Magazine article Talent Development

Seating Arrangements Can Affect Group Morale: Being Seen Is Key to Getting Fair Credit for Contributions in Group Situations

Magazine article Talent Development

Seating Arrangements Can Affect Group Morale: Being Seen Is Key to Getting Fair Credit for Contributions in Group Situations

Article excerpt

When group members see each other during group tasks, they're more likely to give each other the credit they deserve--an important factor in reducing group conflicts according to a new study on group seating configurations.

Brian C. Gunia, a doctoral candidate in Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, and Professor Brice Corgnet of the Universidad de Navarra in Spain studied the seating arrangements and perceptions of 22 groups in the study "Did I Do That? Group Positioning and Asymmetry in Attributional Bias."

According to Gunia, psychology studies have shown that people tend to think that they contribute more to groups than they actually do, and they don't give enough credit to others in the group. "This can lead to group conflict," he says.

Gunia and Corgnet studied the behavior of 22 groups of three. Each group of three sat in a horizontal row of seats at a table. Group members were instructed to work together to complete a complex math problem, earning rewards for correct answers and penalties for wrong answers. Groups were given an instruction and answer sheet to share among the group members.

Once they completed the assignments, groups members answered individual questionnaires about their contribution as well as the contributions of other group members. In addition, researchers asked each group member to complete a very similar task individually to estimate how much they actually contributed to the group product.

Although seating position had no effect on how much people actually contributed, group members who sat in the middle said that they contributed about one-third or 33 percent to the group's outcome, while those seated on the right and left rated themselves as contributing 45 percent to the group's effort.

When asked to rate the contributions of the two group members on the right and left, those in the middle credited both with a one-third or 33 percent contribution. …

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