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Organizational Psychology – Virtual Teams

Answers the Question

How do organizations successfully utilize virtual teams?

How it began

Research into virtual teams continues with the growth of global organizations and remote working. The improvements in communication technology has enabled virtual teams to become normalized in most organizational settings but the setting is recognized as being messy.

They share many challenges as those experienced by face-to-face teams but these challenges are exacerbated by their virtuality: poor line management;

Underperformance from individual members leads to greater levels of dysfunction.

Other theoretical issues are also raised including: Where does team boundaries begin and end? How can technology be used to improve performance? What is the balance between local responsiveness and global integration?

Virtual Teams

Key Terminology

Virtual Teams – groups of interdependent coworkers who are geographically dispersed, dependent on technology, structurally dynamic and culturally diverse

Emergent states – important mediational influences with explanatory power accounting for variability in team performance.

In Brief

Input-process-output (IPO) Framework (Hackman & Morris 1975; McGrrath, 1984)
Inputs are factors that are controllable by organisations for example; leadership behaviours, team composition; HR policies; job design
Team processes are the interdependency of team activities required for teamwork leading to the achievement of team goals. Categories include action, transition or interpersonal. The lack of understanding of group values; regulative information and social cues negatively affect individual’s ability to reduce ambiguity, establish social identity to establish collaborative partnerships
Outputs include performance; attitudes and behaviours.

Individual-Level

Four themes are highlighted at individual level; 1) Communication effects caused by technology; Computer mediated communication is highlighted where individual or social identity will determine conformity to either personal or social norms. 2) relational demography where diversity affects individual expectations about teamwork 3) individual differences; where individual differences including personality characteristics and cognitive styles and the resulting commitment to virtual teams and 4) task type and characteristics; where relation to positive individual outcomes including trust, task attraction, social attraction and self rated task success impact adherence to a set of team work rules.

What does this mean for OD

  1. Reviewing technology to ensure leaner media (video-conferencing; e-mail) is used to facilitate communication clarity when team members have less task-relevant knowledge
  2. Check team composition; heterogeneous virtual teams are more superior that Face to Face teams, but Homogeneous teams are more satisfied, cohesive and experience less conflict.
  3. Keep virtual teams small – smaller teams participate more actively, are more committed to the team, have high goal and team member awareness and higher levels of rapport.
  4. Pay attention to the four critical success factors for virtual teams – communication; culture; technology and project management.
  5. The most successful virtual teams have more concentrated leadership behaviour focused on performance and keeping track of group work.
  6. Length of leader’s tenure increases levels of trust and technology support.
  7. Social communication is linked to building trust early in global virtual teams.
  8. Substantive and timely response and leadership are involved in maintaining trust at later stages.

References

Hackman, J. R. and Morris, C. G. (1975) Group tasks, group interaction process and group performance effectiveness: A review and proposed integration. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.) Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 8 pp. 47 – 101). New York. Academic Press

Kirkman, B. L, Gibson, C. B. and Kim, K. (2012) Across Borders and Technologies: Advancements in Virtual Team Research. In Kozlowski, S. W. J. (Ed.) The Oxford Handbook of Organizational Psychology (Vol. 2. pp. 789 – 858). Oxford. Oxford University Press

McGrath, J. E. (1984). Groups, interaction and performance. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall

 

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Organisational Psychology – Team Participation and Empowerment: A Multilevel Perspective

Answers the Question

How can organisations leverage their human resources to meet complex challenges?

How it Began

Interest in empowerment and participation can be traced back to Kurt Lewin’s classic research on leadership styles and the 1930’s Hawthorne studies.  Individual agency needs (e.g. need for control and achievement) have long supported motivation provided by employee involvement and empowerment.  At an organisational level the growing importance of self-managed and self empowered teams has led to a growing interest in participation and empowerment especially with the shift to a knowledge economy and delayering within organisations.

Psychology

Much research into empowerment has been conducted at an individual level.  However, Kirkman and Rosen (1997, 1999) explored empowerment at a team level, arguing that team members can share the belief that their team has autonomy, performs meaningful tasks, is competent and can make an impact.  There is an assumption that these dimensions have the same conceptual meaning as those at individual level analysis.  However, team empowerment is distinct from individual empowerment in that individual members may differ in their beliefs about personal empowerment but have a shared belief and experience among the team members.

