Transnational Research Associates

 

Internally Integrating the Group Through

Distribution of Power and Assignment of Status

 

Art Madsen, M.Ed.

 

During the timeframe that external relationships are being established suitably and that the groupís primary focus is being defined through member interaction, the prospective leader of any organization or group, including, of course, corporate entities, must begin to grapple with the complexities of internally determining which group members will possess authority and at what level.During this process, the prospective leader may find himself, or herself, literally deposed from a prominent position within the new organization in spite of having previously enjoyed considerable latitude in the initial stages of the groupís existence. Moreover, if internal mistakes are made, even after external connections and relationships have been solidified, then even the groupís integrity and viability can be threatened by strife, aggression, and dissension.This brief report, focusing on these group-culture authority issues, will discuss the impact that failure to structure an appropriate authority and status hierarchy can have on an organization.Many of the principles and concepts presented in Shein (Univ. of Phoenix, 1992, 79-82) will form the basis for this assessment and analysis.

 

During the initial phases of forming an organization, dynamic interaction is occurring on several fronts.Not only, as mentioned in opening remarks above, are external connections being fused, but group-members are jockeying for authority and status within the group itself.If not handled correctly by a thoughtful individual, the interplay among members can prove deleterious to the organizationís effectiveness. There is a reciprocal game of ďmutual testingí, as Shein refers to it, that lies at the core of the negotiating and persuasion process.Primary authority is generally allocated, by general consent, on the basis of perceived capability and leadership skills. The degree of influence of each member is usually expressed by verbal interaction and by recognition of past and present accomplishments both within the new group and from previous performance.

If this process is carried out properly, the maturation and integration of the organization proceeds normally, even commendably.However, if contentiousness arises and a consensus cannot be reached, then in-fighting and power-plays can (and often do) occur.This scenario transpires when the initial group leaders attempt to impose their own conditions, criteria and terms on other members through application of at-first gentle, but ever-increasing pressure. There will be preliminary rules agreed-upon on a temporary basis, but often these rules become entrenched through weak opposition from somewhat more subservient and docile members.Thus, the initial rules, proposed by the original leader and perhaps one of his close associates, frequently end up becoming the permanent rules, to the advantage of the power-distributor, invariably the initial leader. This is essentially the granting of leadership power and status by direct or indirect abdication of other membersí rights to achieve similar status.The leader can then proceed to allocate authority as he or she sees fit, virtually without opposition, unless the groupís dynamics shift in accordance with any number of complex patterns, some of which are described by Shein.

 

††††††††††† There are innate characteristics within human beings that transform some persons into individuals who must dominate others and some into those who become passive followers or compliant mid-level managers. This dichotomy is related to a process associated with our personal cultural backgrounds, our perceptions of society, and our interactive dealings with others.Aggression and passivity might also be correlated with educational background, although there seems to be no solid evidence of this.Even if striking truckers might lack formal education and are quite violent, on the other end of the spectrum, for example, was Winston Churchill, a highly educated man, who fought valiantly and violently on behalf of his nation.So, aggression is not necessarily correlated with education or experience, and, hence, the group-dynamics paradigm becomes more complex.

 

††††††††††† Many companies prefer to avoid these extremes of power and passivity, and they tend to adopt a negotiating posture, one that underscores the need to communicate objectively and dispassionately.By negotiating power sharing and status assignment within a group, there can be a true sense of progress and equity among all members, each participating in their areas of strength. Ideally, during negotiations and discussion, there should be a reduction, in professional circles at least, of openly aggressive behavior and an adherence to the rules, which should have been negotiated fairly from the outset.

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Shein postulates that Ďautocraticí and Ďpaternalisticí organizations are not ideal, since such terms, as well as such organizational structures themselves, tend to severely restrict and narrowly define the latitude a group should ideally possess. He seems to think that negative consequences and adverse effects can be avoided, during the power negotiation and distribution stage, if egalitarian, fair and just principles are applied and if manís sometimes aggressive nature is subdued by rules and agreements, both when the group is in its formative stages and in later developmental periods of its growth and expansion.Internal integration is, therefore, of paramount importance and successful, equitable and well-negotiated power distribution plays a significant role in stabilizing and solidifying the group.