Group Roles

The fact that we all exist on this Earth suggests that we have certain roles to take on. Whether in group-based, family-based, team-based, or community-based contexts, acknowledging our roles keeps us in line with our responsibilities and duties. Thus, in this explanation, let's explore the multiple facets of group roles in modern workplaces.

Group Roles Group Roles

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Contents
Table of contents

    Life is a role-play; only in attention are the roles chosen wisely.1

    - Acharya Prashant

    Group Roles Definition

    Within a business context, having clear and specific group roles can help individuals collaborate and coordinate their work more effectively. Further, well-defined group roles can assist managers in realizing the strengths and weaknesses of each of their team members, thus contributing to the overall team's success in measurable and relatable ways.

    A group role is a set of specific assignments or functions attributed to a team member as part of their responsibilities.

    While group roles are popular in modern workplaces, the act of defining and setting up feasible roles for group members is quite complex, given its reliance on multiple individuals' psychological and biological factors. In the next section, we will briefly introduce such factors related to the development of appropriate group roles at work.

    Group Roles in Organizational Behavior

    Accordingly, the successful development of group roles in organizational behavior depends on two specific factors: role perception and role expectations.

    Role Perception

    Role perception is essential as it can define how individuals behave in a specific situation and in a specific role.

    Individuals' role perception implies their views on how they should behave given a specific situation.

    Depending on individuals' role perception, they can develop a specific perception of their appearance and degree of social interaction. Further, individuals may also rely on their role perceptions to determine how they expect their partners, parents, or teammates should be acting in specific contexts.

    For example, advertising managers may regard their roles as creative, ideas-driven, sociable, and open-minded. On the other hand, a stock portfolio manager may think of the role as detail-driven, critical and analytical. Given such differences in role perception, an advertising manager can have different expectations towards subordinates and employees compared to a stock portfolio.

    Role Expectation

    As important as role perception is the concept of role expectation, which determines how others think about an individual's role.

    Role expectation involves traits, attitudes, and behaviors that are considered appropriate for an individual of a specific position within a defined group or social setting.

    In fact, people can develop role expectations of an individual's position in terms of qualities and actions. For example, people generally expect university professors not only deliver high-quality lectures and compatible homework for students and be hard-working, intelligent, honest, and responsible.

    Within business contexts, role expectation is often not clearly stated in companies' rules and regulations. Instead, companies express their role expectations more subtly, known as a psychological contract.

    A psychological contract is an unwritten agreement that clearly states managers' role expectations for their employees and vice versa.

    Types of Group Roles

    Commonly, in modern workplaces, group roles can be divided into two main types: functional and dysfunctional.

    Functional Roles of Group Members

    In 1981, Meredith Belbin introduced Team Role Theory, which defines nine distinct roles within a group or social setting.2 Nowadays, the definition and characteristics of Meredith Belbin's group roles remain the foundation for the functional roles of group members.

    A functional role suggests a set of skills, characteristics, and actions that an individual should perform within a specific group.

    Accordingly, the nine common functional roles of group members are illustrated in Table 1.2

    Functional roles of group members

    Characteristics

    Shaper

    Shapers constantly encourage team members to thrive towards shared goals and objectives. Thus, they are often task-focused, argumentative, and provocative. Sometimes, shapers can be impatient with more people-orientated individuals.

    Implementer

    Implementers focus on accomplishing things. Thus, they are task-focused, practical, and organized. Often, implementers are good at transforming ideas into practical actions at work.

    Completer

    While also task-oriented, completers are perfectionists who are anxious about deadlines and targets. Further, completers lack trust in others' capabilities. Thus, they prefer working alone and doing things themselves.

    Coordinator

    As their names suggest, coordinators are calm, people-oriented charismatic. Normally, they act as chairpersons or leaders within groups thanks to their interpersonal skills and positivity.

    Team worker

    Team workers are team-oriented, sensitive, and diplomatic. Within group settings, team workers act as effective followers who work for the interests of general group outcomes.

    Resource investigator

    Resource investigators act as people-focused communicators for groups. They are good at negotiating and exchanging information internally and externally. Further, they are flexible and highly innovative. Yet, they are sometimes quite unrealistic.

    Plant

    Plants are often introverted, intellectual, individualistic, and task-driven. While they lack communication skills, plants are good at suggesting problem-solving ideas.

    Monitor

    Monitors are task-focused, clever, and unemotional individuals who detach themselves from team members. Thus, they always critically approach and evaluate their tasks and team members. Monitors are often known as decisive decision-makers and critical thinkers within groups.

    Specialist

    Specialists demonstrate strong task-based knowledge in areas that are critical to group success. They often rely on their expertise in specific areas to guide group work. Innately, they are single-minded and professional.

    Table 1 - Functional roles of group members and their characteristics

    Dysfunctional Roles

    On the other hand, there are also undesirable group roles, which are detrimental to overall outcomes. They are often known as dysfunctional roles or individual roles.

    Dysfunctional roles refer to irrelevant or unnecessary individual goals that cause conflicts with the group's goals.

