U05- Ethics in Small Groups

Something that I have noticed at my work is the use of small groups on projects. It seems like everywhere that you turn you see a small group popping up to solve some type of problem or that has a specific task. I work at a large chemical plant in Michigan and there are a lot of rules and procedures to follow. Unfortunately people will occasionally get hurt and there is a small group that is tasked with finding out what went wrong and how to prevent this from happening again. These small groups change with every occurrence. The members of the group are determined by the type and area of the injury. In most cases the individual that was hurt is involved in the group as well as a member or two of management the over see that particular are or department and lastly the plant manager or plant director will be in the group. These groups are good ways to help prevent another injury from occurring but there is some negative feedback when it comes to the members of the group.


A small group defined as 3 to 30 individuals (PSY 533, 2018) rather than two or a dyad relationship is a great way to enhance the ability of solving a problem in the best way possible if performed correctly. In my work place I feel that it isn’t justifiable to have only the individual hurt two managers and a high level manager there to review the issue. “Narrow focuses can limit the perspective of small groups, and these groups may ignore the bigger picture of their organization. They may also hyper-focus on a goal that leads to mistakes or ethical quandaries” (PSY 533, 2018). The specific group has a specific task to solve and they may not think of the greater good of all the employees. The members of this group are majorly members who never have or will ever perform the task that the individual was hurt in. This causes an ethical dilemma because how can a group that never does a task know the proper way to do the task? This sounds frustrating to you I’m sure, because it is to the employees and me. The group now forms a cohesion of how to fix this issue and causes a “groupthink” mindset which is “a mode of thinking that people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive in-group, when the members’ strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action” (Janis, 1983, p. 9). The group has only higher management mindsets and create new policies or changes to the work area to prevent an injury but may greatly impact production or efficacy of the employees.


I feel that the team needs to involve more operators or employees that perform the job regularly in order to get a realistic understanding of the tasks needed and performed. Some other ways that can help prevent “groupthink” and help create more ethical decision making are:  setting up a couple different groups that observe the same issue and come up with individual solutions, discuss group decisions with some that is involved in the work, bring in outside experts in the tasks to help challenge the group, assign a role as devil’s advocate to a member of the group, and have multiple meetings on the issue (PSY 533, 2018). Creating an environment that is open to all options is important in forming the best most ethical solution or plan to a problem. I feel that my work needs to implement this style of thinking prior to making new rules and procedures.


Work Cited


Janis, I. L., (1983). Groupthink: Psychological studies of policy decisions and fiascoes. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

PSY 533 (2018). U05 L11: Ethics and small groups. Retrieved from: https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1896721/pages/l11-ethics-and-small-groups?module_item_id=23792049



One Comment

  1. Carrie Anne Boyle April 22, 2018 at 12:25 PM #


    Thank you for sharing your analysis of the use of small groups and their ethics within your organization. Ethics is an important consideration when we are working in smaller groups given we question what we are doing, why we are doing it, and what the consequences of the group’s decisions will be. Our ethics impacts our verbal, nonverbal, and listening behaviors. On the one hand, groups provide us with the opportunity to reach heights far greater than any individual might accomplish. Yet, groups also entail considerable risk for they also have the potential to produce unimaginable destruction. Research shows that decision-making groups are most likely to experience groupthink when they are highly cohesive, insulated from experts, perform limited information search, operate under directed leadership, and experience conditions of high stress with low self-esteem and little hope of finding a better solution to a pressing problem than that favored by the leader or influential members (Turner & Pratkanis, 1998). Observable symptoms of groupthink include: illusion of invulnerability, collective rationalization, stereotypes of outgroups, self-censorship, direct pressure on dissenters, and illusion of unanimity (Eaton, 2001).

    I think you make a very good point about having to have a greater mix of employees and levels involved in the groups. I do think your organization made a good attempt at alternating who participated in the groups, which is a good start. In large organizations, it is very important not to have groups or teams get impacted by the silos they work in. Departments that are unable to talk to each other often produce more frictional stresses and strains than actual work. Internal trench warfare causes businesses to lose time, money, and quality. Not only does efficiency fall by the wayside, but management jeopardizes effectiveness when they get involved in turf wars.
    In addition to your recommendations, some additional considerations towards resolving groupthnk include: 1) pursuing consistent and coordinated goals (the more managers basically agree on what they want to achieve, the fewer complains there are down the line about mistakes in implementation; 2) leadership setting a vision and long-term orientation, which minimizes the likelihood each team or division in thinking of only their own goals; 3) ensuring a sufficient flow of information through management and among colleagues; and, 4) establishing clear work processes and definition of responsibility (Block & Schutz, 2006).


    Bloch, B., & Schutz, P. (2006). The silo-virus: Diagnosing and curing departmental groupthink. Team Performance Management, 12(1/2), 31 – 43. doi: 10.1108/13527590610652783

    Eaton, J. (2001). Management communication: The threat of groupthink. Corporate Communications, 6(4), 183-192. doi: 10.1108/13563280110409791

    Turner, M. E., & Pratkanis, A. R. (1998). Twenty-five years of groupthink theory and research: Lessons from the evaluation of a theory. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 73(2/3), 105-115. Retrieved from https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/b2c3/caa9b3b63b701706429e15191c89d2d87aac.pdf

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