What is Groupthink in the Workplace?

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Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon where a group of people come to a decision or take action that is not in the best interest of the group as a whole. While it can occur in any type of workplace, there are some key things to know about it if you want to avoid falling victim to its harmful effects.

What is Groupthink?

Groupthink is a type of behavior that can occur in groups, typically in organizations. It refers to the tendency of group members to override their individual thinking and judgment in order to maintain group unanimity and avoid conflict. Groupthink can lead to irrational decision-making, as well as adverse outcomes for the group. Groupthink is sometimes confused with conformity bias as well, as conformity bias refers to everyone going in the same direction as the herd. Read more on how to reduce bias in your interviews.

What are the Examples of Groupthink?

The following are some examples of when groupthink can occur in the workplace:

When employees are asked to vote on whether or not they want to form a union, they may be more likely to agree if they feel that they are part of a large group rather than making an individual decision.

When employees are asked to make decisions about their work schedule, it can be easier for them to reach a consensus if they feel like they are part of a larger group rather than making an individual decision.

What are the Symptoms of Groupthink?

Groupthink can be a debilitating condition in the workplace, where employees come to think alike and make decisions that are not in the best interest of the company. Here are some symptoms of groupthink to watch for:

1. Rationalization

Groupthink is a cognitive phenomenon that can occur in groups, where individuals conform their thinking to the opinion of their group to avoid conflict or embarrassment. Groupthink can lead to poor decision-making and can have negative consequences for the group as a whole.

2. Self-censorship

Groupthink is a term used to describe the phenomenon where group members come to believe in the group’s dogma or consensus, even when it is irrational or self-defeating. Groupthink can lead to ineffective decision-making and suppressed dissent, which can have serious consequences for both individual and collective productivity.

3. Stereotyping

There’s a reason why groupthink is often associated with the workplace. It’s because it can be a powerful and destructive force. Groupthink is when a group of people come to believe in their own opinions so strongly that they become unable to think about or evaluate their own ideas objectively. As a result, they are more likely to make decisions that support the group rather than what would be best for the individual members.

4. Peer pressure

Peer pressure, or groupthink, can be a very destructive force in the workplace. It can cause employees to conform to group opinions instead of thinking for themselves, leading to poor decision-making.

5. Illusions of invulnerability

Groupthink is a term used to describe the cognitive distortion that occurs when group members try to protect themselves from criticism or dissent and instead come to a consensus, even if it means sacrificing accuracy and truth.

6. Morals and beliefs

Groupthink can lead to flawed decisions because it discourages individuals from challenging prevailing views, and it can also lead to suppressed dissent. 

What Causes Groupthink in the Workplace?

There are several causes of groupthink, but some of the most common ones include: 

1. Fear of negative outcomes

The phenomenon can occur in any type of organization but is particularly common in large organizations where individuals feel isolated from one another and cannot dissent openly. Groupthink can also be triggered by a situation in which members feel they are under pressure to produce results quickly or face reprisals from management.

2. Poor leadership

In workplaces, groupthink can manifest as a reluctance to challenge ideas or information, a failure to analyze alternative viewpoints, and a lack of open discussion. When groups become trapped in a cycle of self-censorship, they may make suboptimal decisions that undermine their own success.

3. Lack of diversity

When groups are composed only of people with similar backgrounds, they’re more likely to come to conclusions and make decisions that reflect their own views and not those of the entire group. This can lead to flawed thinking and ineffective decision-making.

4. Lack of knowledge

Groupthink is a form of cognitive bias that can occur in groups. It’s characterized by the tendency to make quick and inaccurate decisions due to group pressure.

5. Stress

Groupthink is a type of decision-making where members of a group unconsciously conform to the group norm, even if it means making bad decisions. The tendency to fall victim to groupthink can have serious consequences for businesses and organizations, as well as for individual employees.

6. Isolation

There are several factors that can contribute to groupthink, including a strong leader who intimidates others; a fear of conflict; a lack of information; and a closed communication environment. Together, these factors create an atmosphere where individuals are afraid to speak out against the group or challenge its decision-making processes.

How to Avoid and Overcome Groupthink?

If you’re like most people, you probably think of groupthink as a negative term. After all, it’s usually used to describe situations where everyone in a group comes to agree on something without considering other options or debating the pros and cons. Unfortunately, groupthink can have serious consequences in the workplace. Here’s everything you need to know about this phenomenon and how to avoid it.

1. Diversify team

Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that can occur when a group of people come together and share similar opinions, which can lead to irrational decision-making. Groupthink occurs when individuals conform to the group mentality and refuse to challenge ideas or opinions in order to protect themselves from criticism or embarrassment. This can create a situation where groups make bad decisions because they are afraid to change their perspective. Hire diverse candidates from different religions, regions, culture etc. to avoid such situations.

2. Inclusive leadership

Groupthink is a syndrome that can occur in groups, characterized by the tendency for members to conform their thinking to the group consensus in the absence of dissenting opinions or information. This can lead to decision-making processes that are ineffective and ultimately harmful to the group. You can display inclusiveness right at the job description stage. Read how to write inclusive job descriptions.

3. Evaluate communication style

There are several ways that organizations can avoid falling victim to groupthink. For starters, leaders should encourage open discussion and debate rather than forcing everyone into line. They should also create a safe environment where individuals can express their ideas freely without fear of repercussion.

4. Encourage sharing

To prevent groupthink from occurring, it is important for leaders to create an environment where individuals feel comfortable expressing dissenting opinions. Leaders should also encourage participants to explore different options and develop creative solutions.

5. Offer learning opportunities

When groups get trapped in groupthink, their decisions can be bad for both themselves and the organization as a whole. They may make poor choices because they’re afraid to upset anyone, or they might not even consider all the options available to them. This can lead to significant problems.

6. Regular performance reviews

Regular performance reviews are an important part of maintaining groupthink in the workplace. A review should be objective and unbiased, and it should be conducted with the goal of improving individual performance instead of upholding group norms. The review participants should be chosen based on their skills and experience, not on their affiliation with the group.

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