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Archive for March, 2013

Social Psychology – Intergroup Relations and Conflict

Answers the Question

Why do groups behave the way they do toward each other?

How it Began

The research of Muzafer Sherif built a base for most of the understanding psychology has today about the nature of groups and its members. The Realistic Conflict Theory (RCT), developed by Sherif in 1961, accounts for inner group conflict, negative prejudices, and stereotypes as a result of actual competition between groups for desired resources.

Inter Group Conflict

In the Robbers Cave experiment, 22 white, fifth grade, 11 year old boys with similar average-to- good school performance and above average intelligence and a protestent, two parent background were sent to Robbers Cave State Park Summer Camp. None of the boys knew each other prior to the study. The researchers divided the boys into two different groups and assigned them cabins far apart from each other.  Neither group was aware of the existence of the other group The boys developed an attachment to their groups throughout the first week of the camp by doing various activities together; hiking, swimming, etc. The boys were encouraged to choose names for their groups, e.g. The Eagles and The Rattlers, and added them onto shirts and flags.

After the first week Researchers set up a four day series of competitions between the groups. As the competition went on , prejudice began to become apparent between the two groups. At first, this prejudice was only verbally expressed, such as through taunting or name calling. As the competition wore on, this expression took a more direct route, with The Eagles burning the Rattlers’ flag and the Rattlers ransacking The Eagle’s cabin in retailation. The groups became so aggressive with each other that the researchers were forced to physically separate them.

During a two day cooling off period, the boys we asked to list characteristics of the two groups. The result of which was that the boys tended to characterize their group in highly favourable terms and the other group in very unfavourable terms. Sherif then attempted to reduce the prejudice between the two groups. Simply increasing the contact of the two groups only made the situation worse. Whereas forcing the groups to work together to reach subordinate goals, or common goals, eased the prejudice and tension among the groups.

Key Terminology

  • Intra group conflict – Select individuals a part of the same group clash with one another
  • Inter group conflict – Distinct groups of individuals at odds with one another

In Brief

RCT is a social psychological model of intergroup conflict.  The theory explains how intergroup hostility can arise as a result of conflicting goals and competition over limited resources as well as offers an explanation for the feelings of prejudice and discrimination toward the outgroup that accompany the intergroup hostility.

Groups may be in competition for a real or perceived scarcity of resources such as money, political power, military protection, or social status. Feelings of resentment can arise in the situation that the groups see the competition over resources as having a zero-sums fate, in which only one group is the winner (obtained the needed or wanted resources) and the other loses (unable to obtain the limited resource due to the “winning” group achieving the limited resource first) The length and severity of the conflict is based upon the perceived value and shortage of the given resource.According to RCT, positive relations can only be restored if superordinate goals are in place.

Group conflict can be separated into two sub-categories of conflict: inter-group conflict, and intra-group conflict. Although both forms of conflict have the ability to spiral upward in severity, it has been noted that conflict present at the group level (i.e., inter-group rivalries) is generally considered to be more powerful than conflict present at an individual level – a phenomenon known as the discontinuity effect

Two main sources of intergroup conflict have been identified: ‘competition for valued material resources, according to realistic conflict theory, or for social rewards like respect and esteem, as described by relative deprivation theory .  Group conflict can easily enter an escalating spiral of hostility marked by polarisation of views into black and white, with comparable actions viewed in diametrically opposite ways: ‘we offer concessions, but they attempt to lure us with ploys. We are steadfast and courageous, but they are unyielding, irrational, stubborn, and blinded by ideology’.

It is widely believed that intergroup and intragroup hostility are inversely related: that where there is external conflict there is unlikely to be internal strife, or where there is internal fighting there is unlikely to external wars. Thus individuals who are part of a group can experience an extraordinarily comforting feeling of mutual support from their group by focussing on a common enemy.

What does this mean for Organization Development?

Within groups both constructive and destructive conflict occurs, it is very important to accentuate the constructive conflict and minimize the destructive conflict. Conflict is bound to happen, but if used constructively need not be a bad thing.

