Working and Writing in Teams
Work in teams.
Be a productive leader.
Resolve conflicts constructively.
Write collaborative documents.
Start by asking these questions
What kinds of messages should groups attend to?
What roles do people play in groups?
How should we handle conflict?
How can we create the best co-authored documents?
Teamwork is crucial to success in an organization. Some teams produce products, provide services, or recommend
solutions to problems. Other teams—perhaps in addition to providing a service or recom-mending a solution—also
produce documents. Interpersonal communication is communication between people. Interpersonal skills such as
listening (-1-4 Module 17) and dealing with conflict are used in one-on-one conversations, in problem-solving
groups, and in writing groups. These skills will make you more suc-cessful on the job, in social groups, and in
community service and volunteer work. In writing groups, careful attention to both group process and writing
process (.1.1 Module 4) improves both the final product and members' satisfaction with the group.
Teams are often most effective when they explicitly adopt ground rules. Figure 18.1 lists some of the most
common ground rules used by workplace teams.
[Caption: Figure 18.1 Possible Group Ground Rules]
Sources. Nancy Schullery and Beth Hoger, "Business Advocacy for Students in Small Groups," Association for
Business Communication Annual Convention, San Antonio, November 9-11, 1998, "An Antidote to Chronic
Cantanker-ousness," Fast Company, February/March 1998, 176, John Grossmann, "We've Got to Start Meeting Like
This," Inc , April 1998, 70, Gary Dessler, Winning Commitment, quoted in Team Management Bnefings, preview
issue (September 1998), 5, and 3M Meeting Network, "Groundrules and Agreements," www 3M
com/meetingnetwork/readingroom/ meetingguide_grndrules html (July 25, 2005)
What kinds of messages should groups attend to?
4 Different messages are appropriate at different points in a group's development.
Group messages fall into three categories:
Informational messages focus on content: the problem or challenge, data, and possible solutions.
Procedural messages focus on method and process. How will the group make decisions? Who will do what? When
will assignments be due?
Interpersonal messages focus on people, promoting friendliness, coopera-tion, and group loyalty.
Different messages dominate during the various stages of group develop-ment. During orientation, when members
meet and begin to define their task, groups need to develop some sort of social cohesiveness and to develop
pro-cedures for meeting and acting. Interpersonal and procedural comments reduce the tension that exists in a new
group. Insistence on information in this first stage can hurt the group's long-term productivity.
During formation, conflicts almost always arise when the group chooses a leader and defines the problem.
Successful leaders make the procedure clear so that each member knows what he or she is supposed to do.
Interpersonal communication is needed to resolve the conflict that surfaces during this phase. Successful groups
analyze the problem carefully before they begin to search for solutions.
Coordination is the longest phase, during which most of the group's work is done. While procedural and
interpersonal comments help maintain direc-tion and friendliness, most of the comments need to deal with
information. Good information is essential to a good decision. Conflict occurs as the group debates alternate
In formalization, the group seeks consensus. The success of this phase determines how well the group's decision will
be implemented. In this stage, the group seeks to forget earlier conflicts.
[Caption:Designers for Ford Motor Company collaborate on group projects with colleagues around the world. When
a team in one area of the world completes work for the day, the documents are passed along to the next group, which
is just starting the workday.]
What roles do people play in groups?
Roles can be positive or negative.
Positive roles and actions that help the group achieve its task goals include the following: 1
Seeking information and opinions. Asking questions, identifying gaps in the group's knowledge.
Giving information and opinions. Answering questions, providing relevant information.
Summarizing. Restating major points, pulling ideas together, summarizing decisions.
Evaluating. Comparing group process and products to standards and goals.
Coordinating. Planning work, giving directions, and fitting together contri-butions of group members.
Positive roles and actions that help the group build loyalty, resolve conflicts, and function smoothly include the
Encouraging participation. Demonstrating openness and acceptance, rec-ognizing the contributions of members,
calling on quieter group members.
Relieving tensions. Joking and suggesting breaks and fun activities.
