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As an adage goes, when a manager is unable to commit to a thing, he places it to the “committee." Individual members of a group, able to hide behind the mask of a collective group decision rarely put in much thought process or effort when making decisions, or take much responsibility or accountability for the actions of the group as they would if they make the decision alone. Very often when things go wrong, the individuals blame the "group" rather than take up individual responsibility, and this ranks amongst the major disadvantages of the group decision making process.
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons
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One of the major group decision making problems is slow reaction. Group decision-making bases itself on mutual discussions and arriving at a consensus or voting, which invariably takes time.
The fast-paced nature of today’s business very often requires instant and on the spot decision-making, and this makes group decision making unsuited for most contemporary businesses.
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Groupthink, a concept introduced by Irving Janis, in his 1972 book “Victims of Groupthink" is a mode of thinking that most people in a cohesive group demonstrate, where the concern for unanimity overrides the motivation to make a realistic application of alternative courses of action.
Groupthink ranks amongst the major flaws of group decision making as it leads to group pressure, which causes deterioration of mental efficiency, reality testing, and moral judgment, and leads to group members developing illusions of invincibility, rationalizing warnings and negative feedback, putting pressure or ostracizing dissenters, and practicing “self-censorship" when their ideas deviate from that of the group.
Individuals in groups tend to conform to the seemingly dominant view in the group and rarely take the courage to dissent. One or two vocal and persuasive members or the selected group leader can very easily dominate the group and drown out the voice of other members, and that of experts. This stifles the consideration of alternative course of actions, the very purpose for which group decision-making takes place.
Groupthink is the result of the subconscious longing for social affinity and aversion or avoidance of social challenges.
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Another of the major flaws of group decision making is the propensity of group polarization. In situations where groupthink does not develop, the group invariably polarizes into two groups, each side holding on to one extreme end of the possible solutions, and the majority or most vocal position wins the day. Rarely does the group sit together and take a median path. This makes the group decision more risky than individual decisions.
Group polarization may also lead to long-term problems for the organization, with those ignored harboring deep-seated resentment that may manifest in other occasions, harming teamwork, and the smooth functioning of the organization.
Group decision making takes the form of several methods such as consensus, voting, secret ballot and more to avoid such dangers, but all these methods have their own drawbacks. Striving for a consensus, for instance requires much time and energy, which is better spent on the core organizational activity. Voting or secret ballot means that the opinion of the majority carries through, and the majority opinion need not always be the best one.
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- Encyclopedia of Business, 2nd Edition. “Group Decision Making." http://www.referenceforbusiness.com/management/Gr-Int/Group-Decision-Making.html.%20Retrieved%2005%20December%202010
- Center for Rural Studies. “Decision Making Methods: Advantages and Disadvantages." http://crs.uvm.edu/gopher/nerl/group/b/g/exercise11.html.%20Retrieved%2005%20December%202010.