A closely related concept is that of Team Participation which entails greater engagement of team members in the processes contributing to team success.  There are three key processes; transition processes, how team task strategies, goals and plans are generated; action processes, how the team coordinate and regulate effort to achieve team goals; interpersonal processes, how teams manage conflict and morale in the team.

Both empowerment and participation assumes that involving team members in core team functions would lead to improved team effectiveness and improve team outcomes.  This would prove satisfying for team members and would further motivate and engage the team further in their work.  Thus capturing important aspects of engagement.   However, team empowerment captures the psychological engagement among team members whereas team participation involves collective behavioural engagement of team members.  The interconnectedness between empowerment and participation across both individual-level and team-level reflect both a bottom up and a top down process through which individual members influence their team, and the team influences individual members.

Key Terminology

Empowerment – an employee’s actual (subjective) sense of being empowered determined by a set of believes or states; autonomy, meaning, competence and impact

Autonomy –  An employee’s sense that they have latitude to choose how and where to get their job done

Team Participation – A process of information exchange and knowledge transfer.  The extent to which team members collectively and actively engage in transition, action and interpersonal processes.

In Brief

Job Characteristics Model (Hackman & Oldham, 1976) – The key to employee motivation  is the task itself.  Monotony stifles motivation to perform well, whereas challenge enhances motivation. Variety, autonomy and the ability to make decisions are three ways of adding challenge to a job. Job enrichment and job rotation are the two ways of adding variety and challenge.

Self-determination theory (Deci, Connell, & Ryan, 1989) is concerned with supporting our natural or intrinsic tendencies to behave in effective and healthy ways.  Thereby capturing the belief that employees possess the competence to perform effectively work tasks and roles and the belief they can make an impact on the workplace.

Participation in Decision Making (Locke and Schweiger, 1979, Locke et al., 1997) assumes that encouraging and allowing employees to be involved in decision making processes motivates employees and promotes decision quality and outcomes.  Perceived fairness, nature of task and employee knowledge contribute to understanding how participation in decision making is related to performance and motivation outcomes.

Proactive and Citizenship Behaviours Personal Initiative (Frese & Fay, 2001), Voice (Van Dyne & LePine, 1998) and Citizenship Behaviours (Podsakoff, Mackenzie, Paine & Bachrach, 2000) directly consider employees’ active and proactive engagement in work.  Employee choose, and are encouraged, to actively participate in and contribute to organizational work.

Self-Managed and Autonomous Work Teams (Cohen & Bailey, 1997) is where members of self-managed work teams are encouraged to be involved and participate in making decisions that previously were made by supervisors and managers.  Self managed teams are reliant on team design and structural empowerment.

What does this mean for Organisation Development?

The OD practitioner must recognise that teams consist of a social system of interdependent individual members – that is, individual team members cannot accomplish their roles effectively, and the team as a whole cannot function effectively, unless members work together in a coordinated fashion.  In this respect individual and team empowerment are positively related.

At an individual level developing individual employees in respect to positive self-views, including self-esteem and general self-efficacy are positively related to psychological empowerment.

Supporting individuals to interpret work experience more positively, as well as enabling individuals to be more proactive at work will enhance the likelihood of an individual being more empowered.  Working with individual’s through coaching and self-awareness can help develop motivational attributes; increase awareness of cultural differences; develop an understanding of employee expertise and highlight the quality of leader-employee relationships.

Other areas to focus on through Management Development is for Managers to support the individuals need for achievement and openness and emotional stability.  This can be achieved through review job characteristics to ensure that job tasks are less ambiguous; there is access to more information; greater skill variety; autonomy; team based rewards, role expectations; task significance and job feedback.  The quality of relationship between employees and their supervisor and co-worker must also be developed through social support structures.

Social-orientated inputs also need tackling, specifically leadership behaviours and climate which exert social influences on teams, and play a major role in allowing, encouraging and enabling team empowerment.  Developing empowering leadership behaviours will help team members to set their own goals, delegate responsibility, enhance the teams’ sense of control and autonomy and raise team members’ expectations regarding team outcomes.

An empowerment climate and participative leadership can be developed through making use of organisational structures, encouraging information sharing, team accountability, policies and practices which support employee empowerment.

