International Encyclopedia of Public Policy and Administration - Vol. 2

By Jay M. Shafritz | Go to book overview

is not possible, they should bear in mind that there is a tendency for large groups to have loafers. To discourage this threat, managers can delegate work assignments that require everyone to participate in various roles and hold all members accountable for their participation ( Kidwell and Bennett 1993).

When managers are leaders in a group, they need to vary their leadership styles based on the developmental stage of the group. Essentially, in the early stages of group life (e.g., forming, storming) managers may need to use a more directive and structured leadership style ( Bushe and Johnson 1989). Continuing to use this leadership style, however, may lead to a negative impact on group cohesion and the quality of work. Therefore, as the group matures, the leadership style should change to be supportive, democratic, and participative in order to increase productivity and satisfaction among group members ( Bushe and Johnson 1989).


Research on Groups

Regarding the specific problems associated with group research within public organizations, four concerns are evident. The first issue relates to finding research in this domain of interest. This author was surprised that conducting a library search using the keywords "group dynamics" with "public administration," "public sector," "public organizations," and "government" yielded articles almost exclusively on decisionmaking. Broadening the search, however, to include keywords such as "organizational development (OD)," "team development," and "diversity" with "public administration," "public sector," "public organizations," and "government" resulted in numerous articles and books. Those seeking information about group dynamics in the public sector, therefore, will need to use the latter keywords, and others, in order to generate the wealth of information in this area.

The second concern is that researchers must be prepared to present information to a number of people throughout a project. On the surface, this requirement does not present a problem because most researchers do expect to present interim status reports. However, a difficulty arises when researchers must present information to multiple decisionmakers with different interests ( Golembiewski 1985). The consequence of this unique situation is that research projects can be delayed or thwarted.

The third issue relates to top appointees who are voted out of office. When this occurs, the goals of the agency may change, which then may result in the termination of research projects. This practice of changing goals is due to the political nature of government, or as Paul Appleby ( 1992, p. 147) states, "Other institutions are not free from politics, but government is politics."

A fourth problem is that public employees may be less open or more evasive than private sector employees. Essentially, to protect U.S. national security, public employees may be hesitant to disclose certain information. As a result, researchers may not obtain the information they seek. In sum, the unique circumstances of public organizations may add some special instabilities and uncertainties that are generally not experienced in private organizations.


Conclusion

Groups are an integral part of our lives. With human cognitive limitations, we desperately need groups more than ever before, but differently from our biological beginnings. Essentially, when people confront the many challenges of our complex and interconnected environment, we need groups for information, support, solutions, creativity, and productivity. If managers and employees pool their efforts and use the information presented here, more individuals will experience satisfaction on the job-and in their personal lives-from participating in one or more groups.

INES KILMANN


BIBLIOGRAPHY

Appleby, Paul H., 1945 and renewed 1973, "Government Is Different". In Jay M. Shafritz, and Albert C. Hyde, eds. 1992. Classics of Public Administration. 3d ed. Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole.

Bedeian, Arthur G., Kevin W. Mossholder and Achilles A. Armenakis . "Role Perception-Outcome Relationships: Moderating Effects of Situational Variables". Human-Relations. v. 36 ( Feb. 1983) p.167-187.

Bushe, Gervase R., and A. Lea Johnson, 1989. "Contextual and Internal Variables Affecting Task Group Outcomes in Organizations". Group and Organization Studies (December): 462- 482.

Cartwright, Dorwin, and Alvin Zander, eds., 1968. Group Dynamics. 3d ed. New York: Harper & Row.

Cook, Mark, 1977. "The Social Skill Model and Interpersonal Attraction". In Steve Duck, ed., Theory and Practice in Interpersonal Attraction. New York: Academic Press.

Finely, Michael, 1992. "Belling the Bully". HR Magazine, vol. 37, no. 3 (March): 82-86.

Fisher, Cynthia D., Lyle F. Schoenfeldt, and James B. Shaw, 1993. Human Resource Management. 2d ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Forsyth, Donelson R., 1990. Group Dynamics. 2d ed. Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole.

Fossum, John A., 1992. Labor Relations: Development, Structure, and Process. Homewood, IL: Irwin.

Golembiewski, Robert T., 1985. Humanizing Public Organizations: Perspectives on Doing Better-Than-Average When Average Ain't At All Bad. Mt. Airy, MD: Lomond Publications.

Hare, A. Paul, 1976. Handbook of Small Group Research. 2d ed. New York: Free Press.

Harvey, Paul H., and Penelope J. Greene, 1981. "Group Composition: An Evolutionary Perspective". In H. Kellerman, ed., Group Cohesion. New York: Grune & Stratton.

Katzenbach, Jon R., and Douglas K. Smith, 1993. The Wisdom of Teams: Creating the High-Performance Organization. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

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International Encyclopedia of Public Policy and Administration - Vol. 2
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