Checking feelings. Asking members how they feel about group activities and sharing one's own feelings with
Solving interpersonal problems. Opening discussion of interpersonal problems in the group and suggesting ways
to solve them.
Listening actively. Showing group members that they have been heard and that their ideas are being taken seriously
(ii p. 309).
Negative roles and actions that hurt the group's product and process include the following:
Blocking. Disagreeing with everything that is proposed.
Dominating. Trying to run the group by ordering, shutting out others, and insisting on one's own way.
Clowning. Making unproductive jokes and diverting the group from the task.
Withdrawing. Being silent in meetings, not contributing, not helping with the work, not attending meetings.
Some actions can be positive or negative depending on how they are used. Criticizing ideas is necessary if the group
is to produce the best solution, but crit-icizing every single idea raised without ever suggesting possible solutions
blocks a group. Jokes in moderation can defuse tension and make the group more fun. Too many jokes or
inappropriate jokes can make the group's work more difficult.
Leadership in Groups
You may have noted that "leader" was not one of the roles listed above. Being a leader does not mean doing all the
work yourself. Indeed, someone who implies that he or she has the best ideas and can do the best work is likely
play-ing the negative roles of blocking and dominating.
Effective groups balance three kinds of leadership, which parallel the three group dimensions:
Informational leaders generate and evaluate ideas and text.
Interpersonal leaders monitor the group's process, check people's feelings, and resolve conflicts.
Procedural leaders set the agenda, make sure that everyone knows what's due for the next meeting, communicate
with absent group members, and check to be sure that assignments are carried out.
While it's possible for one person to do all of these responsibilities, in many groups, the three kinds of leadership are
taken on by three (or more) different people. Some groups formally or informally rotate or share these
responsibili-ties, so that everyone—and no one—is a leader.
Several studies have shown people who talk a lot, listen effectively, and respond nonverbally to other members in
the group are considered to be leaders.2
Leaders can encourage groups to make fair decisions. For instance, some-one in the group usually brings up an
idea's flaws. For balance, John Tropman recommends that leaders also call upon an "angel's advocate" to speak up
for the idea's positive aspects.3
Characteristics of Successful Student Groups
A case study of six student groups completing class projects found that stu-dents in successful groups were not
necessarily more skilled or more experi-enced than students in less successful groups. Instead, successful and less
successful groups communicated differently in three ways.4
In the successful groups, the leader set clear deadlines, scheduled frequent meetings, and dealt directly with conflict
that emerged in the group. In less successful groups, members had to ask the leader what they were supposed to be
doing. The less successful groups met less often, and they tried to pretend that conflicts didn't exist.
The successful groups listened to criticism and made important decisions together. Perhaps as a result, everyone in
the group could articulate the
group's goals. In the less successful groups, a subgroup made decisions and told other members what had been
3. The successful groups had a higher proportion of members who worked actively on the project. The successful
groups even found ways to use mem-bers who didn't like working in groups. For example, one student who didn't
want to be a "team player" functioned as a "freelancer" for her group, com-pleting assignments by herself and
giving them to the leader. The less suc-cessful groups had a much smaller percentage of active members and each
had some members who did very little on the final project.
Rebecca Burnett has shown that student groups produce better documents when they disagree over substantive
issues of content and document design. The disagreement does not need to be angry: A group member can simply
say, "Yes, and here's another way we could do it." Deciding among two (or more) alternatives forces the proposer to
explain the rationale for an idea. Even when the group adopts the original idea, considering alternatives rather than
quickly accepting the first idea produces better writing. 5
Kimberly Freeman found that the students who spent the most time meet-ing with their groups had the highest
grades—on their individual as well as on group assignments.'
Peer Pressure and Groupthink
Groups that never express conflict may be experiencing groupthink. Groupthink is the tendency for groups to put
such a high premium on agreement that they directly or indirectly punish dissent.