References

  • Cohen, S. G., & Bailey, D. E. (1997). What makes teams work: Group effectiveness research from the shop floor to the executive suite. Journal of management, 23(3), 239-290.
  • Deci, E. L., Connell, J. P., & Ryan, R. M. (1989). Self-determination in a work organization. Journal of applied psychology, 74(4), 580.
  • Frese, M., & Fay, D. (2001). 4. Personal initiative: An active performance concept for work in the 21st century. Research in organizational behavior, 23, 133-187.
  • Hackman, J. R., & Oldham, G. R. (1976). Motivation through the design of work: Test of a theory. Organizational behavior and human performance, 16(2), 250-279.
  • Kozlowski, S. W. J., (2012) The Oxford Handbook of Organizational Psyhcology Volume 2, Oxford University Press, Oxford. Pg. 767 – Pg. 788
  • Kirkman, B. L., & Rosen, B. (1999). Beyond self-management: Antecedents and consequences of team empowerment. Academy of Management journal, 42(1), 58-74.
  • Kirkman, B. L., & Rosen, B. (1997) A model  of work team empowerment. Research in Organizational Change and Development, 10, 131 – 167
  • Locke, E. A.,Alavi, M., & Wagner, J. A. (1997) Participation in decision making: An information exchange perspective. Research in Personnel and Human Resources Management, 15, 293-331
  • Locke, E. A., & Schweiger, D. M. (1979). Participation in decision-making: One more look. Research in organizational behavior, 1(10), 265-339.
  • Podsakoff, P. M., MacKenzie, S. B., Paine, J. B., & Bachrach, D. G. (2000). Organizational citizenship behaviors: A critical review of the theoretical and empirical literature and suggestions for future research. Journal of management, 26(3), 513-563.
  • Van Dyne, L., & LePine, J. A. (1998). Helping and voice extra-role behaviors: Evidence of construct and predictive validity. Academy of Management Journal, 41(1), 108-119.
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Organizational Psychology – Multivariate Dynamics in Organizational Science

Answers the Question

How should you approach the analysis of longitudinal data that may possess dynamic cycle of influence among multiple variables?

How it Began

Research interest in dynamic processes are increasing in the field of organisational psychology, at the same time the length and complexity of longitudinal data structures have increased.  Longitudinal data are increasingly important in the study of organizational behaviour. However, the current models used to represent the patterns present in longitudinal data are largely limited to the study of recursive relations (i.e., HLM and SEM). This is inconsistent with what we know about the self-regulated functioning of organizations, teams, and individuals where feedback loops and cyclical processes are thought to be the norm.

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Key Terminology

Multivariate statistical analysis – a large set of algorithms used to identify patterns of dependence existing between variables that share the same probability of distribution.

Static Dimensionality – the ordinary factorial representation of performance

Dynamic Dimensionality – temporal factors influencing the performance domain

Individual Dimensionality – variability in the type of performance across persons in the same job.

Recursive Relations – Recursion is the process of repeating items in a self-similar way.  In mathematics, a recurrence relation is an equation that recursively defines a sequence.

In Brief

Questions about the dynamic processes that drive behaviour at work have been the focus of increasing attention in recent years. Models describing behaviour at work and research on momentary behavior indicate that substantial variation exists within individuals.  Of central interest to applied psychologists is how to define job performance, both conceptually and operationally. Most validation research treats job performance as a monolithic and static construct. There is considerable empirical evidence that job performance is multidimensional and it is possible that job performance is not stable over time. In fact, job performance data can usually be classified by three modes: the individuals assessed, the variables measured, and the times of measurement providing systematic sources of variance in job performance data, that is, multidimensionality.   Organizational Science has advanced calls for job performance studies that include changes over time, referring to this approach as multivariate dynamic.

In order to validly measure the frequency and the patterning of mental processes in everyday-life situations procedures are needed that capture variations in self-reports of those processes. To this end, experience sampling methodology has been developed in which a participant at random or specific times has to report on his or her mental state or those activities in which he or she is involved at that moment.

If performance changes over time, it would useful to find predictors of the change itself. Personality measures have been used in addition to cognitive ability measures to predict individual growth curves for performance criteria. Research indicates that both cognitive ability and conscientiousness predict initial academic performance, but only conscientiousness predicts performance trajectories. This may happen because early performance is a transition phase of skill acquisition and later performance is a maintenance phase.

Workplace behaviour comes in two basic kinds: affect driven and judgment driven. Workplace events cause affective reactions, and these affective reactions directly influence affect-driven behavior. But these affective reactions also influence job attitudes that in turn directly influence judgment-driven behaviours.