Use constructive conflict by bringing up problems and alternative solutions (while still valuing others) allowing the group to work forward.  While ‘conflict may involve interpersonal as well as task issues’, keeping a window open for dissent can prove very advantageous.  On the other hand, there is evidence that an organizational culture of disrespect unproductively ‘generates a morass of politicking status games and infighting.

Intergroup Conflict

RCT can also provide an explanation for why competition over limited resources in organizations can present potentially harmful consequences in establishing successful organizational diversity and the establishment of organizational silos based on functions or teams.. RCT provides an explanation of this pattern because ingroup members are seen as competing for economic security, power, and prestige with the outgroup.

The second type of conflict is ‘domination of the outgroup by the ingroup,’ usually present in management versus employees or in a sales organization where customer service is seen as second fiddle to the sales teams. This occurs when different groups do not have equal status. If domination occurs, there are two responses the subordinate group may have. One is stable oppression, in which the subordinate group accepts the dominating group’s attitudes on some focal issue and sometimes, the dominant group’s deeper values to avoid further conflict. The second response that may occur is unstable oppression. This occurs when the subordinate group rejects the lower status forced upon them, and sees the dominating group as oppressive.

The dominant group then may view the subordinates’ challenge as either justified or unjustified. If it is seen as unjustified, the dominant group will likely respond to the subordinates’ rebellion with hostility. If the subordinates’ rebellion is viewed as justified, the subordinates are given the power to demand change.  The use of employee opinion surveys can give permission to employees to challenge management dominance.

Intragroup Conflict

Task Conflict: Task conflict arises when intra-group members disagree on issues that are relevant to meeting shared goals. Effective groups and organizations make use of these conflicts to make plans, foster creativity, solve problems and resolve misunderstandings. However, people who disagree with the group do so at their own peril, even when their position is reasonable. Dissenters often receive a high level of animosity from other group members, are less well-liked, assigned low-status tasks, and are sometimes ostracized.

Process Conflict: Process conflict refers to disagreement over the methods or procedures the group should use in order to complete its tasks. It occurs when strategies, policies, and procedures clash. For example, some group members may suggest discussing conflicting ideas, while other group members prefer to put conflicting ideas to a vote. In essence, during procedural conflicts, group members disagree on how to disagree. Situations of procedural conflict can be preemptively minimized by adopting formal rules or policies that specify goals, decisional processes, and responsibilities.

Personal Conflict: Personal conflicts, personality conflicts, emotional conflicts, or relationship conflicts, are conflicts that occur when group members dislike one another. Personal dislikes do not always result in conflict, but people often mention their negative feelings toward another group member when complaining about their groups. Also, there is evidence that a large proportion of group conflicts are indeed personal conflicts. One study of high level corporate executives revealed that 40% of disputes were due to “individual enmity between the principals without specific reference to other issues” (Morrill, 1995, p. 69). Criticism, when one person evaluates another, or his/her work negatively, is one common cause of personal conflict.

Social Psychology – Tyranny

Answers the Question

How do social influences contribute to extreme behaviours?

How it Began

Zimbardo (1973) was interested in finding out whether the brutality reported among guards in American prisons was due to the sadistic personalities of the guards or had more to do with the prison environment.

To study the roles people play in prison situations, Zimbardo converted a basement of the Stanford University psychology building into a mock prison. He advertised for students to play the roles of prisoners and guards for a fortnight. 21 male college students (chosen from 75 volunteers) were screened for psychological normality and paid $15 per day to take part in the experiment.

Zimbardo Prison Experiments

Participants were randomly assigned to either the role of prisoner or guard in a simulated prison environment. The prison simulation was kept as “real life” as possible. Prisoners were arrested at their own homes, without warning, and taken to the local police station.  Zimbardo observed the behaviour of the prisoners and guards.

Within hours of beginning the experiment some guards began to harass prisoners. They behaved in a brutal and sadistic manner, apparently enjoying it. Other guards joined in, and other prisoners were also tormented.

