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Group Roles

The nature of roles in small groups

From Emergent Complexity and the Role Attributes of media. See

  1. Task or task-oriented roles

Barker and Barker, 1993 Adler, 1991 Benne and Sheets, 1948  
Task-Oriented Roles Task Roles Task Roles Description
Idea Person Initiator/Contributor Initiator/Contributor Many groups form because someone has an idea and brings a group together to work on it.
Analyzer Orienter/summarizer Orienter Orientation to the task/problem is an essential starting point. People who can digest and explain the task/problem are a critical early resource.
Information or Opinion Seeker Information Seeker Information Seeker With the task understood, information about the task/problem and alternatives becomes critical. Asking good questions is important at this stage.
  Opinion seeker Opinion seeker Recognizing and asking good questions about alternatives becomes important as the group needs to digest information.
Information or Opinion Giver Information giver Information giver People who have useful information and alternatives to share are particularly important to a group at this point.
Elaborator/Clarifier Elaborator/Clarifier Elaborator Some people have a particular skill for digesting information and putting things together in new ways.
  Opinion giver Opinion giver As a group develops information, it will often discover alternatives. Some people have a particular talent for sorting out alternatives and helping groups reach decisions
  Evaluator/critic Evaluator/critic A particularly important role which you will encounter, in your discussion of Groupthink, as the Devil's Advocate.
Expediter Coordinator Coordinator Once decisions are made, group efforts often need to be coordinated. Coordinator is a leadership role that can take two distinct forms: producer or director. The coordinator may not be formally recognized as a leader, but functions as one.
  Secretary Recorder Keeping track of a group's deliberations and decisions can be particularly important, especially as group membership changes.

  1. Maintenance or social-maintenance roles

Barker and Barker, 1993 Adler, 1991 Benne and Sheets, 1948
Maintenance Roles Social/Maintenance Roles Social/Maintenance Roles Description
Active Listener Supporter/encourager Encourager People who explicitly listen and encourage others to contribute help a group to cohere. Active listening, in particular, is a precondition of being an effective elaborator or critic.
Gatekeeper Gatekeeper Gatekeeper Most larger groups are composites of subgroups. Gatekeepers/liasions interconnect these subgroups. Gatekeepers/bridges connect the group to other groups and the larger organization.
Harmonizer Harmonizer Harmonizer Some people have a particular skill in diffusing conflicts and resolving tension within a group.
Compromiser Conciliator Compromiser Some people have a particular skill in finding alternatives that resolve disagreements.

  1. Self-serving or dysfunctional roles

Barker and Barker, 1993 Adler, 1991 Benne and Sheets, 1948
Self-Serving Roles Dysfunctional Roles Dysfunctional Roles Description
Monopolizer Dominator Dominator Ideas and information are great, but groups work best when everybody's ideas are heard.
Aggressor Aggressor Aggressor Approaches to the group task are important, but groups work best when everyone keeps an open mind about alternatives. Aggressively promoting a particular point of view not only restricts options, but may turn the group off.
Blocker Blocker Blocker Blocking the ideas of others can be even more damaging. Indeed, effective blocking can set up the pattern of self-censorship that leads to Groupthink.
Withdrawer Deserter   People who stop participating in a group damage the groups prospects for successfully completing the task.
  Recognition Seeker Recognition Seeker Groups that accomplish things together function best over the long term if they share the credit for their accomplishments. Individuals that seek to take credit for the groups accomplishment damage the group over the long term.

-- Last edited September 18, 2015

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Unless otherwise noted, the contents of this page were written by participants on the Media Space Wiki, operated by Davis Foulger, and should be cited accordingly. For example (APA):
Foulger, D. and other participants. (September 18, 2015). Group Roles. MediaSpaceWiki. Retrieved on from
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