Essay, 7 pages (1700 words)

Essay on people organisation and leadership

1. What can current managers learn from the Zimbardo experiment? (Search Zimbardo experiment on Google, its prison experiment).
1. 2 dozen healthy, normal, male volunteers were randomly divided into either prisoners or guards. Guards were dressed in symbols of authority and given instructions to refer to “prisoners” by numbers only so as to dehumanise them
2. The “prisoners” were picked up at home by real cops, brought into the mock prison, fingerprinted and in all ways were treated like real prisoners
3. Both prisoners and guards exhibited “expected” behaviour. The guards being controlling, dominating and extremely sadistic and theprisoners being compliant and following instructions that were degrading and often harmful

What Managers must learn from the experiment

1. People will act in the way that they believe they are expected to act in their roles. Organisational and management structures define the acceptable behaviour standards and stereotypes of roles within the organisation
2. Since teams and work groups are all part of a larger organisation, the organisations culture i.e. the strategy, structure and reward and recognition systems will determine the stereotypical behaviour expected from individuals within the roles.
3. This will further determine the norms adopted with the group. These norms can impact standards of behaviour that the group will display and will directly affect what the group sees as “right” or “wrong”
4. Understanding the norms of the groups their supervision will allow managers to explain the basis of behaviour that is displayed by the group whether positive or negative.
5. This experiment also demonstrates the level of conformity that groups expect from individuals. So when an individual feels like they are part of a group, there is a tendency to behave in the way that the group expects even if this is in conflict with their personal beliefs and attitudes.
6. Group norms can affect aspects of performance, appearance and social status and the acceptable level of performance is set within the group, especially if the group is a highly cohesive group.
7. This experiment also brought out the fact that it was the environmental conditions that individuals were working in that brought out the behaviour, rather than their individual characteristics.
8. Managers must account for the impact of group pressure and the organisational dynamic that brings about desirable or undesirable behaviour and adjust these conditions when attempting to influence behaviour of individuals within the group.
9. If managers want to significantly change behaviour individuals in a group they must implement sufficient governance structures that reward and promote desirable behaviour and eliminate unwanted behaviour.
10. Another critical observation that Zimbardo made was that the sadistic behaviour of the guards started mainly because of boredom. The behaviour then fed on itself, escalating in intensity to relieve that boredom
11. Managers must learn from this that in order to prevent undesirable behaviour it is important to engage team members intellectually and physically in stimulating experiences so as to keep boredom at bay
12. Thus, we learn that a combination of establishing what is seen as desirable behaviour explicitly; creating governance structures that promote and reward desirable behaviour and keeping individuals engaged physically and mentally will ensure that you have teams that are engaged in positive desirable and healthy behaviour.

2. Discuss when groups are more effective the individuals in the workplace.
1. Contrary to popular belief, in most cases, the theory suggests that individuals in general are more effective and efficient at decision making and completing tasks than a group
2. A group is only more effective under certain very specific conditions. These conditions determine whether a task should be assigned to an individual or to a group for action.
3. Groups are more effective that the individual when creativity is an important part of the task: groups tend to be more creative and come up with more ideas than the individual
4. Groups are more effective when critical decisions that have wide reaching consequences have to be made: Groups tend to come up with better quality decisions
5. The fact that the group is involved in the decision making process means that the implementation of the decision is easier, and therefore when the success of a decision requires large organisational acceptance, group decision making through consensus is the best option
6. When the criteria and impact need to be thought out and evaluated completely it is best to use a group to come to a conclusion groups tend to evaluate outcomes and possible impact more thoroughly than individuals
7. There is a lot of data to suggest that groups tend to make better quality decisions than individuals. Thus when a high risk decision needs to be made it is advisable to not only involve a large group but also to ensure that the group is diverse and has representatives from various areas that will be impacted by the decision
8. Groups also provide a diversity of input and bring in different perspectives and knowledge elements and having this input at a decision making stage can be critical for the success of the project.
9. It is also useful to involve a group when there are large volumes of work that require great deal of time for reviewing or talking to people and then reaching a conclusion or decision.
10. When the task is complex, it is very important that a group perform it rather than an individual. Having a group that works together will help the task since the group will bring in diverse competencies that it is not possible for an individual to possess
11. There seems to be some correlation between the size of a group and their impact on productivity. The size of the group plays an important role in the success of the project
12. If the group is too large, decisions are delayed because each party wants to bring in their perspective. Too small and you may miss out on key knowledge elements that can have significant impact on your decision.
13. Therefore having a group of the optimum size is also a critical factor in making group decisions work. Smaller groups will tend to finish work faster.
14. Essentially the rule of thumb is to have large groups at the planning and decision making stage. Groups that have larger than 12 members will bring in sufficient background knowledge to make insightful decisions
15. Smaller groups with less than seven members are usually better at implementing these decisions. Ensuring that these groups have members with complementary skills, knowledge and personal attributes will further enhance the productivity of the groups.

3. Can Group think ever be eliminated from organisations? Discuss.

1. Group think is a phenomenon seen in group decision making where “group pressures for conformity deter the group from critically appraising unusual, minority, or unpopular views”
2. This occurs when there is an overriding need to conform to the group decision at the cost of an individual’s better judgement and often superior information
3. This phenomenon is seen most in groups where cohesiveness is high and the environment or organisation culture places emphasis on playing-along and rewards conformity.
4. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs points to this need to belong to a group and feel like they belong and in collectivist societies the need to belong to the group is a priority that fosters group think even more.
5. There is also the basic belief that the majority is right and a reluctance in individuals to ‘cause trouble’ or ‘rock the boat’. When this is added to a strong leader who may actively apply pressure to conform to the group, it is not hard to see why group thinking persists.
6. Organisations work very hard to make groups work together and to develop the level of cohesiveness which in theory should enable them to work more effectively as a group. It is this very cohesiveness which causes group think and therefore it is very difficult, if not impossible to eliminate group think.
7. Many studies have shown that when individual see themselves as part of a group, especially a group in which they are not dominant members, they do not speak up if they have an opposing point of view. This has been seen even when the situation is a potentially life or death situation.
8. Even when individuals think that they are correct and their opinions are important when they are against the majority they will try and rationalise their opinions to conform to that of the group.
9. This is then often reinforced by organisation cultures that penalise or isolate individuals with a reputation of going against the flow, or the majority.
10. Another reason why group think cannot be completely eliminated from organisations is because when an individual differs from the group they take the risk of their decision entirely on themselves.
11. Many organisations tend to view such risky behaviour with caution, thus the pressure is back on the individual to conform to the group where the risk is then diffused throughout the group.
12. However, group think is not seen in all groups. Groups that demonstrate group think often have one strong leader that is the voice of the group. It is also seen in group that perceive a threat to themselves from the outside.
13. Although it may be impossible to completely remove group think from organisations it may be possible to at least minimise the impact of group think in making critical decisions
14. To do this, organisations must begin to recognise and publicly reward instances where individuals have stood up for their opinions – right or wrong. When the behaviour is rewarded it will be repeated.
15. Organisations must encourage group leaders to be impartial and to use techniques like playing devil’s advocate in order to ensure that all sides of a decision are examined. As organisations move towards making individuals feel secure in standing up for their rights and creating an environment in which it is safe to express a differing opinion we will see the elimination of group thinking. This is a responsibility that must begin top down for it to have any success in organisations.

Works Cited

Robbins, S. P., Judge, T. A., Millett, B. & Boyle, M., (2011). Organisational Behaviour. 6th ed. Frenchs Forest, NSW, Australia: Pearson.

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