As the society becomes increasingly diverse, it is important that people refine their understanding of how they can work together in ways that allows everyone to exploit his or her potential. One of the ways through which this can be done is by making people to understand that leadership is just a role that can be played by any capable member of the group. Group roles serve to make a group healthy and are meant to move a group forward (Weiser, 1985).
There are two different types of group roles namely; formal and informal group roles. Formal group roles are officially signed by an organization with the aim of establishing an order while informal group roles are assigned by a group leader and specifically emphasize functions rather than positions (Weiser, 1985). Informal group roles are also classified into three types including task roles, maintenance roles and disruptive or blocking roles. Task roles serve the purpose of moving group towards the achievement of its objectives. Maintenance roles ensure that there is maximum cohesion in the group. Disruptive or blocking roles focus on individual needs and prevent attainment of group goals (Weiser, 1985).
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Different roles exist within these different types of group roles. For example, the leader or the facilitator has full control of a group and serves to offer direction. The initiator also known as the contributor serves the role of proposing new directions and solutions in a group. Information seeker looks for evidence and seeks for suggestions from other group members. Opinion seeker looks for areas of agreement and disagreement from members of the group. These three role fall under task roles as they ensure that a group achieves maximum productivity (Deutsch and Gerard, 1955). Supporter also known as encourager bolsters the good will and spirits of group members. The harmonizer helps to relieve tension and maintain peace in a group. These two roles fall under maintenance roles as they focus on the social dimensions that keep a group united. Stage hog wants attention and recognition by preventing other members of the group from expressing their opinions. This role falls under disruptive or blocking roles because it impedes attainment of group goals (Weiser, 1985).
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Some roles can have more than one person in that role in one group. This depends with the size of the group as well as the goals that each and every group wants to achieve. Examples of role that can have more than one person in a group are the information seeker, opinion seeker, supporter, harmonizer and stage hog. These roles can have more than one person because a group may need more services as defines by its size and goals. However, some roles cannot have more than one person in the role in one group. This is because, the role they serve are necessary for the existence and stability of the group such that, having more than one person may mislead the entire group. Examples of such roles include the leader or facilitator, and the initiator. A group only needs one specific direction and the leaders and initiator serve the roles of offering direction to the group.
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The seven roles described above can be ranked in order of importance from the most important to the least important as follows; leader or facilitator, initiator or contributor, information seeker, opinion seeker, supporter or encourager, harmonizer, and finally the stage hog. This ranking has been done this way because the first four roles are task roles that a group needs to remain productive and realize its goals (Deutsch and Gerard, 1955). The fifth and sixth roles on this list offer the next line of importance as they fall under maintenance roles that help a group to remain united. This unity is important because it offers a conducive environment for attainment of goals. Stage hog role is the least important on this case because it falls under disruptive roles that prevent a group from realizing its goals. This is the last thing that every group may need at any given time (Deutsch and Gerard, 1955).
Personally, I tend to play the role of an initiator or a contributor in groups. When plying this role, I tend to propose or suggest to the groups new ideas. In addition, I will offer novel point of view concerning procedures, processes, goals, problems, or solutions. This way, I will ensure that I extract maximum productivity from each group, thereby moving the groups towards realization of objectives. I have chosen to play the role of an initiator or a contributor because I enjoy it and I am also good at it. This is a role that I have successfully played in the past and my work has always yielding good fruits. I normally feel impressed with my job and I feel encouraged to play a similar role in other groups in order to assist them attain their goals.
One role that had to struggle with sometimes in life is being an opinion seeker. When playing this role, I was charged with the responsibility of requesting viewpoints from others, and looking for sources of agreement and disagreement. I had a very difficult and negative experience when playing this role because I could not receive adequate cooperation from group members. Some members of the group were not ready to provide their viewpoints. I therefore found it difficult to identify sources of agreement and disagreement. Most of the time, I felt dissatisfied with my job because I could not succeed in what I was doing. I had to seek for a solution from the facilitator who helped me realize my goals by explaining to group members about the importance of giving their viewpoints. Thereafter, I was able to serve my role of being an opinion seeker with a lot of ease.
Group roles are of great value especially if each person plays his or her role effectively. Through group roles, the opinions of group members are strengthened, thereby creating polarization in a group. Group polarization refers to a situation where members of a group feel positive about their presence in a group especially when they view how being in groups have strengthened their opinions. Group roles also enhance cohesion among group members thereby enabling the group to accomplish its goals (Sniezek, 2007). However, group roles also have some constraints. One of the negative aspects of group role arises from de-individuation. This occurs when an individual is forced to abandon normal restraints and to become responsive to the norms of the group. This compels a person to do things that he or she is less likely to do when they are alone (Sniezek, 2007).
Knowledge of group roles can help a group communicate and work together for the success of the entire group. With this knowledge, members of a group will learn the importance of various group roles and how they can be used to achieve success. In addition, group members will understand the value of respecting every person and how to overcome challenges experienced when playing specific roles. Consequently, understanding group roles or group dynamics is essential for the success of every group (Sniezek, 2007).
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