Groups that "go along with the crowd" and suppress conflict ignore the full range of alternatives, seek only
information that supports the positions they already favor, and fail to prepare contingency plans to cope with
setbacks. A business suffering from groupthink may launch a new product that senior executives support but for
which there is no demand. Student groups suffering from groupthink turn in inferior documents.
The best correctives to groupthink are to
Consciously search for additional alternatives.
Test assumptions against those of a range of other people.
Encourage disagreement, perhaps even assigning someone to be "devil's advocate."
Protect the right of people in a group to disagree.
How should we handle conflict?
0. Get at the real issue, and repair bad feelings.
Conflicts will arise in any group of intelligent people who care about the task. Yet many of us feel so
uncomfortable with conflict that we pretend it doesn't exist. However, unacknowledged conflicts rarely go away:
they fester, making the next interchange more difficult.
To reduce the number of conflicts in a group,
Make responsibilities and ground rules clear at the beginning.
Discuss problems as they arise, rather than letting them fester till people explode.
Realize that group members are not responsible for each others' happiness.
Meeting expert John Tropman recommends that controversial items be han-dled at two different meetings. The first
meeting is a chance for everyone to air a point of view about the issue. After a cooling-off period, a second meeting
is held where the group reaches a decision.'
Figure 18.2 suggests several possible solutions to conflicts that student groups often experience. Often the symptom
arises from a feeling of not being respected or appreciated by the group. Therefore, many problems can be averted
if people advocate for their ideas in a positive way. As Nancy Schullery and Beth Hoger point out, the best time to
advocate for an idea is when the group has not yet identified all possible options, seems dominated by one view, or
seems unable to choose among solutions. A tactful way to advocate for the position you favor is to recognize the
contributions others have made, to sum-marize, and then to hypothesize: "What if . . . ?" "Let's look six months
down the road." "Let's think about x." 8
Steps in Conflict Resolution
Dealing successfully with conflict requires both attention to the issues and to people's feelings. This five-step
procedure will help you resolve conflicts constructively.
Make Sure That the People Involved Really Disagree
Sometimes someone who's under a lot of pressure may explode. But the speaker may just be venting anger and
frustration; he or she may not in fact be angry at the person who receives the explosion. One way to find out if a
per-son is just venting is to ask, "Is there something you'd like me to do?"
Check to See That Everyone's Information Is Correct
Sometimes different conversational styles (41 p. 48) or cultural differences (-4-4 p. 43) create apparent conflicts
when in fact no real disagreement exists.
[Caption: Figure 18.2 Troubleshooting Group Problems]
During a negotiation between a U.S. businessman and a Balinese business-man, the Balinese man dropped his voice
and lowered his eyes when he dis-cussed price. The U.S. man saw the low voice and breaking of eye contact as an
indication of dishonesty. But the Balinese believe that it is rude to mention price specifically. He was embarrassed,
but he wasn't lying.'
Similarly, misunderstanding can arise from faulty assumptions. A U.S. student studying in Colombia quickly
learned that only cold water was available for his evening shower. Since his host family washed dinner dishes in
cold water, he assumed that the family didn't have hot water. They did. Colombians turn off the
water heater in the morning after everyone has bathed; washing later in the day is done with cold water. He could
have had hot water for his showers if he had taken them in the morning?
Discover the Needs Each Person Is Trying to Meet
Sometimes determining the real needs makes it possible to see a new solution. The presenting problem that surfaces
as the subject of dissension may or may not be the real problem. For example, a worker who complains about the
hours he's putting in may in fact be complaining not about the hours themselves but about not feeling appreciated.
A supervisor who complains that the other super-visors don't invite her to meetings may really feel that the other
managers don't accept her as a peer. Sometimes people have trouble seeing beyond the present-ing problem because
they've been taught to suppress their anger, especially toward powerful people. One way to tell whether the
presenting problem is the real problem is to ask, "If this were solved, would I be satisfied?" If the answer is no, then
the problem that presents itself is not in fact the real problem. Solving the presenting problem won't solve the
conflict. Keep probing until you get to the real conflict.