    Sometimes, dysfunctional roles are referred to as individualistic roles or individual roles. There are six popular dysfunctional roles at work: 3

    1. Blockers: individuals who refuse to cooperate by reacting negatively to group issues or rejecting others' thoughts and ideas.
    2. Aggressors: individuals who constantly deflate other members' status within groups by boasting about themselves while criticizing others.
    3. Deserters: individuals who remain indifferent to and distracted from group work. They often contribute irrelevant ideas to group conversations while daydreaming and wandering from the group subjects.
    4. Dominators: highly authoritative individuals who monopolize groups' time and workflow. Often, dominators enjoy monologues within group discussion sessions.
    5. Recognition seekers: individuals who focus on drawing attention to themselves and gaining empathy from others. Often, recognition seekers enjoy boasting about their accomplishments and experiences.
    6. Playboys: individuals who express inappropriate jokes, cynicism, or horseplay during group work.

    Group Norms and Roles

    While organizations have clearly defined policies and regulations, they also have unwritten rules and guidelines, commonly known as group norms.

    Group norms are informal guidelines that consolidate conformity and order in group activities and operations.

    Group norms can be divided into two categories: prescriptive and proscriptive. Accordingly, while prescriptive norms inform individuals of expected behaviors within group settings, proscriptive norms inform them of prohibited ones.

    What is the key difference between a group norm and a group role?

    Compared to a group role, a group norm is informal and undocumented. Accordingly, a group norm is often so subtle and intertwined with the overall organizational practices that members are sometimes unaware of such norms' existence.

    In modern workplaces, some common group norms are:

    • Treating individuals with respect and politeness,
    • Cooperating positively and objectively with others,
    • Being open to new ideas and suggestions,
    • Providing constructive and objective feedback,
    • Attending meetings on time.

    Group Roles Examples

    This section will provide an example of how different group roles effectively exist within a typical marketing department.

    In the marketing department of company Z, there are four employees. Their positions are marketing manager, marketing coordinator, public relations officer, and strategic consultant.

    Accordingly, the marketing manager is most likely to take on the role of a shaper or monitor, objectively and effectively engaging with others to push the entire department toward success.

    Correspondingly, the marketing coordinator performs the role of a coordinator, who is to efficiently delegate tasks and maintain a strong communication flow among individuals inside and outside the marketing department.

    Likewise, the public relations officer deals with most internal and external business negotiations and communication, ranging from the media to the company's strategic partners. Thus, the person plays the role of a resource investigator. Lastly, the strategic consultant acts as a specialist or a plant who utilizes their intellectual knowledge to provide the marketing department with evidence-based suggestions and high-quality strategic choices.

    While it is not always necessary for all nine group roles of Meredith Belbin's theory to exist within a specific organization, most are commonly practiced in defining group roles at work. Therefore, next time you belong to any group, ask yourself questions about what is your most desirable group role to take up and how you can make the best out of it!

    Group Roles - Key takeaways

    • A group role is a set of specific assignments or functions attributed to a team member as part of their responsibilities.
    • Role expectation involves traits, attitudes, and behaviors that are considered appropriate for an individual of a specific position within a defined group or social setting.
    • A psychological contract is an unwritten agreement that clearly states managers' role expectations for their employees and vice versa.
    • A functional role suggests a set of skills, characteristics, and actions that a group's individual should perform.
    • In 1981, Meredith Belbin introduced Team Role Theory, which defines nine distinct roles within a group or social setting: shaper, implementer, coordinator, completer, team worker, resource investigator, plant, monitor, and specialist.
    • Dysfunctional roles refer to irrelevant or unnecessary individual goals that cause conflicts with the group's goals.
    • Group norms are informal guidelines that consolidate conformity and order in group activities and operations.

    References

    1. Acharya Prashant. Quote Fancy. https://quotefancy.com/quote/1792804/Acharya-Prashant-Life-is-a-role-play-only-in-attention-are-the-roles-chosen-wisely.
    2. Belbin. The Belbin Team Roles. https://www.belbin.com/about/belbin-team-roles
    3. Smile Mundo. Roles in the Group. http://smilemundo.com/role-in-the-group/
    Frequently Asked Questions about Group Roles

    How do individual roles work within a group or team?

    Commonly, individual roles demonstrate behaviors that are positive or detrimental to overall outcomes. For example, the blocker individual may refuse to cooperate by reacting negatively to group issues or rejecting others' thoughts and ideas.

    What are the different roles in a group?

    In 1981, Meredith Belbin introduced Team Role Theory, which defines nine distinct roles within a group or social setting: shaper, implementer, coordinator, completer, team worker, resource investigator, plant, monitor, and specialist. 

    What is meant by group roles?

    A group role is a set of specific assignments or functions attributed to a team member as part of their responsibilities and duties. 

    What are the 3 types of group roles?

    The three types of group roles are functional roles, personal and social roles, and dysfunctional roles.

    What are the group norms and roles?

    Group norms are informal guidelines that consolidate conformity and order in group activities and operations. 

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    Individuals' role perception implies ____ views of how they should behave given a specific situation

    Can individuals' role perception make them develop specific perception of their appearance?

    Can individuals' role perception make them develop specific perception of people around them?

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