Intergroup Interventions in Organizational Development

Inter-group team building intervention intends to increase communications and interactions between work related groups to reduce the amount of dysfunctional competition and to replace a parochial independent point of view with an awareness of the necessity for interdependence of action calling on the best efforts of both the groups. Inter-group interventions are integrated into Organizational Development programs to facilitate cooperation and efficiency between different groups within an organization. For instance, departmental interaction often deteriorates in larger organizations as different divisions battle for limited resources or become detached from the needs of other departments. Conflict resolution meetings are one common inter-group intervention. First, different group leaders are brought together to get their commitment to the intervention. Next, the teams meet separately to make a list of their feelings about the other group(s). Then the groups meet and share their lists. Finally, the teams meet to discuss the problems and to try to develop solutions that will help both parties. This type of intervention helps to gradually diffuse tension between groups caused by lack of communication and misunderstanding.

Blake, Shepard and Mouton came up with a method which is used between groups that are strained and overly hostile. The process is to obtain commitment from the leaders of each group on their willingness to find procedures that will improve inter group relations. Groups are put in different rooms. The task of each group is to generate two lists. They should put down thoughts, attitudes, perceptions and feelings about the other group, predict what the other group will say about them. The groups come together and share their lists. No comments or discussions, only clarity. The groups reconvene to discuss their reactions to what they have learned about themselves from what the other group has said identify issues that still need to be resolved between the two groups. The two groups come together and share their lists, they set priorities, and they generate action steps and assign responsibilities. A follow up meeting is convened to ensure that the action steps have been taken. The method can be used with more than two groups where the hostility between the groups may not be extreme or severe. In this method, each group, separately compiles two types of lists namely a positive feedback list, a bug list and an empathy list. The two groups come together and share the lists; there is no discussion, except for seeking clarification. The total group generates a list of major problems and unresolved issues between the two groups. These issues are ranked in terms of importance. Sub groups are formed with members from each group, who then discuss and work through each item. The sub-groups report to the larger group. On the basis of the report back and all the other information gathered, the group proceeds to: generate action steps for resolving the conflict, assign responsibilities for each step and record a date by which the steps ought to have been carried out. With this method the two groups work together effectively.

Rotating membership: Such interventions are used by Organizational Development change agents to minimize the negative effects of inter-group rivalry that result from employee allegiances to groups or divisions. The intervention basically entails temporarily putting group members into their rival groups. As more people interact in the different groups, greater understanding results. Organizational Development joint activity interventions serve the same basic function as the rotating membership approach, but it involves getting members of different groups to work together toward a common goal. Similarly, common enemy interventions achieve the same results by finding an adversary common to two or more groups and then getting members of the groups to work together to overcome the threat. Examples of common enemies include competitors, government regulation, and economic conditions.

Characteristics of inter-group conflict: Inter group conflicts are characterized by perception of the other as the “enemy”, stereotyping, constipated, distorted and inaccurate communication and stoppage of feedback and data input. Each group begins to praise itself and its products more positively and believes that it can do no wrong and the other can do no right. There might even be acts of sabotage against the other group. Using the idea of a common enemy outside the group that both groups dislike to bring them closer, increasing interaction and communication under favorable conditions and finding a super – ordinate goal that both groups desire. Rotating members of the group, training, etc are helpful strategies that have been used to deal with inter-group conflict

Walton’s approach to third party peace making interventions has a lot in common with group interventions but it is directed more towards, interpersonal conflict. Third party interventions involve confrontation and Walton outlines confrontation mechanisms. A major feature of these mechanisms is the ability to diagnose the problem accurately. The diagnostic model is based on four elements namely the conflict issues, precipitating circumstances, conflict-related acts and the consequences of the conflict. It is also important to know the source of the conflict. Sources could be substantive issues, which is conflict related to practices, scarce resources, and differing conceptions of roles and responsibilities. Sources of conflicts could also be emotional issues, involve feelings between the parties, such as anger, hurt, fear, resentment, etc. The former require bargaining and problem solving. The latter require restructuring perceptions and working through negative feelings. Ingredients of a productive confrontation include the following. Mutual positive motivation, which refers to the willingness on both parties resolve the conflict; Balance of power without any power differentials between the parties involved in a confrontation; Synchronization of confrontation efforts wherein the two parties address the conflict simultaneously; and Differentiation and integration of different phases of the intervention must be well paced. The intervention involves working through negative feelings and ambivalent positive feeling. The intervention must allow sufficient time for this process to take place. Conditions that promote openness should be created. This could be done through setting appropriate norms and creating a structure that encourages openness. Reliable communicative signal refers to using language that is understood by the parties involved in the confrontation. Optimum tension in the situation means that the stress experienced by both parties ought to be sufficient to motivate them but not too excessive. General principles on negotiation involve approaches to people, interests, options and criteria. People have different feelings and perceptions therefore it is important to separate people from feelings. Interest. Looking at party interests provide a vehicle for resolving conflict rather sticking to inflexible positions that entrench the conflict. Options ought to be generated in order to come up with best option for resolving conflict. Criteria for evaluating the success of the intervention ought to be clear and objective.

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