Organizational Wellness

How to Improve Group Dynamics in the Workspace

Jun 14, 2024
Last Updated Jun 14, 2024

Imagine this: you’re officiating a friendly competition between coworkers during a company meeting. In one corner, a team is strategizing quietly. The team in the opposite corner is laughing and joking while working together. Both of these teams ended up being fierce competitors, despite their differences in interaction styles. These moments aren't just fun and games — they're a living, breathing showcase of group dynamics. 

Group dynamics can really affect how employees impact each other, for better or worse. HR While HR doesn’t control everything, your department can encourage teams to build healthy group dynamics with strong team building and similar steps. These tips help HR leaders explore what can impact group dynamics for teams and how to improve them.

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What are Group Dynamics?

Group dynamics are the ways that people interact and work together on a team. Among team members, you can usually pick out certain patterns in behavior or social interaction. How do people bring up a tricky topic or conflict? Do team members feel comfortable sharing their workload with others? What kind of leadership style does the manager use to inspire their coworkers?

These interactions shape how the group functions and reaches its goals. By recognizing the different personalities and roles within the team, it’s usually easier to improve dynamics and boost collaboration. Ultimately, being proactive and aware about these dynamics can turn any group into a cohesive, high-performing team.

The Aspects of Group Dynamics

Group dynamics are fueled by social interactions, including the roles individuals hold within the team and their communication patterns. It’s also shaped by the cooperation between teammates — which can vary depending on how power and leadership are used. These factors play a big role in the effectiveness and productivity of the group.

Here is a closer look at characteristics that come together to create group dynamics:

Roles and Positions

Each member of the group has a role that contributes to the function of the team. These positions can be formally assigned, such as a team leader or project manager. They can also emerge informally, like when a teammate shows natural skills or specialized expertise and others begin to rely on their experience.

Communication

The way coworkers share ideas and feedback among group members, both verbally and non-verbally, is a big part of group dynamics, too. Clear and open communication fosters better understanding and problem-solving in high-performing teams.

Decision-Making

Group dynamics also influence how decisions are made within the group. A team may prioritize a strong sense of harmony on the team and put some things up for a vote. Others may find it more efficient to trust the expertise of a designated leader. The decision-making process can vary depending on factors like the group's culture and level of autonomy.

Conflict Resolution

Conflicts are inevitable when people work together, and how they are addressed impacts the dynamics of the group. Conflict resolution techniques, such as negotiation or compromise, can make disagreements easier to handle and promote positivity at work.

Leadership and Influence

leader's style and ability to motivate others can shape the group's direction and performance. Not to mention, individuals within the group may use their own leadership skills with one another through their expertise or persuasive abilities.

Cohesion and Trust

Some groups may gel better than others if they trust one another and work together. When a team is cohesive, there is a sense of unity and commitment within the group, while trust involves the belief in each other's reliability and good intentions. High levels of cohesion and trust promote effective problem-solving and overall employee satisfaction.

By understanding these factors about group dynamics, HR and other leaders can guide their teams in creating healthy relationships and work environments. A positive team dynamic maximizes the individual strengths of your employees to drive successful outcomes.

What Causes Poor Group Dynamics? 

While it is always desirable to have positive group dynamics in your workplace, it is especially noticeable when there are poor relationships or behaviors. It can lead to poor efficiency and less-than-quality work. Perhaps even worse, toxic group dynamics can also result in higher rates of employee turnover when employees are dissatisfied.

Poor group dynamics in a work setting can be caused by one or more of the following factors:

Lack of Clear Goals

When the team lacks defined goals or objectives, members may feel uncertain about their roles and responsibilities. This ambiguity can lead to confusion and frustration, ultimately hindering group dynamics.

Inadequate Communication

Poor communication can be a big contributor to negative group dynamics, too. This can include a lack of open and transparent communication or ineffective listening skills. It can also simply result from unclear instructions or feedback. When communication breaks down, misunderstandings and misalignment crop up, which often hurts employee engagement.

Absence of Trust

If there is a lack of trust among group members, it can create an environment of skepticism and suspicion. Without it, other team interactions like collaboration and effective problem-solving become challenging as well.

Personality Conflicts

Incompatibility among coworkers’ personalities can disrupt group dynamics, too. Conflicts arising from differences in communication styles and work approaches — or even personal biases — can lead to tension and negativity on the team.

Power Struggles

When people vie for power or if there is an imbalance of power, you may notice it affects your team’s energy. Dominating individuals or power struggles can frustrate relationships or sometimes create a sense of exclusion for certain members. Where 99% of workers say their relationships at work are important for their overall wellbeing, according to Wellhub's The State of Work-Life Wellness 2024, these power struggles can be a drain on performance.

Lack of Accountability

When group members do not feel accountable for their actions and contributions, it can undermine group dynamics. This can manifest as social loafing, where individuals exert less effort or dismiss their deadlines and commitments. Eventually, this can create resentment and decreased trust among group members.

