Group Conflict and Fragmentation

This stage is characterized by individuals within the group exerting themselves, or becoming determined. You can also look at the challenges of sub-group formation or leadership roles.

Power conflicts may occur and members may challenge the leader’s role and authority. Individuals examine and establish their roles, pushing boundaries to find acceptable positions. So this can be a very turbulent and volatile phase.

When tensions and conflicts arise between individuals, the group may lose sight of its original goals. This can lead to cynicism, lack of enthusiasm and frustration. Some members may withdraw or even leave the group.

The leader’s role at this point is to encourage group members and refocus the group on its goals and purposes for its existence.

Paradoxically, this is a time when group members often become much clearer about the group’s goals—and when any hidden agendas become apparent. This can build strong common ground among members and lead to the formation of sub-groups. Leaders must manage this process carefully to ensure that sub-groups are supportive of group objectives, and do not undermine developing group cohesion.

Importantly, the group needs to make some progress at this stage, move on and achieve some sense of success. This will boost group morale and strengthen the desire to belong, or unify. Sub-groups can be useful for this process, as it can be easier for a small group to work together, especially if they already know each other.

So the group leader may need to use coaching skills to encourage group members to work together and see each other’s strengths as well as weaknesses. Tools such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and Belbin’s Team Roles can be effective ways to help group members understand each other.

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