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The Power of "Groupthink"

January 24, 2020

As I was finishing the last semester, there was a debate raging in Congress over the issues related to the presidency. What struck me in the eventual vote was that all Republicans voted one way and all Democrats voted in the exact opposite way. What was the message that flows for Human Resource professionals from that experience? The concept that the vote represents is “groupthink” but how does that concept challenge HR?

 The term, “groupthink” was first discussed by psychologist Irving Janis in a November 1971 article in Psychology Today. The Encyclopedia Britannica discussed the concept as a “mode of thinking in which individual members of small cohesive groups tend to accept a viewpoint or conclusion that represents a perceived group consensus, whether or not the group members believe it to be valid, correct, or optimal.”  What I call it is going along without any thought. It lets the dynamic of the group be more important than the facts and circumstances of the issue. It is going along with the decision that the boss desires, or a group of senior leaders believe, without any relevance to facts, past precedent, policy, etc. It is also a concept that not only must be understood by Human Resource professionals, but must have the skills, abilities, and courage to confront in the fiduciary roles HR has within the organization.

 

Don’t you wonder what went on at the television studios as they were uncovering the issues that lead to the ‘Me Too’ movement? Don’t you wonder what went on in the chanceries when Bishops and Vicars were discussing what to do with notable clergy who were accused of abuse? Don’t you wonder what went on in hospitals when physicians who brought many patients into the hospital were accused of inappropriate behavior with nurses and other staff? Think any “groupthink” happened in those discussions?

As HR professionals, it is important that skills are developed to be able to identify “groupthink” and to be willing to address it. HR holds a unique role within our organizations and it demands openness, knowledge, fairness, and courage to identify and combat “groupthink.” - Joe Micucci MA, MS

Joe Micucci MA, MS is the Executive Director at Augustinians Defenders of the Rights of the Poor and serves as an Adjunct Faculty member in the Graduate Programs in Human Resource Development at Villanova University. Connect with him here!

 

Photo credits: PlusLexia, 1dayreview.com

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