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Forgotten Member Case Study

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Part I: Group Development
According to Schermerhorn (2012, page 147), "A team is a group of people holding themselves collectively accountable for using complementary skills to achieve a common purpose." The stages of team or group development as defined by Tuckman (Schermerhorn 2012, p. 156) are forming, storming, norming, performing and adjourning. Depending on the current stage of group development, leaders and members can face different challenges and the resulting team is more or less effective (page 156). The forming stage focuses around the initial entry of members to a team. The storming stage is one of high emotionality and tension among team members. The norming stage is where members start to work together as a coordinated team. The performing stage marks the emergence of a mature and well-functioning team and the adjourning stage is where teams disband when their work is finished.
In reference to the case, "The Forgotten Group Member", found on page W-113 of Schermerhorn (2012), the team remains in the storming stage-- one of "high emotionality and tension among team members" (Schermerhorn 2012, p. 157). Tension and emotionality are demonstrated in the case with Mike's absence and incomplete contribution, as well as his sarcastic reaction in the cafeteria based on the incorrect assumption the team was meeting without him. Conflict is also illustrated in the case by the anxiety and pressure experienced by the leader as the deadline approaches. Although she notes deep concern and empathy for Mike's situation, she admits to feeling distracted by Mike's lack of participation and engagement in the group and cannot focus on her accounting course work. By understanding the stages of group development, Christine would see the need to intervene as a leader to manage the tension and emotionality through maintenance leadership tasks to clarify, encourage, support, redirect and provide feedback (Schermerhorn 2012, p.175).
Part II: Problem Identification
The primary problem in this case is one of poor leadership--Christine is missing some of the "must have" leadership skills for creating effective teams as described on page 170 of Schermerhorn (2012) which include keeping goals and expectations clear, communicating high standards and modeling positive team member behaviors. She has either not communicated or not reinforced standards of attendance and submission. According to Schermerhorn (2012, p. 161) " When tasks are clear and well defined, it is easier for members to both know what they are trying to accomplish and to work together while doing it".
Christine should understand that individual members on teams need to be encouraged, supported, directed and given feedback--processes of maintenance leadership (Schermerhorn 2012, p.175). She does not yet understand how to incorporate meeting the individual group member's needs into the process of effective team building. Maintenance leadership (Schermerhorn 2012, p.175) refers to leadership activities which support the emotional life and interpersonal interactions among members through encouragement in participation, praising of contributions, and resolving conflicts between members. Although Christine felt empathy and concern for Mike's job constraints and girlfriend problems, she seems to have done nothing with this information which inadvertently reinforced Mike's absentee behavior.
The secondary problem in this case is related to Mike's social loafing which threatens the effectiveness and cohesiveness of the group. A social loafer is an individual who works less hard in groups than he would individually (Schermerhorn 2012, p. 154 ). Mike's social loafing is intimately related to the poor maintenance leadership of Christine. According to Schermerhorn (2012, p. 157) the relationship between social loafing and perceived dispensability strengthened when individual contributions were more identifiable. In place of providing constructive feedback, modeling appropriate group behavior, encouraging or supporting Mike's role in the group--functions of a good leader--she is simply enabling his social loafing by passively accepting this behavior.
Part III: Retrospective Evaluation
I have identified the primary problem in the case as a lack of effective leadership--specifically Christine's failure to build an effect team with clear objectives, well-defined responsibilities and high standards. Short of sending Christine for a crash course in leadership, I would recommend an instructor intervention and leadership self-appraisal. Christine will perform a self-analysis by identifying the issues present in the group in order to consider her role in their development. Finally she will define strategies to integrate Mike into the group's culture, thereby minimizing his social loafing behavior. She can then meet with Mike individually to reinforce his role in the group and to discuss his social loafing behavior and together come up with strategies for change. She will then meet with the group as a whole to reinforce expectations, standards and each member's value to the group as a whole.
A second solution to the problem of leadership would be to change the leader. Based on the case scenario Steve is portrayed in the case as a business-like personality who was "always wanting to ensure that group meetings were guided by an agenda and noting the tangible results achieved or not achieved at the end of every meeting" (Schermerhorn 2012, W-113 and may possess a task-focussed leadership style that would benefit the group at this late stage in the assignment. The group should meet immediately to vote on a new leader as it may be difficult to achieve unanimity as I imagine Mike won't attend. Following the vote, the new leader would perform a team building exercise which would include Mike in a way that would help him reintegrate and then set clear expectations for task deadline achievement, participation and standards of submission.
The pros and cons of performing a leadership appraisal versus changing the leader are presented here: Pros Cons
Leadership Appraisal Keeping the same leader avoids delay in group task progress Team may not accept a new leadership "personality" from the same individual

Christine learns from the self-analysis and improves her leadership skills (trial by error) Mike may not be willing to share or change his behavior with the same leader in place

Mike has the opportunity to share his needs and concerns directly with the leader Change of Leadership A new leader creates an opportunity and expectation for change Christine does not learn as effectively from her mistakes without the analysis

Steve's business-like approach will help the group complete the task this close to deadline Mike may not be affected by the leadership change and continue to underperform as his needs are still not addressed formally

Part IV: Reflection
Christine is an ineffective leader. An effective team reflects good leadership and team cohesion. An effective team is one that achieves high levels of task performance, member satisfaction, and team viability (Schermerhorn 2012, p. 152). In this case, one of the members displays social loafing behavior reinforced by the leader through passive acceptance. He erroneously believes he has been left out of a secret group meeting by virtue of observing a cohesive group simply engaging in an impromptu lunch which subsequently reinforce his social loafing behavior. The issues presented relate to his attendance, his quality of work, his sense of inclusion, his sense of satisfaction and resulting social loafing which negatively impact the group project and ultimately illustrate the leadership deficiencies.
Team effectiveness, as defined by Schermerhorn (2012, p. 159) relies on task performance, member satisfaction and team viability. It is a function of the quality of the inputs (team composition and size, resources and setting, and nature of the task) and related processes (the way members interaction and work together) (Schermerhorn 2012, p. 159). At first glance, one might consider Mike's deficient contributions to the group as self-imposed. However upon analyzing Christine's leadership skills, she is lacking in some of the essential leadership traits as clearly noted in Schermerhorn's "must-haves" section on page 170 (2012). Christine needs to analyze her contribution to the problem of Mike's disconnect from the group culture and build a more effective and cohesive team--all for one, one for all.
Schermerhorn, R. Organizational Behavior. 12th. Ed. 2012.

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