Poor Conflict Management

Things like aggressive behavior and unresolved disagreements can evolve into some serious issues among coworkers. In fact, so can being overly conflict-averse, where people refuse to acknowledge conflicts. Both can create a toxic environment and erode trust, which takes a toll on the employee experience.

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Inadequate Leadership

Just like great leadership positively impacts your teams, poor leadership development can undermine group dynamics. If leaders fail to provide guidance or misuse their power, it can lead to confusion and disengagement. 

Lack of Diversity and Inclusion

When a group doesn’t prioritize diversity and inclusion, it often weakens creativity and collaboration. Homogeneous groups may suffer from groupthink, where critical thinking is limited, and new perspectives are not considered.

The good news is, you don’t have to wait until these dynamics spiral or create issues on your teams. Instead, you can try getting to the root of these issues early on and build on a strong foundation.

How to Improve Group Dynamics in 7 Steps

If your workplace is struggling with dynamics-related issues, consider these steps to improve the situation.

Step 1: Establish Clear Goals and Roles 

Clearly defining the group's goals and how individual members can align their work. Doing so gives everyone a better perspective on their responsibilities and how their contributions fit into the bigger picture. 

For example, consider a project manager organizing a team for a new software product. They start with a kick-off meeting to make sure that everyone is on the same page from the get-go. By doing so, everyone knows what is expected of them and all responsibilities fit their expertise.

Step 2: Foster Effective Communication 

You can also encourage open and transparent communication among team members. This can be done through regular team meetings and the sharing of progress updates throughout the process. It’s also important to actively listen to others' ideas and perspectives. Help employees not only understand expectations but give them opportunities to share their thoughts and ideas.

Steps like implementing a communication platform or scheduling brainstorming sessions can help boost collaboration and idea-sharing. For example, platforms like Slack or Microsoft Teams are popular options for work settings and can bring entire departments together.

Step 3: Build Trust and Feelings of Safety 

Foster an environment of trust where individuals feel safe to express their opinions and take calculated risks without fear of judgment. This can help everyone take the successes and challenges as a team instead of pointing the finger. It’s very possible to still offer constructive feedback while providing support and security.

Team-building activities and trust-building exercises can help build a healthy level of trust among the members of groups in your company. Even providing time for employees to ask one another get-to-know-you questions can help with unity. When coworkers get to know one another as people, they are more likely to feel that they can trust and respect one another.

Step 4: Develop Conflict Resolution Skills

It’s also wise to have employee training and resources to help group members manage and resolve conflicts. Teach techniques like active listening, empathy, and negotiation skills. As you build trust with your team, remind everyone to practice open dialogue and create a safe space for expressing concerns. 

For example, introducing a conflict resolution process or facilitating mediation sessions can help resolve conflicts. This is usually most effective when there is a clear feedback system in place so that employees know the steps to take when an issue appears.

Step 5: Promote Diversity and Inclusion 

Another excellent way to promote good team dynamics is to embrace diversity within the group. You can start by making efforts to recognize individuals from different backgrounds and perspectives. This can also bring unique employee benefits that will encourage innovation and new problem-solving strategies. 

For instance, implementing diversity training programs or forming cross-functional teams can elevate different voices in your company. Consider creating a mentorship program that pairs senior leaders with employees from underrepresented groups. This not only boosts development opportunities for these employees but also shows leaders the diverse experiences within their teams.

Step 6: Provide Leadership and Support

Leaders provide guidance and support for their coworkers, so the tone they set will dictate group dynamics across the company. It’s important that they set a strong example and expectations of a positive organizational culture

Those in leadership positions can conduct regular check-ins and take steps to empower team members to make decisions. For example, a marketing team leader might set up bi-weekly one-on-one meetings with each team member to discuss ongoing projects and their scope of work.

Step 7: Celebrate Achievements 

Another part of positive group dynamics is recognizing and celebrating the group's successes and milestones. Acknowledge individual contributions and provide positive reinforcement. This fosters a sense of accomplishment and boosts morale. 

For example, holding team celebrations or starting an employee recognition program can motivate and inspire group members. You can even publicly recognize outstanding performance in remote work environments on digital channels.

Create Healthy Group Dynamics with Employee Wellness

Group dynamics are a natural part of any workplace, and they occur whether you deliberately shape them or not. But you can have a direct hand in how people interact by caring about employee health and encouraging positive behaviors.

Positive behaviors are much more likely when employees know that their wellness matters — and matters to their organization. A wellness program is one of the best ways to show that your organization is one that cares! Programs like Wellhub provide tools for stress management, team-building — and much more, all tailored to fit your team’s unique needs.

A whopping 88% of HR leaders report their wellbeing program is ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ important to employee satisfaction, according to The State of Work-Life Wellness 2024 from Wellhub. Ready to see that satisfaction grow among your coworkers? 

Speak to a Wellbeing Specialist today and see how this program can meet the needs of your team!

Company healthcare costs drop by up to 35% with Wellhub! (* Based on proprietary research comparing healthcare costs of active Wellhub users to non-users.) Talk to a Wellbeing Specialist to see how we can help reduce your healthcare spending!

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Wellhub Editorial Team

The Wellhub Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.


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