The Forgotten Group Member
Category : Organizational Behaviour
(Case) The Forgotten Group Member
The Organizational Behavior course for the semester appeared to promise the
opportunity to learn, enjoy, and practice some of the theories and principles in
the textbook and class discussions. Christine Spencer was a devoted,
hard-working student who had been maintaining an A??-average to date. Although
the skills and knowledge she had acquired through her courses were important,
she was also very concerned about her grades. She felt that grades were
paramount in giving her a competitive edge when looking for a job and, as a
third-year student, she realized that she’d soon be doing just that.
Sunday afternoon. Two o’clock. Christine was working on an accounting assignment
but didn’t seem to be able to concentrate. Her courses were working out very
well this semester, all but the OB. Much of the mark in that course was to be
applied to the quality of groupwork, and so she felt somewhat out of control.
She recollected the events of the past five weeks. Professor Sandra Thiel had
divided the class into groups of five people and had given them a major group
assignment worth 30 percent of the final grade. The task was to analyze a
seven-page case and to come up with a written analysis. In addition, Sandra had
asked the groups to present the case in class, with the idea in mind that the
rest of the class members would be “members of the board of directors of the
company” who would be listening to how the manager and her team dealt with the
problem at hand.
Christine was elected “Team Coordinator” at the first group meeting. The other
members of the group were Diane, Janet, Steve, and Mike. Diane was quiet and
never volunteered suggestions, but when directly asked, she would come up with
high quality ideas. Mike was the clown. Christine remembered that she had
suggested that the group should get together before every class to discuss the
day’s case. Mike had balked, saying “No way!! This is an 8:30 class, and I
barely make it on time anyway! Besides, I’ll miss my Happy Harry show on
television!” The group couldn’t help but laugh at his indignation. Steve was the
businesslike individual, always wanting to ensure that group meetings were
guided by an agenda and noting the tangible results achieved or not achieved at
the end of every meeting. Janet was the reliable one who would always have more
for the group than was expected of her. Christine saw herself as meticulous and
organized and as a person who tried to give her best in whatever she did.
It was now week 5 into the semester, and Christine was deep in thought about the
OB assignment. She had called everyone to arrange a meeting for a time that
would suit them all but seemed to be running into a roadblock. Mike couldn’t
make it, saying that he was working that night as a member of the campus
security force. In fact, he seemed to miss most meetings and would send in brief
notes to Christine, which she was supposed to discuss for him at the group
meetings. She wondered how to deal with this. She also remembered the incident
last week. Just before class started, Diane, Janet, Steve, and she were joking
with one another before class. They were laughing and enjoying themselves before
Sandra came in. No one noticed that Mike had slipped in very quietly and had
unobtrusively taken his seat.
She recalled the cafeteria incident. Two weeks ago, she had gone to the
cafeteria to grab something to eat. She had rushed to her accounting class and
had skipped breakfast. When she got her club sandwich and headed to the tables,
she saw her OB group and joined them. The discussion was light and enjoyable as
it always was when they met informally. Mike had come in. He’d approached their
table. “You guys didn’t say you were having a group meeting,” he blurted.
Christine was taken aback.
“We just happened to run into each other. Why not join us?”
Mike looked at them, with a noncommittal glance. “Yeah . . .right,” he muttered,
and walked away.
Sandra Thiel had frequently told them that if there were problems in the group,
the members should make an effort to deal with them first. If the problems could
not be resolved, she had said that they should come to her. Mike seemed so
distant, despite the apparent camaraderie of the first meeting.
An hour had passed, bringing the time to 3 P.M., and Christine found herself
biting the tip of her pencil. The written case analysis was due next week. All
the others had done their designated sections, but Mike had just handed in some
rough handwritten notes. He had called Christine the week before, telling her
that in addition to his course and his job, he was having problems with his
girlfriend. Christine empathized with him. Yet, this was a group project!
Besides, the final mark would be peer evaluated. This meant that whatever mark
Sandra gave them could be lowered or raised, depending on the group’s opinion
about the value of the contribution of each member. She was definitely worried.
She knew that Mike had creative ideas that could help to raise the overall mark.
She was also concerned for him. As she listened to the music in the background,
she wondered what she should do.
- How could an understanding of the stages of group development assist Christine in leadership situations such as this one?
- What should Christine understand about individual membership in groups in order to build group processes that are supportive of her workgroup’s performance?
- Is Christine an effective group leader in this case? Why or why not?
The Forgotten Group Member