Affective events theory hypothesizes that momentary affect should thus show stronger relationships with momentary behaviours such as work withdrawal (e.g., taking long coffee breaks or surfing the Web) and that job attitudes should have stronger relationships with more considered behaviours such as job withdrawal (e.g., job search, turnover intentions, quitting). Furthermore, it is expected that individual differences in personality will moderate both the link between events and affect and predict the affective reactions themselves.

The episodic process model suggests that there will be important momentary fluctuations in the affective and regulatory resources available for employees to apply to performance behaviours. This model articulates reasons performance behaviours should meaningfully vary within persons over short time periods. For example, if my supervisor yells at me, and I then need to interact with a client, I may have to regulate my emotional display to appear positive to the client. This act of emotion regulation uses up some of my regulatory resources and may therefore make it more difficult for me to focus my attention on a report I need to write later in the day.

Obtaining evidence requires research designs that are capable of untangling both within- and between-individual variability.

What does this mean for Organizational Development?

Dimensions in the individuals mode differentiate types of employees. For example, two salespersons may provide the same economic benefit to the organization, but one contributes by directly making sales, whereas the other contributes by cre- ating goodwill, encouraging customers to make purchases throughout the store. Such individual difference dimensions of performance could be important in a variety of situations. If the organization derives the same economic benefit from different employees in different ways, these differences should be reflected in selection and reward systems.

Static dimensionality refers to the latent structure of the variables measuring job performance. Historically, the study of job performance was characterized by a search for the “ultimate criterion,” a comprehensive index of performance. It has been pointed out that this is an inappropriate way to conceptualize performance.  There is evidence across many jobs that overall job performance can consist of as many as eight dimensions. At minimum, organizational development consultants researching job performance as part of an organisational diagnostic should consider both task performance, the technical core of the job, and contextual performance, the social and nontechnical contributions an individual makes at work.

These dimensions have been found to independently contribute to supervisors’ perceptions of their subordinates’ overall job performance. For instance, consider two salespeople who have equal sales. One is known to be a loner, whereas the other gives advice and assistance to coworkers. The latter will be viewed as the superior performer due to the social contributions this salesperson makes.

The dynamic nature of performance criteria is also important to consider for employee selection.

Experience sampling methods are ideally suited to explore dynamic models of work behaviour because measurements may be taken throughout the work day on several variables.  Experience sampling data are three-mode (Persons x Variables x Occasions) and are frequently analyzed with multilevel models with the occasions mode nested within persons.

The data been collected as part of an organizational diagnostic with the intent of examining structure and dynamics, requires that the performance variables would need to be systematically sampled from the repertoire of performance behaviours. Self-reported measures may not accurately represent what a worker is actually doing.

Diagnosis of the job performance domain and its three sources of variance should be examined across a sample from the population of jobs. This requires collecting experience sampling and other longitudinal data in many organizations with many different types of employees.

Data should be collected using multiple methods and examined using multiple analytic procedures. Such a strategy will allow for a scientific understanding of the dynamic interaction of individual and workplace attributes in the study of organizational behaviour.

 

 

Resources

Spain, Seth M. , Miner, Andrew G. , Kroonenberg, Pieter M. and Drasgow, Fritz(2010) ‘Job Performance as Multivariate Dynamic Criteria: Experience Sampling and Multiway Component Analysis’, Multivariate Behavioral Research, 45: 4, 599 — 626

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Organizational Psychology – Uncovering Causality

Answers the Question

How do you remove problems to the validity of interpretations of cause and effect in organizational research?

How it Began

Research and statistics play a large role in the studies of organizational psychology. There are many methods of research and statistics used to determine information and answers to the many questions posed by organizational psychologists. When collecting data, researchers must be aware of several issues that can affect the validity of their research. Generalizing information across differing organizations can commonly lead to mistakes. Research methods vary and should be used to suit the questions at hand.

cause and effect

Research and statistics are a key component in organizational psychology, and they are used to determine and analyze data. These tools are used to greatly increase the effectiveness and success of an organization.  Since inferring causal relationships is one of the central tasks of science, it is a topic that has been heavily debated in the use of organizational development consultancy.

Cause and effect is one of the most commonly misunderstood concepts in science and is often misused in an attempt to add legitimacy to research.   The basic principle of causality is determining whether the results and trends observed are actually caused by the intervention or whether some other factor may underlie the process.