The prisoners soon adopted prisoner-like behavior too. They talked about prison issues a great deal of the time. They ‘told tales’ on each other to the guards. They started taking the prison rules very seriously, as though they were there for the prisoners’ benefit and infringement would spell disaster for all of them. Some even began siding with the guards against prisoners who did not conform to the rules.

Key Terminology

Tyranny – an unequal social system involving the arbitrary or oppressive use of power by one group or its agents over another

In Brief

Zimbardo (1973) had intended that the experiment should run for a fortnight, but on the sixth day he closed it down. There was real danger that someone might be physically or mentally damaged if it was allowed to run on. After some time for the researchers to gather their data the subjects were called back for a follow-up, debriefing session.

After the prison experiment was terminated Zimbardo interviewed the participants. Here’s an excerpt:

Most of the participants said they had felt involved and committed. The research had felt “real” to them. One guard said, “I was surprised at myself. I made them call each other names and clean the toilets out with their bare hands. I practically considered the prisoners cattle and I kept thinking I had to watch out for them in case they tried something.” Another guard said “Acting authoritatively can be fun. Power can be a great pleasure.” And another: “… during the inspection I went to Cell Two to mess up a bed which a prisoner had just made and he grabbed me, screaming that he had just made it and that he was not going to let me mess it up. He grabbed me by the throat and although he was laughing I was pretty scared. I lashed out with my stick and hit him on the chin although not very hard, and when I freed myself I became angry.”’

Most of the guards found it difficult to believe that they had behaved in the brutalizing ways that they had. Many said they hadn’t known this side of them existed or that they were capable of such things. The prisoners, too, couldn’t believe that they had responded in the submissive, cowering, dependent way they had. Several claimed to be assertive types normally. When asked about the guards, they described the usual three stereotypes that can be found in any prison: some guards were good, some were tough but fair, and some were cruel.

What does this mean for Organization Development

According to Zimbardo and his colleagues, the Stanford Prison Experiment demonstrates the powerful role that the situation can play in human behaviour. Because the guards were placed in a position of power, they began to behave in ways they would not normally act in their everyday lives or in other situations. The prisoners, placed in a situation where they had no real control, became passive and depressed.

People will readily conform to the social roles they are expected to play, especially if the roles are as strongly stereotyped as those of the prison guards. The “prison” environment was an important factor in creating the guards’ brutal behavior (none of the participants who acted as guards showed sadistic tendencies before the study). Therefore, the roles that people play can shape their behavior and attitudes.

Despite some of the criticism, the Stanford Prison Experiment remains an important study in our understanding of how the situation can influence human behaviour.

Using situation influences for good

Could we, through a series of small wins, architect a “slow ascent into goodness, step by step”? And could such an experiment be run at a societal level?

We actually already know the answer:

Positive Tickets

For years, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) detachment in Richmond, Canada ran like any other law enforcement bureaucracy and experienced similar results: recidivism or reoffending rates ran at around 60%, and they were experiencing spiraling rates of youth crime. This forward-thinking Canadian detachment, led by a young, new superintendent, Ward Clapham, challenged the core assumptions of the policing system itself. He noticed that the vast majority of police work was reactive. He asked: “Could we design a system that encouraged people to not commit crime in the first place?” Indeed, their strategic intent was a clever play on words: “Take No Prisoners.”

Their approach was to try to catch youth doing the right things and give them a Positive Ticket. The ticket granted the recipient free entry to the movies or to a local youth center. They gave out an average of 40,000 tickets per year. That is three times the number of negative tickets over the same period. As it turns out, and unbeknownst to Clapham, that ratio (2.9 positive affects to 1 negative affect, to be precise) is called the Losada Line. It is the minimum ratio of positive to negatives that has to exist for a team to flourish. On higher-performing teams (and marriages for that matter) the ratio jumps to 5:1. But does it hold true in policing?

According to Clapham, youth recidivism was reduced from 60% to 8%. Overall crime was reduced by 40%. Youth crime was cut in half. And it cost one-tenth of the traditional judicial system.

