Chapter 8: Small Group Communication

8.7 Summary, Discussion, References


We participate in groups and teams at all stages and phases of our lives, from play groups to members of an athletic team, to performing in a band, or performing in a play. We form groups based on personal and professional interests, drive reduction, and for reinforcement. Through group and team work, we can save time and resources, enhance the quality of our work, succeed professionally, or accomplish socio-political change.

There are five general types of groups depending on the intended outcome. Primary groups are formed to satisfy our long-term emotive needs. Secondary groups are more performance based and concern themselves with accomplishing tasks or decision making. Personal growth groups focus on specific areas of personal problem solving while providing a supportive and emotionally positive context. Learning groups are charged with the discovery and dissemination of new ideas while problem-solving groups find solutions.

Once a group comes together, they go through typical stages (forming, storming, norming, performing, and terminating) to develop roles, create a leadership strategy, and determine the process for decision making. While numerous specific group roles exit, the four categories of roles include: task, social-emotional, procedural, and individual roles. It is likely that members will occupy multiple roles simultaneously as they participate in groups.

There are three broad leadership styles ranging from least to most control—laissez faire, democratic, and authoritarian. Also related to power and control are options for decision making. Consensus gives members the most say, voting and compromise may please some but not others, and authority rule gives all control to the leader. None of the options for leadership styles and decision making are inherently good or bad—the appropriate choice depends on the individual situation and context.

Discussion Questions

  1. What are the differences between the terms “team” and “group?” Write down a team you have been a part of and a group you have been a part of. In what ways were they effective or not effective?
  2. Review all the different types of group roles. Reflect back on a time when you worked in a group and discuss the role(s) you played. If there were any individuals in this group that prevented the group’s progress, identify their role and explain why it was problematic.
  3. Thinking back to groups that you have been involved with in the past, which types of groups had the most effective leader(s) and what were the qualities of those leaders that made them so strong?
  4. What are the potential strengths of group discussions? What are the potential limitations of group discussions? What are some strategies to enhance a group’s cohesion?
  5. Reflect back on a time when you were working on a group project in class. Discuss each stage of development (forming, storming, norming, performing, and terminating) as it applied to this group.

 Key Terms

  • activity groups
  • authoritarian
  • authority rule
  • coercive power
  • cohesiveness
  • collaboration
  • common goals
  • compromise
  • consensus
  • cooperation
  • decision making in groups
  • democratic
  • drive reduction
  • group roles
  • groupthink
  • interdependence
  • interaction
  • laissez faire
  • leadership
  • learning groups
  • legitimate power
  • personal growth groups
  • polarization
  • power
  • problem-solving
  • promulgation
  • referent power
  • reward power
  • reinforcement
  • shared norms
  • small group
  • solidification
  • primary groups
  • problem-solving groups
  • secondary groups
  • stages of group formation
  • synergy
  • team
  • transformative leader
  • voting


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