Search for Alternatives
Sometimes people are locked into conflict because they see too few alterna-tives. In Decide and Conquer, Stephen
Robbins calls this common shortcoming the limited-search error: Wishing to simplify a complicated process, group
members generate alternatives only if the ones already mentioned are unac-ceptable. Therefore, for significant
decisions, groups need a formal process to identify alternatives thoroughly."
Diverse alternatives can lead to better solutions. At one data-entry company, productivity fell because women
employees took time off to visit their children at day care. Men on the board wanted to solve the problem by
"docking" pay. The one woman on the board proposed installing software to let mothers check on their children
online. That solved the problem.12
5. Repair Bad Feelings
Conflict can emerge without anger and without escalating the disagreement, as the next section shows. But if
people's feelings have been hurt, the group needs to deal with those feelings to resolve the conflict constructively.
Only when people feel respected and taken seriously can they take the next step of trusting others in the group.
Responding to Criticism
Conflict is particularly difficult to resolve when someone else criticizes or attacks us directly. When we are
criticized, our natural reaction is to defend ourselves—perhaps by counterattacking. The counterattack prompts the
critic to defend him-or herself. The conflict escalates; feelings are hurt; issues become muddied and more difficult
Just as resolving conflict depends upon identifying the needs each person is trying to meet, so dealing with
criticism depends upon understanding the real concern of the critic. Constructive ways to respond to criticism and
get closer to the real concern include
Checking for feelings.
Buying time with limited agreement.
To paraphrase, repeat in your own words the verbal content of the critic's mes-sage. The purposes of paraphrasing
are (1) to be sure that you have heard the critic accurately, (2) to let the critic know what his or her statement means
to you, and (3) to communicate the feeling that you are taking the critic and his or her feelings seriously.
Criticism: You guys are stonewalling my requests for information.
Paraphrase: You think that we don't give you the information you need quickly
Checking for Feelings
When you check the critic's feelings, you identify the emotions that the critic seems to be expressing verbally or
nonverbally. The purposes of checking feel-ings are to try to understand (1) the critic's emotions, (2) the importance
of the criticism for the critic, and (3) the unspoken ideas and feelings that may actu-ally be more important than the
Criticism: You guys are stonewalling my requests for information.
Feeling check: You sound pretty angry.
Always ask the other person if you are right in your perception. Even the best reader of nonverbal cues is
Checking for Inferences
When you check the inferences you draw from criticism, you identify the implied meaning of the verbal and
nonverbal content of the criticism, taking the statement a step further than the words of the critic to try to
understand why the critic is bothered by the action or attitude under discussion. The purposes of checking
inferences are (1) to identify the real (as opposed to the presenting) problem and (2) to communicate the feeling
that you care about resolving the conflict.
Criticism: You guys are stonewalling my requests for information.
Inference: Are you saying that you need more information from our group?
Inferences can be faulty. In the above interchange, the critic might respond, "I don't need more information. I just
think you should give it to me without my having to file three forms in triplicate every time I want some data."
Buying Time with Limited Agreement
Buying time is a useful strategy for dealing with criticisms that really sting. When you buy time with limited
agreement, you avoid escalating the conflict (as an angry statement might do) but also avoid yielding to the critic's
point of view. To buy time, restate the part of the criticism that you agree to be true. (This is often a fact, rather than
the interpretation or evaluation the critic has made of that fact.) Then let the critic respond, before you say anything
else. The pur-poses of buying time are (1) to allow you time to think when a criticism really hits home and
threatens you, so that you can respond to the criticism rather than simply reacting defensively, and (2) to suggest to
the critic that you are trying to hear what he or she is saying.
Criticism: You guys are stonewalling my requests for information.
Limited agreement: It's true that the cost projections you asked for last week still
DO NOT go on to justify or explain. A "Yes, but . . ." statement is not a time-buyer.
Your Attitude in Conflict Resolution
You-attitude (4-44 Module 6) means looking at things from the audience's point of view, respecting the
audience, and protecting the audience's ego. The you statements that many people use when they're angry attack
the audience; they do not illustrate you-attitude. Instead, substitute statements about your own feelings. In
conflict, I statements show good you-attitude!