Business schools perpetuate the myth that the outcomes of changes in organizations can be managed using models that are rooted in the scientific-rational mode of enquiry. In essence, such models assume that all important variables that affect an outcome (i.e. causes) are known and that the relationship between these variables and the outcomes (i.e. effects) can be represented accurately by simple models. This is the nature of explanation in the hard sciences such as physics and is pretty much the official line adopted by mainstream management research and teaching

The first thing to remember with causality, especially in the non-physical sciences, is that it is impossible to establish complete causality.

Reliability and validity are extremely difficult to achieve in organisation studies. Unlike chemical and biological processes that can be controlled within laboratories, studying humans has the added complication that the humans can figure out they are being studied and shift results.

But even if a strong case can be made for reliability and validity, three conditions must be satisfied to demonstrate cause and effect (essentially to strengthen the case for it). These conditions are all necessary but no one of them is sufficient:

  • The cause has to occur in time before the effect.
  • Changes in the cause has to create a corresponding change in the effect.
  • No other explanation for the relationship can be present.

Key Terminology

Causality – Causality refers to the relationship between events where one set of events (the effects) is a direct consequence of another set of events (the causes).

Causal inference – the process by which one can use data to make claims about causal relationships.

Reliability – the study is replicable and can be conducted repeatedly in the same manner as before, preferably by other people to reduce bias.

Validity – the study is actually measuring what it is assuming it is measuring

In Brief

Cause and effect means establishing that one variable has caused a change in the other variable for example has an increase in stress levels caused employee turnover. It is important to establish cause and effect, so that an undesirable effect can be changed or eliminated i.e. reducing employee turnover by decreasing levels of stress.

To show that an outcome was directly caused by an intervention, there are three criteria we need to consider:

  1. Time-order effect: The intervention must precede the outcome. The introduction of the OD intervention occurred before the changes in the measured outcome occurred.
  2. Strength of association: There is a correlation between the desired outcome and the intervention. For instance, there should be trend between those who participated in the intervention, and the corresponding increase in a measured outcome.
  3. Exclusion of alternate explanations: There should be no other major explanation attributed to the outcome except for that of your intervention. For example, if significant change in work plans also took place during that period, which subsequently impacted the measured outcome, the causality of the OD intervention on the outcome could be cast in doubt.

Examples of Methods of Research

Simple observation, the most basic of research strategies, involves observing and systematically recording behaviour.  The purpose of observational studies in the Organization Development Diagnostic Phase is to produce data that demonstrates a strong cases for causation is obviously to create effective solutions to real problems. In the evaluation phase the Organization Development consultant will seek to provide data to demonstrate the changes that the intervention has delivered.

Archival data represent any form of data or records that are compiled for purposes that are independent of the research being conducted. By far the most widely used form of data collection in organizational diagnostic intervention is survey research. Survey research simply involves asking participants to report about their attitudes and/or behaviours, either in writing or verbally.

If the data is problematic, the treatment will be ineffective and sometimes harmful.

However, organizations have come to a stark conclusion that understanding the diverse dynamics of organization, group and individual behaviour in the work place is extremely important financially. Employees understanding of their role in a company and their particular enthusiasm and loyalty play pivotal roles. Many companies realize that keeping employees motivated and engaged is a financially sound business practice. High turnover of skilled employees is not a desired effect organizations are looking for. Organizational psychology and the effective employment of causality research design can be and are of tremendous benefit to organizations that realize the importance of the connection between people and performance.

What does this mean for Organization Development?

Research methodology and statistical analysis are crucial to the practice of organizational development. Research methodology and statistical analysis may be used to evaluate some intervention designed to enhance organizational effectiveness.  To date, there are people who still wonder if OD efforts are indeed effective in improving organisational performance. This is why there is a need to show how well OD interventions are working — and having a sound evaluation strategy is key to doing so.

Demonstrating causality can be challenging in organisations given its dynamism and the possible emergence of new factors— internal and external that can have an influence on the desired outcome. This is why it is important to clearly establish the leader’s expectations during the contracting meeting — the face-to-face meeting with the leader, where you get to ask probing questions to better understand his/her expectations on the desired outcome, as well as establish the expectation that the intervention can have a direct influence on the desired outcome. Securing agreement on these expectations can go a long way in ensuring that our efforts in outcome evaluation will be accepted by our leader. But even when agreement is secured, it is advisable that we continually check in with our leader throughout the duration of the intervention implementation to make sure that what we are doing is still on the right path.

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Social Psychology – Helping in Emergencies

Answers the Question

The effect that the number of other people present in an emergency situation has on the willingness of an individual to respond to an emergency.

