Monday, October 29, 2012

Teamwork and Conflict

I have had the experience of working as part of a group many times throughout my academic career, as well as my brief professional career.  Some of my experiences have certainly been better than others, and no two situations are ever exactly the same.  With that said, reflecting on my experiences I have definitely noticed certain traits and nuances that generally exist within most of the groups I have been apart of where we accomplished our goal and worked together successfully.

One of most important characteristics of a successful group is for each group member to understand their role within the group and perform the requirements of their role in a satisfactory manner.  If every member of the group works on each aspect of a project, it is an inefficient usage of time.  Breaking down major projects into smaller tasks and responsibilities, will help group members focus their time better, while also allowing for a greater attention to detail.  This method can also help team morale, by catering to the strengths of each group member, and allowing each member to make a contribution to the success of the group.  Ultimately roles are created and defined by the interpersonal relationships of the team members. Distributing work requires trust among the team that each person can successfully fulfill their responsibilities.  When this trust is broken, conflict, or at a minimum tension amongst group members, is likely to arise.

An enjoyable group experience that I had was during my senior year in a Business Administration class.  There were 4 other students in the group other than myself, and this was a group where everything just seemed to fall into place.  The project consisted of a 5 page paper and 20 minute presentation but we were able to split the work evenly, and in a manner that each member felt suited their individual strengths well.  This led to a successful project, and a feeling among the group that each member really contributed to our overall success.  For example, I feel very comfortable giving presentations, so I handled a majority of the speaking responsibilities, while other members who felt more comfortable writing shouldered greater responsibility in that area.

A group experience that I did not find as enjoyable was working at my internship this summer.  I was a new intern working on one of my first client engagements, yet our group was patched together in a very unusual manner.  I was filling the role of a full-time staff member, and the only other members of the group were two managers who came to the firm as experienced hires and had never worked with an intern before. From the start, there was miscommunication over our expectations of each other. They thought I would know more about the required tasks, and I was expecting to receive more hands-on guidance from my group members, considering it was one of my first-ever engagements, and based off of conversations with other members of the firm.  While it ended up working out in the end, it certainly was not without obstacles, and led to a much more stressful working environment than intended.  Better communication from the start of the engagement would have likely prevented many of the issues.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Shared Rewards

I really enjoyed the article "How to Get the Rich to Share the Marbles" by Jonathan Haidt as I felt that it perfectly encompassed people's attitudes toward sharing.  People, generally, are much more willing to share an object that was acquired through team production if they feel that everyone pulls their fair share.  If no one else contributed to your achieving something, you are much less likely to want to share the rewards and benefits.

This is evident in school all the time with group projects.  When students feel that everyone contributed equally they are happy to share the credit received for the work.  However, when one or two students loaf or slack on the assignment, the students pulling more than their fair share of the weight are much less enthusiastic about having to share the rewards.  While they may not actually punish their fellow students, it will certainly change their opinion of them going forward and they will be much less likely to want to work with the loafers on future assignments.

Another area where I think the team production is evident in an indirect way is when looking at the salaries or wages of members of a team.  For example, all workers on an assembly line in a factory or plant earn essentially the same wages as each role on the assembly line is judged to have equal importance to the final outcome of a production.  However, if you look at professional team sports such as a baseball team, the players that are viewed are contributing more to the success of the team earn higher salaries than other players.  Sometimes it does not always work out this way as players can over or under perform their contracts, but the amount paid to them generally is based off of how much management feels they can contribute to the success of the team.

I also really agreed with Haidt's conclusion at the end of the article and I think it does coincide with my past experiences working with a team.  For example, on sports teams coaches frequently make all people complete grueling conditioning exercises, even if certain players are in better shape and may not require the extra work.  This helps build a camaraderie amongst the team and creates a feeling that everyone on the team is in together and worked hard at trying achieve their ultimate goal.

I think politicians would also be much more successful in pitching policies if they punished or rewarded the American public as a whole, not just as individual groups.  Rich people would have much less to complain about getting their taxes raised, if everyone had their taxes raised, and poor people would be able to understand the philosophy that everyone has to pitch in their fair share.  Unfortunately some people are in "cahoots" as Haidt says, with the rule makers and that does cause problems with the sharing mentality.  The rich people, in many cases, did not have to go through the team production in receiving their reward, so they do not own the shared-sacrifice mentality when it comes to what they possess.

Thursday, October 4, 2012


I think the idea of introducing Illinibucks to the student population is a very interesting concept and would make for a great way to study and evaluate how students value and prioritize things here on campus.  It would provide campus officials and administrators with a great insight into what kind of places students care the most about, and not only the kind of places, but of those places, which ones are the most highly valued and thought of by students.  It would also be beneficial to the establishments themselves as they would have a direct way of comparing themselves to their competitors from a student's perspective.  The Illinibucks would also obviously provide a great benefit to students themselves as they would be able to apply them at places of their choosing enhancing the utility received from the Illinibucks.

The type of places that I would expect to be candidates for use of Illinibucks are bars, restaurants, bookstores, grocery stores, and other retailers.  These are all types of places that accrue lines and students would be able to allocate their Illinibucks however they pleased at any of the establishments.  Some of the places could require more Illinibucks to cut line based on popularity and traffic.  The frequency with which Illinibucks were turned in at each place could be used to determine the amount of Illinibucks at each location.  As for the administered price, the university could stagger pricing on the initial Illinibucks sold so that they could determine at what point people would stop paying for them.  If they are administered at a price too low, too many Illinibucks will be issued making them virtually worthless when trying to be used.  If they are administered at a price too high, not enough Illinibucks will be sold, and the university will lose out on valuable revenue.

For my personal usage, I would use my Illinibucks to get out of waiting on line at bars.  Lines can be as long as 30 to 45 minutes at some bars on busy nights, and being able to use the Illinibucks to skip those lines would be of great personal value to me. Many of the lines are manufactured on the outside by the bar to make it seem as if it is very crowded on the inside, even if it is not the case, and I would greatly like to be able to avoid those lines.