In looking at how groups interact and communicate, there are certain roles that group members will take to secure the group’s identity. These unwritten “group communication rules” affect how groups function online and offline.
There are three main categories that the roles in groups fall under: task roles, maintenance roles, and self-centered roles.
Task roles are the actions of individuals that help move the group along with decisions and tasks related to their goal. Task roles include initiating, giving and requesting information or opinions, clarifying, and summarizing.
Maintenance roles are the actions of individuals that help maintain relationships within a group. These roles involve encouraging, supporting, harmonizing, relieving tension, compromising, and leading.
Self-centered roles are the actions of individuals that can hinder a group’s progress because such an individual is concerned more about himself than the group. This is demonstrated by dominating, clowning, being aggressive, seeking special interests, and being uncooperative.
Each person in a group performs one or more of these roles because are trying to keep the group together. I considered the many groups I am a part of to see if I could identify who plays what role in my family and friend groups.
Looking at my roommates from last semester, I identified some of the roles that my roommates and I played.
One of my roommates was definitely a harmonizer and tension reliever. She did her best to reduce tension, often through humor. Even in difficult situations, she would steer the group to cooperation as we made decisions.
Another of my roommates would fit the role of clarifier because she interpreted ideas and suggestions, especially when everyone had been talking. This cleared up some statements made by other roommates.
When I’m with my roommates, I would say that my role is an information giver because I try to provide helpful information that will benefit the entire group. I’ll provide context to what other people have said and find anything I can that relates to what we’re talking about.
By studying how groups work, in the physical world and in virtual spaces, we can learn how groups work toward a common goal and how the group is strengthened or hindered by certain actions individuals take based on the role they have. Every member of a group influences other members and can reinforce the group’s identity.