Best Strategies to Avoid Groupthink in the Workplace

Darryl Bachmeier
Jun 6, 2019
Strategy


Often, we are called to have camaraderie with our workmates. Especially when the company is about to embark on another book year or a new project venture, it helps to have that atmosphere of unity among its employees. This fosters collective sense of encouragement and positivity in the group.

However, collective thinking becomes a problem when there’s no room for outside opinions, freedom of choice is limited, and healthy disagreements are rare. Groupthink is an unhealthy consensus in decision-making wherein the compelling forces for the agreement are fear, lack of judgement, and lack of critical thinking.

Group or department leaders must be responsible not to allow his or her team to develop groupthink. Even if it means that not everyone will agree with you, what’s more important is that you can count on them to help you arrive at the best decision and not just nod in agreement with you every time.

Why Groupthink Happens?

Leading people itself is already challenging since you have to make their different work activities to work together and their personalities to jive to make a harmonious workplace.

However, it is harder to lead people towards success if there’s too much like-mindedness that options become narrow and everyone hardly thinks anymore.

It is true that a leader’s role is to make the decisions while his or her subordinates work on the cumbersome tasks. However, without opportunities for them to participate in decision-making, you might miss people who have strong leadership potential that the business can take advantage of, too.

Here are some of the reasons behind groupthink in the workplace:

Fear of appearing disloyal

Subordinates are called to be loyal to their superiors. And one way to show it is agreement.

However, the lingering fear of disapproval becomes a breeding ground for groupthink. It springs from the notion that a group must think alike so they’ll arrive to a single solution. But when it comes to problems, multiple solutions are actually better because you have plans A, B, C, and so on.

Being a newbie in the group

Conformity usually appears early in someone’s career. It calls us to just follow the crowd so we can have time to observe and adjust to the work culture with more ease. This is normal, however, the tendency to groupthink among newbies who were hired at the same time is higher.

It is best to have the newbies team with senior employees. Aside from mentorship, it also helps the senior employee develop a sense of responsibility, therefore, developing his leadership skills in the process.

Stressful and high-pressure situations

The building of pressure during certain situations open a greater possibility of groupthink to happen. Frustration and stress might lead to poor decisions or just simply leaning on any decision so just for them to bail out of the situation easily.

Incompetent leadership

Most groupthink tendencies arise from the leaders themselves. The leader should be the one encouraging the team to participate and voice out their opinions not as a sign of contention but shared responsibility in the outcome.

However, not all leaders can allot time to train his team with soft skills. Without the important competencies, the team will likely follow the lead of their own leader or someone with a stronger personality among them all.

Lack of self-confidence in decision-making

More often, decision-making takes grit and self-confidence. When your team members lack that, they may just settle on supporting the stronger contender in a discussion.

Social and peer pressure

We all want that feeling of belongingness. And sometimes, it’s hard to differentiate our social from our corporate sphere of friends. Therefore, corporate pressure affects our sense of decision-making because we don’t want to hurt a colleague’s feelings or we tend to support our friends, which leads to impartial decision-making.

Strategies to Battle Groupthink

We can steer our team into a better direction by empowering them to express their opinions or suggestions as long as they think it will benefit the group as a whole. Here are some strategies you can start making today.

Define what groupthink is to your team and provide scenarios as examples. If your team knows how to do the temp check on their own, you have more eyes set on keeping the team from doing groupthink. To help them have a more realistic basis for the tell-tale signs, give scenarios to demonstrate the idea.

Help your team develop critical thinking skills on their own

Two heads are better than one. As long as each of your team members’ roles are defined, you don’t have to worry creating chaos. Critical thinking is an important soft skill and it helps your team veer away from the tendency to groupthink.

Assign leadership roles to random people in the group

It is a good practice to allow your team members have a feel of a stronger sense of responsibility. Groupthink is a sign of a weak team while having people who collaborate instead of collectively agree all the time expands your perspective in finding the best solution or approach to a problem.

As their leader, do not voice out your opinion yet without hearing everyone’s

A leader’s voice multiplies the impact of a team member’s. If you wanted to encourage everyone to voice out their objections or better ideas, you have to let them have the floor before you do.

Give it time for several meetings before arriving at a decision

If possible, allow time for the team to absorb the topic of discussion so they’ll have enough time to think about their stand.

Consult with SMEs

If the decision-making is crucial, feel free to consult with Subject Matter Experts and have them share their opinions to the group. Not only that this provides a concrete and credible opinion but also empowers the team to have factual basis of their opinions, not just relying on their intuition or what the group is collectively clamoring for.

Takeaway

Groupthink in the workplace is unhealthy and must be avoided at all times. On the other hand, healthy discussions involve exchange of different ideas and some disagreements along the way. But, this provides an opportunity for growth, critical thinking, and free speech that empowers an employee knowing anyone can make an impact if he or she will step up.

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