How it Began

On March 13, 1964, Kitty Genovese was murdered in front of her home. She parked her car a number of feet from her apartment when all of a sudden, a man named Winston Moseley chased her down and stabbed her in the back twice. Due to the excruciating pain, Kitty screamed for help and a neighbour responded shouting at the criminal “Let that girl alone! “Immediately after getting the attention of the criminal, Winston fled the scene and left the girl crawling towards her apartment.

it-failures-blame-game-part-2

Several witnesses reported to have seen Winston flee the scene with his car and returned ten minutes after the response of one of the neighbours. After seeing his prey lying on the ground almost unconscious, he stabbed the already wounded Kitty Genovese several times more. After this, he stole the money of the victim and sexually assaulted Ms Genovese. A neighbour phoned the police and an ambulance arrived but was too late to help the assaulted Kitty Genovese.

Thirty-eight neighbours of Kitty Genovese were aware that the murder was taking place at the time of the attack and yet all of them chose to do nothing in rescue of the assaulted girl. Why were such apathy, indifference and lack of concern observed from all the neighbours of Kitty?

Two social psychologists, John Darley and Bibb Latané started asking questions as to why the witnesses demonstrated a lack of reaction towards the victim’s need for help.

Key Terminology

The bystander effect – the phenomenon in which the greater the number of people present, the less likely people are to help a person in distress.

Diffusion of responsibility – a sociopsychological phenomenon whereby a person is less likely to take responsibility for action or inaction when others are present.

In Brief

In a series of classic studies, researchers Bibb Latane and John Darley(1) found that the amount of time it takes the participant to take action and seek help varies depending on how many other observers are in the room. In one experiment, subjects were placed in one of three treatment conditions: alone in a room, with two other participants or with two confederates who pretended to be normal participants.

As the participants sat filling out questionnaires, smoke began to fill the room. When participants were alone, 75% reported the smoke to the experimenters. In contrast, just 38% of participants in a room with two other people reported the smoke. In the final group, the two confederates in the experiment noted the smoke and then ignored it, which resulted in only 10% of the participants reporting the smoke.

There are two major factors that contribute to the bystander effect. First, the presence of other people creates a diffusion of responsibility. Because there are other observers, individuals do not feel as much pressure to take action, since the responsibility to take action is thought to be shared among all of those present.

The second reason is the need to behave in correct and socially acceptable ways. When other observers fail to react, individuals often take this as a signal that a response is not needed or not appropriate. Other researchers have found that onlookers are less likely to intervene if the situation is ambiguous.

Group psychology can also influence behaviour positively; in the event that one bystander takes responsibility for the situation and takes specific action, other bystanders are more likely to follow course. This is a positive example of the usually-pejorative herd mentality. Thus, the presence of bystanders affects individual helping behaviour by processes of social influence and diffusion of responsibility.

What does this mean for Organisation Development?

Individually, we have all been taught that taking responsibility for our actions is the right thing to do. However, in today’s business environment, it is often uncommon to work alone.  Being with a crowd can make it easy to avoid personal responsibility for taking action. Group inaction conveys the sense to all that the “definition of the situation” is do nothing and don’t get involved.

Group mentality can have a positive effect on team interactions when it comes to sharing success. When projects are successful, most individual team members are more than willing to claim their share of the responsibility. But the bystander effect happens when a group project has stalled or is not successful. The same individuals are less willing to take responsibility in this scenario.

Although it depends on the individual, when you start digging to identify the reasons behind a stalled or unsuccessful project, diffusion of responsibility often comes into play. If one person is asked why a task was not completed, you can often expect to hear, “I thought [so and so] was responsible for that task”.

As a leader, group member and/or an individual, it is important to learn techniques  to change this dynamic. One option is to by setting a positive example, other group members will follow suit, resulting in more progress and more shared success. As an OD consultant role modelling responsibility for your actions regardless of the scenario and highlighting areas of issue will help reduce the impact of the diffusion of responsibility on an OD project.

The good news that Bibb and Latane uncovered was that it takes very little to call bystanders to action. The simple act of asking, ‘What should we do about the smoke? was enough to get people on their feet, opening windows and calling for help. Everyone wanted to do something; they were just waiting for their cue.  The same is true when it comes to tackling issues that are highlighted by the diagnostic part of the OD cycle, simply by calling individuals and groups to action is enough to get people moving.