that we were not able to undergo these steps and I felt nervous because I knew how little time we would have for team building anyways. Although those members who were in our group from the beginning started to build trust among each other and became clear about their goals and even reached the stage of commitment and communicated on how things should be achieved, I felt that each change of members held us back from turning from the creating to the sustaining phase of team performance. Our group solved the given tasks and was able to perform; however, I assume that better results could have been achieved easier if we had been able to move forward with our team building. My hypothesis is backed up by Bion’s (1961 cited in Miller, 1998, p.41) findings on groups, the state of our group at the beginning was a so-called basic assumption group that was easily divided up in discussions due to different opinions and disagreement had a negative effect on the group cohesion. The characteristics of a sophisticated working group on the other hand is what Thompson (2008) calls a team, meaning that communication is a priority and group performance works well. The switching of team members stopped in the fourth week of group work and our group worked on becoming a real team from then on. I felt that this was very beneficial and I did not feel worried anymore that on the next meeting there would be different people again. I felt like I could rely on the other team members to come to meetings or if they could not make it to inform another member of the team. Thompson (2004, p.114-116) calls this kind of team cohesion where the team members honestly like each other and care team spirit and points out that this state can lead to more productive teams. In retrospect I feel that my disappointment about the member changes held me back in gaining trust in the team. In the future I should not let circumstances that I have no influence on, disrupt me in this way and be more flexible in my attitude to accept the situation and make the best out of it.
Our group agreed on a company we were working for in the third week of group work and we decided on The Body Shop and our task for the next week was to research on the company and to find three ‘funky facts’ about it to share with the group͘ When we met again only half of the group had done so. This left me feeling very disappointed and I felt that those who had not researched took advantage of us who did. Obviously group work is about sharing tasks and splitting work in order to be more effective, but this time the research was a task given to the entire group and I expected that everyone would do so.
Although I was disappointed from those group members who had not done the task, I was uncertain how I should deal with the situation. In that week my group was made up of people from five different nations and I was the only German. Throughout my life I was able to gain intensive insight in the cultural aspects of France, Italy, the UK, and the USA because I lived in those countries for long periods of time. Due to this I am aware of how different people perceive criticism and I felt that telling my group how I felt in that particular moment could have had a negative impact on our team building. According to Hofstede, Hofstede, and Minkow (2010, p.383) the culture a person grew up in has a large impact on the behaviour in groups. Different attitudes due to culture can cause unintended conflicts which are conflicts that none of the parties wanted to create purposely and in the end all team members suffer from them. Doherty and Guyer (2008) further establish that the Anglo-Saxon countries have a more confrontational model to approach conflicts whereas other cultures are more oriented on harmony or regulations.