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Home  arrow Chapter 11  arrow Nursing Leadership and Management  arrow Differentiating Roles People Assume in Groups

Differentiating Roles People Assume in Groups


Groups are social systems that evolve informally through commonalities or formally through organizational goals. Groups may accomplish a number of different types of tasks. When the group's performance is dependent on the sum of the individuals' performance, the group can become a team. Successful teams exhibit open communication, clear mutual goals and member responsibilities, acceptance of diversity, ability to handle conflict constructively, trust, and commitment.

To facilitate team development, its members assume a combination of task (functional) and/or nurturing (socio-emotional) roles. Task roles keep the group focused on the purpose of the group, while nurturing roles assist the growth and maintenance of the group. Note that all participants in a group or team meeting/activity have roles in its success; it is not the responsibility of the leader only. Task, nurturing, and dysfunctional roles as described by Bales (1958) are summarized below:

Task Roles

Initiator-contributor Redefines problems and offers solutions, clarifies objectives, suggests agenda items, and maintains time limits.
Information seeker Pursues descriptive bases for the group's work
Information giver Expands infomation given by sharing experiences and making inferences
Opinion seeker Explores viewpoints that clarify or reflect the values of other members' suggestions
Opinion giver Conveys to group what their pertinent values should be
Elaborator Predicts outcomes, provides illustrations, or expands suggestions, clarifying how they could work
Coordinator Links ideas or suggestions offered by others
Orienter Summarizes the group's discussions and actions
Evaluator-critic Appraises the quality and quantity of the group's accomplishments against set standards
Energizer Motivates the group to qualitatively and quantitatively accomplish its goals
Procedural technician Supports group activity by arranging the environment (e.g., scheduling meeting room) and providing necessary tools (e.g., ordering audiovisual equipment)
Recorder Documents the group's actions and achievements

Nurturing Roles

Encourager Compliments members for their opinions and contributions to the group
Harmonizer Relieves tension and conflict
Compromiser Deemphasizes own position to maintain group harmony
Gatekeeper Encourages all group members to communicate and participate
Group observer Takes notes of group process and dynamics and informs group of them
Follower Passively attends meetings, listens to discussion, and accepts group's decisions

Dysfunctional Roles

Aggressor Attacks and criticizes others in an attempt to meet own needs
Blocker Inhibits group progress by being resistant, negative, or disagreeable
Dominator Attempts to usurp leadership of the group
Help seeker Solicits sympathy from the group through expressions of insecurity, confusion, and ineptness
Monopolizer Dominates the conversation, prohibiting others from speaking
Playboy/playgirl Belittles seriousness of group work and is nonchalant; plays around, jokes, makes irrelevant and silly comments
Recognition seeker Draws attention to self through boasts and acting-out behaviors
Self-confessor Uses group for expression of personal feeling
Special-interest pleader Presents and supports issues relevant to a particular group
Zipper-mouth Does not accept or participate in group process; may sulk


During Leadership Clinical Rotation, accompany a preceptor nurse manager to a leadership meeting, preferably a nurse manager or higher administration meeting.

  1. During the meeting, observe and record the following:
    1. The central purpose of the meeting (problem solving, information giving, motivational, input seeking, work delegation, or creating a power base)
    2. Examples of at least four (4) task roles and four (4) nurturing roles exhibited by group members (refer to tables above)
    3. The leadership style of the group leader/facilitator (hint: refer to Chapter 4 in textbook)
    4. Whether the meeting location was conducive to group interaction. Why or why not? (Hint: Refer to heading, "Guidelines for Conducting Meetings" in Chapter 11 of the text)
    5. If the meeting was successful in achieving its stated purpose.

Instructions for Alternate Activity

  1. Divide into groups as instructed and select an observer–recorder.
  2. Obtain a deck of cards from the instructor.
  3. In the time allotted, build a tower. All cards must be used, and no other materials can be used.
  4. The observer–recorder should note the following:
    1. Who assumed the leader role?
    2. Did the leader evolve or was the leader appointed?
    3. Did everyone participate in the project?
    4. What group roles were apparent? Use the preceeding tables to track participants’ roles.
    5. Upon completion of the exercise, the observer–recorder should report the findings to the entire group.

  5. This activity contains 4 questions.

    Question 1.

    To create paragraphs in your essay response, type <p> at the beginning of the paragraph, and </p> at the end.

    End of Question 1

    Question 2.

    To create paragraphs in your essay response, type <p> at the beginning of the paragraph, and </p> at the end.

    End of Question 2

    Question 3.

    To create paragraphs in your essay response, type <p> at the beginning of the paragraph, and </p> at the end.

    End of Question 3

    Question 4.

    To create paragraphs in your essay response, type <p> at the beginning of the paragraph, and </p> at the end.

    End of Question 4

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