Lacks you-attitude: You never do your share of the work
You-attitude: I feel that I'm doing more than my share of the work on this project
Lacks you-attitude: Even you should me able to run the report through a spell checker
You-attitude: I'm not willing to have my name on a report with so many spelling errors. I did lots of the writing,
and I don't think that I should have to do the proofreading and spell checking , too.
How can we create the best co-authored documents?
Talk about your purposes and audience(s). Discuss drafts and revisions as
Whatever your career, it is likely that some of the documents you produce will be written with a group. Lisa
Ede and Andrea Lunsford found that 87% of the 700 professionals in seven fields who responded to their survey
sometimes wrote as members of a team or a group. ° Collaboration is often prompted by one of the following
The task is too big or the time is too short for one person to do all the work.
No one person has all the knowledge required to do the task.
A group representing different perspectives must reach a consensus.
The stakes for the task are so high that the organization wants the best efforts of as many people as possible; no
one person wants the sole respon-sibility for the success or failure of the document.
Collaborative writing can be done by two people or by a much larger group. The group can be democratic or
run by a leader who makes decisions alone. The group may share or divide responsibility for each of the stages
in the writ-ing process (-4-4 p. 63).
Research in collaborative writing is beginning to tell us about the strategies that produce the best writing.
Rebecca Burnett found that student groups that voiced disagreements as they analyzed, planned, and wrote a
document pro-duced significantly better documents than those that suppressed disagree-ment, going along with
whatever was first proposed.14 A case study of two collaborative writing teams in a state agency found that the
successful group distributed power equally, worked to soothe hurt feelings, and was careful to involve all group
members. In terms of writing process, the successful group understood the task as a response to a rhetorical
situation, planned revisions as a group, saw supervisors' comments as legitimate, and had a positive atti-tude
Ede and Lunsford's detailed case studies of collaborative teams in business, government, and science create an
"emerging profile of effective collaborative writers": "They are flexible; respectful of others; attentive and
analytical listeners; able to speak and write clearly and articulately; dependable and able to meet
[Caption: Leading means more than being the boss. It means inspiring people to work together for solutions.]
deadlines; able to designate and share responsibility, to lead and to follow; open to criticism but confident in
their own abilities; ready to engage in creative conflict." 16
Planning the Work and the Document
Collaborative writing is most successful when the group articulates its under-standing of the document's
purposes and audiences and explicitly discusses the best way to achieve these rhetorical goals. Businesses
schedule formal planning sessions for large projects to set up a time line specifying intermediate and final due
dates, meeting dates, who will attend each meeting, and who will do what. Putting the plan in writing reduces
misunderstandings during the project.
When you plan a collaborative writing project,
Make your analysis of the problem, the audience, and your purposes explicit so you know where you agree and
where you disagree.
Plan the organization, format, and style of the document before anyone begins to write to make it easier to blend
sections written by different authors.
Consider your work styles and other commitments. A writer working alone can stay up all night to finish a single-
authored document. But members of a group need to work together to accommodate each other's styles and to
enable members to meet other commitments.
Build some leeway into your deadlines. It's harder for a group to finish a docu-ment when one person's part is
missing than it is for a single writer to finish the last section of a document on which he or she has done all the
Composing the Drafts
Most writers find that composing alone is faster than composing in a group. However, composing together may
reduce revision time later, since the group examines every choice as it is made.
When you draft a collaborative writing project,
Use word processing to make it easier to produce the many drafts necessary in a collaborative document.
If the quality of writing is crucial, have the best writer(s) draft the document after everyone has gathered the
Revising the Document
Revising a collaborative document requires attention to content, organization, and
style. The following guidelines can make the revision process more effective:
Evaluate the content and discuss possible revisions as a group. Brainstorm ways to
improve each section so the person doing the revisions has some guidance.