There is power in creating a positive cycle like Clapham did. Indeed, HBR‘s The Power of Small Wins, recently explored how managers can tap into relatively minor victories to significantly increase the satisfaction and motivation of their employees. It is an observation that has been made as far back as the 1968 issue of HBR in an article by Frederick Herzberg titled, “One More Time: How Do You Motivate Employees?”. That piece has been among the most popular articles atHarvard Business Review. His research showed that the two primary motivators for people were (1.) achievement and (2.) recognition for achievement.

The lesson here is to create a culture that immediately and sincerely celebrates victories. Here are three simple ways to begin:

1. Start your next staff meeting with five minutes on the question: “What has gone right since our last meeting?” Have each person acknowledge someone else’s achievement in a concrete, sincere way. Done right, this very small question can begin to shift the conversation.

2. Take two minutes every day to try to catch someone doing the right thing. It is the fastest and most positive way for the people around you to learn when they are getting it right.

3. Create a virtual community board where employees, partners and even customers can share what they are grateful for daily. Sounds idealistic? Vishen Lakhiani, CEO of Mind Valley, a new generation media and publishing company, has done just that at Gratitude Log.

Sources:

  • http://www.simplypsychology.org/zimbardo.html
  • http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2012/06/can_we_reverse_the_stanford_pr.html

Social Psychology – Obedience

Answers the Question

What circumstances produce obedience to authority even when doing something that can inflict extraordinary harm on their fellow human beings?

How it Began

One of the most famous studies of obedience in psychology was carried out by Stanley Milgram (1963).

Stanley Milgram, a psychologist at Yale University, conducted an experiment focusing on the conflict between obedience to authority and personal conscience.  Milgram was interested in researching how far people would go in obeying an instruction if it involved harming another person. Stanley Milgram was interested in how easily ordinary people could be influenced into committing atrocities for example, the justifications for acts of genocide offered by those accused at the World War II, Nuremberg War Criminal trials. Their defence often was based on “obedience” – that they were just following orders of their superiors.

Milgram selected participants for his experiment by advertising for male participants to take part in a study of learning at Yale University. The procedure was that the participant was paired with another person and they drew lots to find out who would be the ‘learner’ and who would be the ‘teacher’. The draw was fixed so that the participant was always the teacher, and the learner was one of Milgram’s confederates (pretending to be a real participant).

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The learner (a confederate called Mr. Wallace) was taken into a room and had electrodes attached to his arms, and the teacher and researcher went into a room next door that contained an electric shock generator and a row of switches marked from 15 volts (Slight Shock) to 375 volts (Danger: Severe Shock) to 450 volts (XXX).

The teacher is told to administer an electric shock every time the learner makes a mistake, increasing the level of shock each time. There were 30 switches on the shock generator marked from 15 volts (slight shock) to 450 (danger – severe shock).

The learner gave mainly wrong answers (on purpose) and for each of these the teacher gave him an electric shock. When the teacher refused to administer a shock and turned to the experimenter for guidance, he was given the standard instruction /order (consisting of 4 prods):

  • Prod 1: please continue.
  • Prod 2: the experiment requires you to continue.
  • Prod 3: It is absolutely essential that you continue.
  • Prod 4: you have no other choice but to continue.

65% (two-thirds) of participants (i.e. teachers) continued to the highest level of 450 volts. All the participants continued to 300 volts.

Key Terminology

Obedience – form of social influence where an individual acts in response to a direct order from another individual, who is usually an authority figure. It is assumed that without such an order the person would not have acted in this way.

In Brief

Ordinary people are likely to follow orders given by an authority figure, even to the extent of killing an innocent human being. Obedience to authority is ingrained in us all from the way we are brought up. Obey parents, teachers, anyone in authority etc.

