Did you find yourself in a situation where you wanted to express your opinion, but you were too afraid of being different compared to the opinion of the group you were in? Have you thought that if you say something else, the others will judge you? Do not worry, you are not the only one! This phenomenon is very common and is called groupthink.
Groupthink is a phycological theory that was founded by Irving Janis in 1972 that states that is conformity to group values and ethics. Inside a group, the members tend to silence their own opinions for a general consensus of the group and they do not get to express what they really think. In this way, the group looks more cohesive, but in reality, there is not always the truth.
Why is groupthink disadvantageous?
Even we know that a group succeeds in achieving a different kind of successful results compared to individuals and that the real power is when more brains are at work, the consequences of groupthink may damage more:
· Groupthink may kill original and authentic ideas before they have the chance of being expressed. The fear of being wrong and the fear of being different favors groupthink and may affect the good evolution of a team.
· Groupthink may silence members' personalities that do not express themselves in order to fit the general style. If they see a direction that is proposed by the leader and that the others follow it without much questioning, a member may decide that it is better to conform to it.
· Groupthink does not improve efficacy and problem-solving. There may be opinions and points of view that can contribute to the best results, but they are not expressed. This consequence is a direct impact on the group activity.
What are the signs that in your team the groupthink phenomenon is happening?
· Illusion of invulnerability. The feeling that all will work out well only because the decision was taken by a group. There is a symptom of diffused responsibility that determines unrealistic optimism.
· Illusion of unanimity. If everyone expresses the opinion of the group, we have the illusion that everybody thinks the same way and that we are the only ones with a different opinion.
· Belief in the inherent morality of the group. The diffused responsibility determines the feeling that if the whole group agrees on an idea, that means that idea is morally correct.
· Stereotyping. Groupthink determines the critical judgment of another opinion of an in-group member or of an outgroup that does not share the same ideas.
· Self-censorship. One can consider that their ideas are not good enough, they are not worth sharing or even that they are wrong and different and prefers to agree with the group idea that may be better.
· Direct pressure. Even if some members may try to question and express different ideas, they may be silenced and have the risk to be seen as rebellious, different and disloyal.
· Collective rationalization. After an idea is presented and a decision is taken, members do not reconsider their beliefs and take a huge risk of not assessing properly and making mistakes.
· Mindguarding. In the group, some members may consciously hide problematic information from others in order not to break the consensus.
Why do we talk about groupthink?
We strongly believe in each individual talent and assets that can contribute to the smooth running of a team. A group will truly succeed when every element shines and put all the qualities to work. At the same time, groupthink is a big obstacle to diversity. Silencing the other, consciously or unconsciously, means excluding their own personality and ideas and agreeing on a consensual opinion that can have many flaws. Our Diversity and Inclusion program addresses this and gives solutions for the teams that want to improve.
What can you do to break the cycle?
If you are a leader, we advise you not to be the first who share an opinion in a group meeting that focuses on sharing ideas. This will attenuate the influence of your point of view and will determine a bigger variety of ideas. At the same time, give each group member the feeling that he is not judged if his idea is not right. Create an environment of acceptance.
If you are a team member, try to have the courage to express what you think, even if the others seem not to agree. Remember the fact that unanimity might be an illusion and that you might inspire others to express their true opinions too. Don think that you may be judged, or you may be looked at differently because you have all the right to have an opinion. At the same time, think that your idea might save a project and all the team will gain more than would do if you are not talking.
Stand for yourself!