Recognize that different people favor different writing styles. If the style sat-isfies
the demands of standard English and the conventions of business writing, accept it
even if you wouldn't say it that way.
When the group is satisfied with the content of the document, one person—probably
the best writer—should make any changes necessary to make the writing style
Editing and Proofreading the Document
Because writers' mastery of standard English varies, a group document needs
careful editing and proofreading.
Have at least one person check the whole document for correctness in gram-mar,
mechanics, and spelling and for consistency in the way that format ele-ments,
names, and numbers are handled.
Run the document through a spell checker if possible.
Even if you use a computerized spell checker, at least one human being should
proofread the document too.
Making the Group Process Work When you
create a co-authored document,
Give yourselves plenty of time to discuss problems and find solutions. Pur-due
students who are writing group reports spend six to seven hours a week outside
class in group meetings—not counting the time they spend gathering information
and writing their drafts.'?
Take the time to get to know group members and to build group loyalty. Group
members will work harder and the final document will be better if the group is
important to members.
Be a responsible group member. Attend all the meetings; carry out your
Be aware that people have different ways of experiencing reality and of expressing
Because talking is "looser" than writing, people in a group can think they agree
when they don't. Don't assume that because the discussion went smoothly, a draft
written by one person will necessarily be acceptable.
Summary of Key Points
Effective groups balance informational leadership, inter-personal leadership, and procedural leadership.
A case study of six student groups completing class pro-jects found that students in successful groups had leaders
who set clear deadlines, scheduled frequent meetings, and dealt directly with conflict that emerged in the group; and
had an inclusive decision-making style, and a higher pro-portion of members who worked actively on the project.
Students who spent the most time meeting with their groups got the highest grades.
Groupthink is the tendency for groups to put such a high premium on agreement that they directly or indirectly
punish dissent. The best correctives to groupthink are to consciously search for additional alternatives, to test one's
assumptions against those of a range of other people, and to protect the right of people in a group to disagree.
To resolve conflicts, first make sure that the people involved really disagree. Next, check to see that every-one's
information is correct. Discover the needs each person is trying to meet. The presenting problem that surfaces as the
subject of dissension may or may not be the real problem. Search for alternatives.
Constructive ways to respond to criticism include paraphrasing, checking for feelings, checking infer-ences, and
buying time with limited agreement.
Use statements about the speaker's feelings to own the problem and avoid attacking the audience. In conflict,
statements are good you-attitude!
Collaborative writing means working with other writers to produce a single document. Writers producing a joint
document need to pay attention not only to the basic steps in the writing process but also to the processes of group
formation and conflict resolution.
Assignments for Module 18
Questions for Comprehension
18.1 What are the three kinds of group leadership?
18.2 What is groupthink?
Questions for Critical Thinking
18.5 Why are so many people so afraid of conflict in groups? What can a group do to avoid groupthink?
18.6 Why is it better for groups to deal with conflicts, rather than just trying to ignore them?
Exercises and Problems
18.8 Keeping a Journal about a Group
As you work in a collaborative writing group, keep a journal after each group meeting.
What roles did you play in the meeting?
What conflicts arose? How were they handled?
What strategies could you use to make the next meeting go smoothly?
Record one observation about each group member.
In 18.9 through 18.13, assume that your group has been asked to recommend a solution.
18.9 Recommending Whether to Keep the Skybox Assume that your small group composes the exec-utive
committee of a large company that has a lux-ury football skybox. (Depending on the stadium, a skybox for a
professional football team may cost as little as $100,000 a year or 10 times that much. A portion—perhaps up
to 30%—of the cost may be deductible as a business expense.) The CEO says, "Times are tight. We need to
reevaluate whether we should retain the skybox."
18.3 How do you use you-attitude during conflict?
18.4 What strategies produce the best coauthored documents?
18.7 What is the most successful group or team you've been part of? What made it effective?
As Your Instructor Directs,
Send e-mail messages to group members laying out your initial point of view on the issue and discussing the
Meet as a group to come to a consensus.
