Group dynamics: Unwelcome group members
Cast of characters
Dividing up the $100
Surviving my courses
Exam study guides
Fixing writing problems
Listening to lectures
One bite at a time
Writing with pizazz
Missions council / committee
Commitment: An African martyr
Mission trip fund-raising
Ways to ruin mission trips
Do you know any of these problem group members? Busy | Wily |
Smugly | Clock |
Quietly | Slacky |
Jokey | Whiney |
Wordy | Bossy |
Tardily | Edgy |
Students in classes and people on mission trips often find
themselves a part of a group or team assigned to a specific task. In the classroom, such groups
may digest case studies, discuss textbook material and even prepare
presentations to be given to the rest of the class. Those on a church missions council or
committee may be charged with putting together certain events and carrying on a program of
education and inspiration. All of these groups have two dimensions: the assigned task and the
interpersonal dynamics that nourish us in all kinds of ways.
Unfortunately, not all teams or groups work well. Groups
may wind up frustrated, stuck or squabbling. Some find it difficult to retain focus and motivation
because some people are preoccupied with their personal agendas. Groups may be troubled by
lack of cohesiveness, by cliques or by oneupmanship. Or, the behavior of one member can
sometimes drive all the other group members "up the wall."
With apologies to Snow White and her dwarf friends, here's a list of problem characters who
can damage study and work groups.
- Busy can't make the
meeting, no matter when it's scheduled. She says she's willing to contribute, but she has a busy
schedule and lots to do. So, she tells the group to carry on without her. She will do her part, she
says, as long as they let her know what that is.
- Wily is an alibi artist. He has excuses for all the responsibilities he doesn't carry through on
and all the meetings he misses. Some suspect he's a bit of a conniver or con artist.
- Smugly doesn't much trust other people and their ability to do things the way she thinks
they ought to be done. So, she does everything herself. Whenever someone offers to help, she
smoothly puts them off: "It's no problem. Everything is under control. Not to worry."
- The less others in the group are involved, the happier Smugly seems to be. Delegate
is not a verb she uses. No one knows whether Smugly acts the way she does because she is a
perfectionist or because she is an egomaniac.
- Clock comes to meetings and participates, but he always has to leave early for some other
- Quietly comes to group meetings very well prepared, but she is so quiet that people often
forget she's there. Her ideas would really help the group, but unless someone calls on her,
Quietly doesn't say anything.
- Nobody has seen hide nor hair of Absently. He isn't even coming to class anymore. He
hasn't tried to contact anybody else in the group. As project deadlines loom ahead, the other
members ask themselves: What should we do about Absently?
- Lacking motivation and initiative, this listless group member is a sloppy contributor at best.
At worst, he's dead weight.
- Jokey enjoys being with people. He's always there when the group gets together. Trouble
is, he gets the group off track. He cannot stay focused on task.
- No matter what she is asked to do, Whiney complains. She definitely know how to find
clouds in silver linings!
- Wordy monopolizes meetings. He has good ideas, but he talks and talks and talks. An
outsider observing the group would see Wordy doing eighty percent or more of the talking.
- Bossy definitely "contributes" to the group. His ideas are good and he's always ready to
offer them. However, Bossy doesn't listen to the ideas of others; he's an obnoxious jerk who
forces his solutions on the group. At the first meeting this know-it-all tries to take charge and
push and push until the group goes in the direction he thinks best (even though others in the
group may not agree).
- Bossy has no idea there's a difference between "being the boss" and leading people.
- Tardily always shows up late. Sometimes she doesn't show at all. She never quite gets her
share of the work done on time. Even on the day her group has to do some kind of presentation
in front of an audience, Tardily will probably show up late.
- Edgy's negative attitude -- about what she's supposed to be doing at the moment, about
group project ideas, and even about life in general -- drags down group morale. Edgy can be a
- Pokey hasn't developed good brainstorming skills.
Pokey doesn't listen real well and her powers of discernment need honing. Groups find Pokey
lagging behind when creative juices are flowing.
More on making groups work
Does your group have these willingness traits?
Discussion starters on
dealing with problem group members
How do you deal with conflict in your group?
|Do you use owl, fox or
turtle strategies to manage stressful conflict? [ read
SNU missions course materials and syllabi
Howard Culbertson, 5901 NW 81st, Oklahoma City, OK 73132
| Phone: 405-740-4149 - Fax: 405-491-6658
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