In this module we examine interpersonal and group dynamics. You will learn how to improve interpersonal communication processes so that information can be transferred clearly, quickly, and accurately. You will look at how to create effective and high-performing teams. And finally, you will study conflict and learn to avoid the dysfunctional consequences of conflict, while taking advantage of the positive aspects well-managed conflict.

Required Reading

We begin this module with a foundation of knowledge about interpersonal communication. After all, without communication, group activities and work would not be possible. In gaining this foundation, we will refer to Wikipedia. Although Wikipedia is not considered an acceptable source for academic papers or writing, it is a good place to go if you want a “quick and dirty” overview of a broad topic. However, use caution�the instructor has reviewed this article for the course, but be advised that Wikipedia is a publicly edited site and information can be incomplete, biased, or just plain incorrect.

Models of communication. (2012) Wikipedia.

Never discount the value of trust in strengthening communication and improving work relationships with others. One way to build trust is to maximize the part of ourselves that we know and wish to share with others. Conversely, we want to minimize those aspects of ourselves we are not aware of but are readily apparent to others (our “blindspots”). This is accomplished through a combination of self-disclosure and feedback. An excellent model for improving communication effectiveness is the Johari Window. Created in the 1950s by two guys named Joe and Harry (no kidding!), this model is still widely used in business to improve communication between coworkers, bosses and subordinates, and teams.

Communication Skills You Can’t Do Without

Have you ever wondered why the Trident University teaching model has so much darn writing? Have you gotten frustrated with professors who admonish you for typos and syntax errors? Want to know why communication skills are critical to MBAs? Read this article.

Poor Writing Skills Top M.B.A. Recruiter Gripes (2009) Inc.

Groups and Teams

The structure of organizations is rapidly changing and more than ever work is being done in teams. But teams are more than just a collection of individuals working on a single project; team workers need a set of skills that exceeds those of individual workers to allow them to collaborate effectively. Often, employers do not train employees in these skills, and so it is a rare thing when teams live up to their potential. This is particularly true of teams in the United States, where the culture is highly individualistic (as we learned in module 1.)

In this part of the module, we will increase our ability to manage teams by learning about what constitutes a team, how to handle conflict, and how to build a high-performing team. Of course, we can only scratch the surface and if you would like to delve deeper into this topic, you would be well served to take MGT508, a course about managing virtual teams.

To get an overview of this topic, view this PowerPoint presentation on Group Dynamics and Conflict.

The Tuckman model of group development is one of the most widely used tools to understand the dynamics of team formation and development. Read the following short description of the 5 stages of group development.

Smith, M. K. (2005) Bruce W. Tuckman – forming, storming, norming and performing in groups, the encyclopaedia of informal education,

Here is an interesting example of organizational theory being used to solve practical business problems. This report put out by the Vanguard Investment company is designed to help its analysts avoid group decision-making biases such as groupthink, polarization or “risky shift,” overconfidence or composition bias. The practical application of theory demonstrated in this report may be very helpful to you in preparing your case.

Mottola, G. & Utkus, S. (2009) Group decision-making: Implications for investment committees. Vanguard Investment Counseling and Research. Retrieved from

Conflict Management

When working with groups, conflict is inevitable. Although confict is often vewed as negative, this is not always true. As we learned in the earlier PowerPoint prresentation, well-managed conflict can increase team performance and result in better output. One trick is to learn the differences between healthy and destructive types of conflict. Read the following for more information:

The Two Sides of Conflict. (n.d.) Team Building.

Now that you can recognize the difference between good and bad conflict, take a few minutes to read about some techniques that can help you mange conflict between people at work (or even at home!) and keep situations from spiraling out of control:

Segal, J & Smith, M. (2012) Conflict resolution skills: Building the skills that can turn conflicts into opportunities.

Optional Reading
The International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) is the premier international knowledge network for professionals engaged in strategic business communication management. Examine their website which includes news, events, workshops, a book store, and a research foundation. Find out how you can become an Accredited Business Communicator.

Groups and Teams
Group Dynamics: Basic Nature of Groups and How They Develop

This site, assembled by Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD, contains library links to numerous topics in the field, a basic overview to group formation and stages of group development, and information on team building.

Conflict Management
The following handbook is written for people who desire to develop a deep understanding of types of conflict and techniques for managing different types of conflict. It is a must-have for any manager. I do not expect you to read all of this at once, but you may want to use it as a reference for this module. Be sure to bookmark it on your computer to pull out in the future when you need some concrete help de-fusing a conflict situation.

Also assembled by Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD, this site includes library links, and various perspectives on conflict (i.e. dealing with conflict, conflict in organizations, etc.)

Read the article referenced below from the Harvard Business Review about a simulation technique used by the Department of Defense to facilitate strategic planning. The author points out how this same technique can be used by a number of businesses as well.

Required Reading
This article can be found in the EBSCOHost collection, Academic Search Complete database.

Cares, Jeff; Miskel, Jim. (2007). Take Your Third Move First. Harvard Business Review, Vol. 85 Issue 3, 20-21.

Write a 4- to 5-page paper with an introduction, conclusion, section headings, and references that answers the following questions:
How can coevolutionary gaming facilitate group decision making?
What are its limitations?
Keys to the Assignment
The key aspects of this assignment that should be covered in your paper include:

Define the problem: Explain how this strategic planning tool can be used to improve decision making. Be specific and use terminology and concepts from the background readings.
Analyze the cause: Discuss how coevolutionary gaming would affect communication processes using the Johari window, and/or how it can impact group decision biases such as risky/cautious shift and groupthink.
Propose a solution: Describe a situation in which coevolutionary gaming might impede decision making.
Assignment Expectations
Your paper will be evaluated on the following seven (7) points:

Precision – Does the paper address the question(s) or task(s)?
Breadth – Is the full breadth of the subject, i.e., the Keys to the Assignment, addressed?
Depth – Does the paper address the topic in sufficient depth and include the background readings and other background resources as references?
Critical thinking – Is the subject thought about critically, i.e., accurately, logically, relevantly, and precisely?
Clarity – Is the writing clear and are the concepts articulated properly? Are paraphrasing and synthesis of concepts the primary means of responding to the questions or are points conveyed through excessive use of quotations?
Organization – Is the paper well written? Are the grammar, spelling, and vocabulary appropriate for graduate-level work? Are headings included in all papers longer than two pages?
Referencing (citations and references) – Does the paper include citations and quotation marks where appropriate? Are the references from the background readings and assignment present and properly cited? Are all the references listed in the bibliography present and referred to via citation?
Tips and Suggestions
Please note the following tips and suggestions:

Include a cover page and reference page in addition to the 4-5 pages of analysis described above.
You are expected to demonstrate that you have read, understood, and can apply the required background readings for this module in your answer to this case. Be sure to read the required readings carefully, and use the theories and arguments you learn from them to support your analysis.
Include headings for all papers longer than two pages (basically all papers).
Cite and reference all sources that you use in your work, including those that you do not quote but paraphrase. This means include citations and quotation marks for direct quotes of more than five words, and include citations for information that you have “borrowed” or paraphrased from other sources.
Follow TUI Guidelines for well-written papers. (If you are unsure of what those guidelines are, see The Elements of a Well Written Paper).


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