Milgram summed up in the article “The Perils of Obedience” (Milgram 1974), writing:

“The legal and philosophic aspects of obedience are of enormous import, but they say very little about how most people behave in concrete situations. I set up a simple experiment at Yale University to test how much pain an ordinary citizen would inflict on another person simply because he was ordered to by an experimental scientist. Stark authority was pitted against the subjects’ [participants’] strongest moral imperatives against hurting others, and, with the subjects’ [participants’] ears ringing with the screams of the victims, authority won more often than not. The extreme willingness of adults to go to almost any lengths on the command of an authority constitutes the chief finding of the study and the fact most urgently demanding explanation.”

What does this mean for Organization Development?

The obedience experiments have been widely used in various domains to create broader organizational changes in large segments of society. Some textbooks on business ethics have used those experiments to warn students about the unethical demands that might be made on them by their bosses in the business world.

Obedience occurs when you are told to do something (authority), whereas conformity happens through social pressure (the norms of the majority). Obedience involves a hierarchy of power / status. Therefore, the person giving the order has a higher status than the person receiving the order.

We did not need Milgram’s research to inform us that people have a propensity to obey authority; what it did enlighten us about is the surprising strength of that tendency-that many people are willing to obey destructive orders that conflict with their moral principles and commit acts which they would not carry out on their own initiative. Once people have accepted the right of an authority to direct our actions, Milgram argued, we relinquish responsibility to him or her and allow that person to define for us what is right or wrong.

An application of Milgram’s research is that it suggests specific preventive actions people can take to resist unwanted pressures from authorities:

Question the authority’s legitimacy. We often give too wide a berth to people who project a commanding presence, either by their demeanor or by their mode of dress and follow their orders even in contexts irrelevant to their authority. For example, one study found that wearing a fireman’s uniform significantly increased a person’s persuasive powers to get a passerby to give change to another person so he could feed a parking meter.

When instructed to carry out an act you find abhorrent, even by a legitimate authority, stop and ask yourself: “Is this something I would do on my own initiative?” The answer may well be “No,” because, according to Milgram, moral considerations play a role in acts carried out under one’s own steam, but not when they emanate from an authority’s commands.

Don’t even start to comply with commands you feel even slightly uneasy about. Acquiescence to the commands of an authority that are only mildly objectionable is often, as in Milgram’s experiments, the beginning of a step-by-step, escalating process of entrapment. The farther one moves along the continuum of increasingly destructive acts, the harder it is to extract oneself from the commanding authority’s grip, because to do so is to confront the fact that the earlier acts of compliance were wrong.

If you are part of a group that has been commanded to carry out immoral actions, find an ally in the group who shares your perceptions and is willing to join you in opposing the objectionable commands. It is tremendously difficult to be a lone dissenter, not only because of the strong human need to belong, but also because-via the process of pluralistic ignorance-the compliance of others makes the action seem acceptable and leads you to question your own negative judgment. In one of Milgram’s conditions the naïve subject was one of a 3-person teaching team. The other two were actually confederates who-one after another-refused to continue shocking the victim. Their defiance had a liberating influence on the subjects, so that only 10% of them ended up giving the maximum shock.

Sources:

  • http://www.simplypsychology.org/obedience.html
  • http://www.apa.org/research/action/order.aspx

Social Psychology – Minority Influence

Answers the Question

Can a numerical minority influence the attitudes of the majority?

How it Began

In many of the conformity studies described so far it was a minority group who were conforming to the majority. Moscovici (1976, 1980) argued along different lines. He claimed that Asch (1951) and others had put too much emphasis on the notion that the majority in a group has a large influence on the minority. In his opinion, it is also possible for a minority to influence the majority. In fact Asch agreed with Moscovici. He too felt that minority influence did occur, and that it was potentially a more valuable issue to study – to focus on why some people might follow minority opinion and resist group pressure.

Moscovici argues that majority influence tends to be based on public compliance. It is likely to be a case of normative social influence. In this respect, power of numbers is important – the majority have the power to reward and punish with approval and disapproval. And because of this there is pressure on minorities to conform.

Minority Influence

Since majorities are often unconcerned about what minorities think about them, minority influence is rarely based on normative social influence. Instead, it is usually based on informational social influence – providing the majority with new ideas, new information which leads them to re-examine their views. In this respect, minority influence involves private acceptance (i.e. internalization)- converting the majority by convincing them that the minority’s views are right.

