Know more about the other side of teamwork why did a participant beseech me with tears at the end of a program

Know more about the other side of teamwork

Why did a participant beseech me with tears at the end of a program…?I do remember that in the prerequisite course, involving a similar assignment, this very student had done exceptionally well; so what happened to her this time round?!

While shedding a few tears, she said,

“I knew I would end up doing all the hard work in my team.” It stirred my mind to investigate this further… And one by one, encouraged by their colleagues,speaking with excited gestures, they replied, “I was the one left to ‘carry the load’ for the others in the group.” May be each one of them was showing themselves in a good light, but there may be some truth in their claims…

I was puzzled to the verge of distraction

Each one of them was highly talented and I had reviewed their individual performances in the past. So why couldn’t they collectively finish their assigned task? It is true that certain people exert more than others in a group activity, but I could not zero it out. In order to verify, I sought an appointment with Mr. Ringelmann

Ringelmann said, “This is not new.” But who is Ringelman? About 100 years ago, a French agricultural engineer Max Ringelmann conducted first few studies to investigate the relation between Teamwork and Performance.

They pulled and strained till their faces were red

with effort and their joints crackled. He fastened a stout rope to a dynamometer to measure the pull force. He asked people to pull as hard as they could on a rope – individually, in groups of two, three, and eight. He measured the force for one man and it was approximately 85 kilograms.

Curiously interested in the inferences,he translated it into

If one man exerts a pull force of 85 kilograms, then teamwork of two men would exert a force of 170 kilogram (85×2), three men would exert a force of 255 Kilograms (85×3) and so on… Then he brought 8 volunteers together. He asked each one of them to pull their hardest. Logically, a force of 650 Kilograms (85×8) should have been exerted…

He was surprised and naturally somewhat piqued with the results

The total force increased with teamwork of 8 men but it was much less than 650 kilos. The average force per man went down considerably! Each man was pulling on average only half of what he could, i.e. eight people pulled at less than fourfold.

Ringelman also noticed that with every addition

of person to the team pulling on a rope, the total force of the group increased, but the average force applied by the individualdropped. An inverse relationship emerged between the size of the team and the magnitude of force exerted by an individual.

What is the cause of this inverse relationship?

Psychologists call this phenomenon “Social Loafing, which is helpful in understanding some of the difficulties faced by teams. In groups since the individual efforts are less visible, therefore, sometimes, people work less hard. In the same coin, slackening off is also less visible, therefore, the pressure to perform is also reduced.

Does it conflict with your premise that team work can be a powerful force?

Sure it does! One of the truly noteworthy things about work groups is that they have the synergistic powers of making 2+2= 5, but they also have the capability of making 2+2 = 3.

By Ronen Cohen

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