Experienced unhealthy group dynamics in your group, organisation or community?


In Rhizome, we ourselves certainly have lots of experience of groups ‘going wrong’, whether through our personal, activist or professional lives.  Sometimes this is with groups, organisations and communities we do work for, and other times that we are part of ourselves (hard though it is to believe, I know!).   How’s about yourselves?

What does a group going pear-shaped look like?  To name just a few, it could be that it just gets stuck, isn’t able to fulfil its aims, or just not very dynamic.  It’s possible that there’s unspoken power or other issues, a lack of trust, that conflict or other tensions aren’t worked on.  Maybe difference and diversity aren’t dealt with very well, that communication is poor, that things just feel hard.

“We are more possible than they can powerfully imagine” (1990s road protest slogan, a re-take of 1968 original)

It doesn’t always feel like that though, does it!  If we believe in the power (or should I say possibility?) of collective action, that groups are more than the sum of their parts, that community empowerment is a key aim in what we do, sometimes it’s hard to deal with the reality when our hopes are dashed, our dreams unfulfilled.

So what is it that holds our groups back?  What would make working in them easier?  What puzzles might we need to solve?  What are the patterns, the seemingly unsolvable nuts you can’t crack? 

Please do share your experiences with us of what often happens in groups you’ve seen or been part of – either in the comments on this blog, or via the contact details at the bottom of the page.  Together with Seeds for Change and people from the (inter)national WorldWork community, we’re in the early stages of figuring out a possible project to address the needs you tell us about.


1 thought on “Experienced unhealthy group dynamics in your group, organisation or community?

  1. anecdotally I have an idea from my experiences of supporting various types of groups in all sorts of weird and wonderful contexts is that things usually boil down to one of 2 issues that no-one is willing to openly articulate and initiate the conversation that’s needed to address it:

    1) lack of leadership (particularly prevalent in worker co-ops?) – no-one’s willing to take an apparent risk in taking the lead or challenging an idea (simple group psychometrics I use seem to help create some movement on this)

    2) inability to make things ‘im-personal’; teams are groups of people and ultimately we all want to try and get along with each other, so we can often start to make decisions based on keeping people happy, rather than in the interests of the purpose of the group – (I find ‘organised abandonment’, and Drucker useful tools to start to resolve this)

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