Key Terminology

Minority influence – a form of social influence that is attributed to exposure to a consistent minority position in a group.

Behavioural Style – a correlated set of individual behavioural and physiological characteristics that is consistent over time and across situations.

Style of Thinking – the way individuals think, perceive and remember information

Flexibility – contacting the present moment fully as a conscious human being, and based on what the situation affords, changing or persisting in behaviour in the service of chosen values

Identification – a psychological process whereby the subject assimilates an aspect, property, or attribute of the other and is transformed, wholly or partially, after the model the other provides

In Brief

Minority influence is generally felt only after a period of time, and tends to produce private acceptance of the views expressed by the minority.

An important real-life example of a minority influencing a majority was the suffragette movement in the early years of the 20th century. A relatively small group of suffragettes argued strongly for the initially unpopular view that women should be allowed to vote. The hard work of the suffragettes, combined with the justice of their case, finally led the majority to accept their point of view.

Moscovic made a distinction between compliance and conversion. Compliance is common in conformity studies (e.g. Asch) whereby the participants publicly conform to the group norms but privately reject them. Conversion involves how a minority can influence the majority. It involves convincing the majority that the minority views are correct. This can be achieved a number of different ways (e.g. consistency, flexibility). Conversion is different to compliance as it usually involves both public and private acceptance of a new view or behavior (i.e. internalization).

Four main factors have been identified as important for a minority to have an influence over a majority.  These are behavioural style, style of thinking, flexibility, and identification.

Behavioural Style

This comprises 4 components:

  1. Consistency: The minority must be consistent in their opinion
  2. Confidence in the correctness of ideas and views they are presenting
  3. Appearing to be unbiased
  4. Resisting social pressure and abuse

Moscovici (1969) stated that the most important aspect of behaviuoral style is the consistency with which people hold their position. Being consistent and unchanging in a view is more likely to influence the majority than if a minority is inconsistent and chops and changes their mind.

Moscovici (1969) investigated behavioural styles (consistent / inconsistent) on minority influence in his blue-green studies. He showed that a consistent minority was more successful than an inconsistent minority in changing the views of the majority.

Consistency may be important because:

  • Confronted with a consistent opposition, members of the majority will sit up, take notice, and rethink their position.
  • Consistency gives the impression that the minority are convinced they are right and are committed to their viewpoint.
  • Also, when the majority is confronted with someone with self-confidence and dedication to take a popular stand and refuses to back own, they may assume that he or she has a point.
  • A consistent minority disrupts established norms and creates uncertainty, doubt and conflict. This can lead to the majority taking the minority view seriously. The majority will therefore be more likely to question their own views.

In order to change the majorities view the minority has to propose a clear position and has to defend and advocate its position consistently.

Style of Thinking

  • Identify three or four minority groups (e.g. asylum seekers, British National Party etc.)
  • How do you think and respond to each of these minority groups and the views they put forward?
  • Do you dismiss their views outright or think about what they have to say and discuss their views with other people?

If you dismiss the views of other people without giving them much thought, you would have engaged in superficial thought / processing.  By contrast, if you had thought deeply about the views being put forward, you would have engaged in systematic thinking / processing (Petty et al., 1994).  Research has shown that if a minority can get the majority to think about an issue and think about arguments for and against, then the minority stands a good chance of influencing the majority (Smith et al., 1996).

If the minority can get the majority to discuss and debate the arguments that the minority are putting forward, influence is likely to be stronger (Nemeth, 1995).

Flexibility and Compromise

A number of researchers have questioned whether consistency alone is sufficient for a minority to influence a majority. They argue that the key is how the majority interprets consistency. If the consistent minority are seen as inflexible, rigid, uncompromising and dogmatic, they will be unlikely to change the views of the majority. However, if they appear flexible and compromising, they are likely to be seen as less extreme, as more moderate, cooperative and reasonable. As a result, they will have a better chance of changing majority views (Mugny & Papastamou, 1980).

