Monday, April 21, 2008

Group Work

From my Businessweek:
80% of American Corporations now actively encourage working in groups. This should be no surprise to anyone, as groups are supposedly more effective at increasing employee retention, making a better final product, etc, etc. We've all heard the mantra in our idealistic, ritualistic, pro-friendship schools and televisions.

And it seems that we MIGHT be internalizing the message! Most employees don't seem to oppose working with a few peers. Only 10% prefer working alone. A majority(54%) prefer working in groups of three, and 27% prefer working in groups of four or more (I suppose everyone likes orgies at the office?).

I fall in the "three's a good size" category. With two people, a lot of workloads can feel unbearable...not to mention it can create some awkward situations. With four people, you start getting into the "shirking" zone...but if you stick with three,  and one person starts slacking off, it's pretty simple to have the other two smack him/her in the head. With four people, there's a good chance you get two lazy folks: at that point, it's easier to just ignore them than try to get anything done.

The real story, though, is in WHY people like working in groups:

When asked if they like to work in groups in order to make something, we get the following stats:
36% of men said yes
25% of women
36% of the 65+ crowd
27% of the 25-64 crowd
13% of the 18-24 crowd

But, WAIT, you say, those damn whipper-snappers love getting into groups to do everything!
Well, that's true, but we're also a cynical bunch, which you will know if you read any of the literature on Generation Y. We fully expect other people to be lazy. We're also pretty narrow-minded and self-confident. We don't entirely appreciate that other people's perspectives are valuable, and it doesn't matter anyways: We are God's Gift to the world and we can do it better.

But the age and gender gaps REVERSE if you ask a different question...say...if you like working in groups to learn from someone else. 51% of women said "yes" to that, and a whopping 60% of the Generation Y cohort agreed that they want to learn from their counterparts.

So, workers, take note: My generation hungry to learn. But they don't entirely accept the usefulness of groups to actually make a superior product. Dr. Nardini from my BA 200 class would be sorely disappointed.

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