Tag Archives: group dynamics

A Little Knot in the Stomach

“In the heat of the moment,” I started, “you may not have had the words or the stomach for it, so you adjourned the meeting.  But, this team will have to gather again.  When?”

“Wednesday,” Ron replied.  “We meet every Wednesday.”

“And, the team had an entire week to ruminate about the conflict last Wednesday. What do you think their mental state will be when you reconvene the group?”

“Well, I hope things will have settled down between the two managers, we can let bygones be bygones and get on with the agenda,” Ron said.

“Does your team have that short of a memory?” I asked.

Ron was quiet. “No, they will all be thinking about the altercation last week.”

“An altercation which has not been discussed since, at least that is what you hope.” My turn to pause. “But, you can bet there has been plenty of discussion outside of that conference room. They are not unspoken words, they are just unspoken in public, with the group. What are you pretending not to know?”

“I don’t know how the team will respond if we bring it back up. We might get a repeat performance and be right back where we were last week,” Ron grimaced.

“And, how will people’s stomachs be feeling if you bring it back up?” I asked.

“My stomach is in a knot right now, just thinking about it.”

“Then, you know you are dealing with a real issue.”

Human Connection

“Why do you want them to come back to work, in the building, I mean?” Pablo asked.

“They have been away so long. Since I’ve seen them, they may be two inches taller and I would never detect that on Zoom,” I smiled. “Seriously, they are detached. I miss seeing them in person, that warm smile in the morning, finding out how their child is doing. On camera, there they are, but it’s all business. Hi, how are you? Fine. How are you? Fine. What are the numbers on the spreadsheet?”

“What do you care? As long as the numbers on the spreadsheet are correct?” Pablo wanted to know.

“If I just wanted numbers on a spreadsheet, I wouldn’t build a company. I need a team. I don’t know why it’s important to be face to face, I just know it is.”

Pablo’s turn to smile. “You are correct, but perhaps not for the reasons you think. Kurt Lewin declared that human beings are herd animals. For the purpose of our survival, on the Serengeti plain, we had to stick together, for safety. An individual, isolated, became quick prey for a lion, a tiger, in Dorothy’s case, a bear. When we are isolated, we are alone. When we are alone, our survival instincts go full alert. We are hard wired to not get eaten. We may be fishing, we may be planting wheat, but we are looking for the lion, not paying attention to the fish or the wheat. Our attention to the work suffers. We only do our best work when we are together and safe. We feel safe as a member of a group, in proximity. Hugs create endorphins and communicate, with me, you are safe. Spreadsheets are easy on Zoom. Human connection is more difficult.”

Group Accountability?

“At first, this group dynamics stuff looked interesting, you know, everyone together under a team incentive bonus. It sounded exciting in the seminar, but in real life, this is painful,” Naomi explained. “The worst part, is we’re not getting any work done.”

“So, who is accountable?” I asked.

“I think everyone has to take a small part of the responsibility for the team not cooperating,” Naomi replied.

“No, I don’t mean who is responsible for the mess. I mean, who is accountable for the goal?” I insisted.

“The goal? We’re not even talking about the goal. We are just talking about cooperating better together, as a team.”

“Perhaps, that’s the problem,” I suggested. “You are spending so much time trying to cooperate as a group, that you forgot, we are trying to get some work done around here.

“Is it possible,” I continued, “that you have been misdirected to think more about shared fate and group dynamics than you have about your team. A team is not a group. A group may be bound together by shared fate, but a team is bound together by a goal. Stop thinking about group dynamics and start thinking about the goal. That’s why we are here in the first place.”