Some researchers have gone further and suggested that it is not just the appearance of flexibility and compromise which is important but actual flexibility and compromise.

This possibility was investigated by Nemeth (1986). The experiment was based on a mock jury in which groups of three participants and one confederate had to decide on the amount of compensation to be given to the victim of a ski-lift accident. When the consistent minority (the confederate) argued for a very low amount and refused to change his position, he had no effect on the majority. However, when he compromised and moved some way towards the majority position, the majority also compromised and changed their view.

This experiment questions the importance of consistency. The minority position changed, it was not consistent, and it was this change that apparently resulted in minority influence.

Identification

People tend to identity with people they see similar to themselves. For example, men tend to identify with men, Asians with Asians, teenagers with teenagers etc. Research indicates that if the majority identifies with the minority, then they are more likely to take the views of the minority seriously and change their own views in line with those of the minority.

For example, one study showed that a gay minority arguing for gay rights had less influence on a straight majority than a straight minority arguing for gay rights (Maass et al., 1982). The non-gay majority identified with the non-gay minority. They tended to see the gay minority as different from themselves, as self-interested and concerned with promoting their own particular cause.

What does this mean for Organization Development?

Social influence is key to managerial effectIveness and an integral part of working in teams and organizations. Members of organizations rely on one another to validate their views of the world, they seek and maintain norms and values about what they deem appropriate or not, and they influence one another to serve theIr personal or group interests.

As an OD practitioner very often you begin in a position of minority dissent which means you will be publicly advocating and,pursing beliefs, attitudes, Ideas, procedures, and policies that go against organizational norms or the “spirit of the times” and challenge the position or perspective assumed by the majority.

Levine and Kaarbo argued that in political decision-making groups four types of minorities may be distinguished.

  1. Progressive minorities advance a new perspective and seek to convince the majority of its value.
  2. Conservative minorities attempt to block the majorities’ tendency to adopt a new, progressive perspective.
  3. Modernist minorities try to block the majorities’ tendency to return to previously held attitudes and policies,
  4. Reactionary minorities try to persuade the majority to return to previously help opinions and perspectives.

Each of these four minority groups can be found in organizational life, and can either help, or hinder an OD intervention, and as an OD practitioner a lot of of your time will be spent as a Progressive or Modernist Minority, whilst trying to overcome the objections of the Conservative and Reactionary minorities who will try and sabotage your efforts.

If the norms of groups with which you are working are no longer effective, start a minority group. If possible, ensure the progressive or modernist minority group controls a critical resource or other form of effective influence which can be used to prevent rejection or punishment.  Minority influence is more likely to occur if the point of view of the minority is consistent, flexible, and appealing to the majority. Having a consistent and unwavering opinion will increase the appeal to the majority, leading to a higher chance of adaption to the minority view. However, any wavering opinions from the minority group could lead the majority to dismiss the minority’s claims and opinions.  An effective approach is to accumulate ‘brownie points’ by first supporting the majority, and then branching out. With applied skill, you can take a number of others with you.

A study by Elizabeth Mannix and Margaret Neale (2005) shows that having the support from the majority leader could be the critical factor is getting the minority opinion to be heard and be accepted. The support of the leader gives the majority more confidence in the merit of the minority opinion, leading to an overall respect for the minority. The strength of the “key people” (Van Avermaet, 1996) comes from the reputation built from their consistency of behaviours and ideas. Involving key people will benefit the minority view because people are more open to hear from others who they trust and respect. In minority influence, a few influential leaders can influence the opposing majority to the minority’s way of thinking. In the end, having a more supportive and active minority group could lead to innovative and better decision making

You can also remain in the main group and quietly support minority groups who can be used to do things you could not otherwise perform. Where you are in the main group and have an influential minority, seek ways of either accommodating or circumventing conservative and reactionary minorities. You can also seek to divide and conquer, sowing seeds of discontent within the minority group.

Source – http://www.simplypsychology.org/minority-influence.html