Office peer pressure
Written by: Renée LeMoine
Photo by: V&V
“Intermittently, I will sit in on productivity improvement meetings and notice that the members of one team don’t often voice their opinions, opting instead to just agree with their manager.
Strong leaders and clear group identity are the trademarks of teams that often fall victims to “group think”. Some of the brightest teams in the world have subscribed to a common acceptance of decision-making because they hold a positive image of their group, and thus have a collective mentality toward threats. Political groups serve as a typical example where achieving concurrence supersedes realistic assessments of deviant or unpopular views.
If you ever felt like speaking up in a meeting or team session but didn’t because you were anxious about the risks and consequences it may bring, then you have been a victim of group think. Typical indicators of group think include:
- Participants applying pressure on those who question the validity of arguments, or express doubts about a group’s shared view.
- Groups assuming that when there are no objections, the group is unified in a common agreement. (Note that silence during a vote of acceptance is not necessarily a sign of unanimous acceptance.).
- As a director in your company, you may want to rethink your preference for observation rather than involvement. Getting involved and displaying a bit of resistance to the team’s final decisions will push the team to explore options, and thus find a means for securing new ideas.
- Encourage your manager to play an impartial role during typical team discussions and to actively seek input from each and every member of the team. It may be necessary for the leader to do this outside the usual team meetings in order to relax anxieties of being persecuted by other team members.
- At the same time, utilize exercises to stimulate active discussion of diverse solutions. This can be accomplished by openly discussing the dangers and risks involved in each solution. By focusing on the negatives of a solution, the team is less likely to reject differing opinions and more likely to gain an objective evaluation.
Article prepared by Renée LeMoine, Executive Director, LeMoine & Associates