As a group, answer the message.
Write a memo to your instructor telling how sat-isfied you are with
The decision your group reached.
The process you used to reach it.
e. Write a memo describing your group's dynamics (18.15).
Write a group response recommending whether to keep the skybox and supporting your recom-mendation.
Agree on a company to use for this problem.
Does having a skybox match the values in the company's mission statement? If you keep the skybox, who should
have priority in using it?
How is the company doing financially? Is it laying off
18.10 Recommending a Policy on Student Entrepreneurs
Assume that your small group comprises the officers in student government on your campus. You receive this
e-mail form the Dean of Students
As you know, campus policy says that no student may use campus resources to conduct business related
activities. Students can't use college e-mail addresses for business. They can't post business Web pages on the
On the other hand, a survey conducted by the Kauffman Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership showed that 7
out of 10 teens wanted to become entrepreneurs.
Should campus policy be changed to allow students to use college e-mail addresses for business? (And then
what happens when our network can't carry the increased e-mail traffic?) Please recommend what support (if
any) should be given to student entrepreneurs.
Write a group report recommending , what (if any) your camps should do for student entrepreneurs and
supporting your recommendation.
Does your campus offer other support for entre-preneurs (courses, a business plan competition, a start-up
incubator)? What should be added or expanded?
Is it realistic to ask alumni for money to fund stu-dent start-ups?
Are campus e-mail, phone, and delivery services funded by tax dollars? If your school is a public institution, do state
or local laws limit business use?
18.11 Answering an Ethics Question
Assume that your small group comprises your organization's Ethics Committee. You receive the following
People are routinely using the company letterhead to write letters to members of Congress, senators, and even
the president stating their positions on various issues. Making their opinion known is of course right, but
doing so on letterhead stationary implies that they are speacking for the company, which they are not.
I think that the use of letterhead for anything other than official company business should be prohibited.
Determine the best solution to the problem. Then write a message to all employees stating your decision and
building support for it.
18.12 Responding to an Employee Grievance
Assume that your small group comprises the Labor-Management Committee at the headquar-ters of a chain of
grocery stores. This e-mail arrives from the Vice President for Human Resources:
As you know, company policy requires that employees smile at customers and make eye contact with them. In
the past nine months, 12 employees have filed grievances over this rule. They say that they are being harassed
by customers who think they are flirting with them. Produce clerk clamis customers have propositioned her
and followed her to her car. Another says, "Let me decide who I am going to say hello to with a big smile."
The union wants us to change the policy to let workers not make eye contact with customers, and to allow
workers to refuse to carry groceries to a customer's car at night. My own feeling is that we want to maintain
our image as a friendly store that cares about customers. But that we also don't want to require behavior that
leads to harassment. Let's find a creative solution.
Write a group response recommending whether to change this policy and supporting your recommendation.
18.13 Answering an Inquiry about Photos
You've just been named Vice President for Diver-sity, the first person in your organization to hold this
position. Today, you receive this memo from Sheila Lathan, who edits the employee newsletter.
Subject Photos in the Employee Newsletter
Please tell me what to do about photos in the monthly employee newsletter I'm con-cerned that almost no single
issue represents the diversity of employees we have here
As you know, our layout allows two visuals each month One of those is always the employee of the month
(EM) In the last year, most of those have been male and all but two have been white What makes it worse is that
people want photos that make them look good You may remember that Ron Olmos was the EM two months
ago, in the photo he wanted me to use, you can't tell that he's in a wheelchair Often the EM is the only photo,
the other visual is often a graph of sales or something relating to quality
Even if the second visual is another photo, it may not look balanced in terms of gender and race After all, 62%
of our employees are men and 78% are white Should the pic-tures try to represent those percentages') The
leadership positions (both in management and in the union) are even more heavily male and white Should we
run pictures of peo-ple doing important things, and risk continuing the imbalance'?
I guess I could use more visuals, but then there wouldn't be room for as many stories—and people really like to
see their names in print Plus, giving people information about company activities and sales is important to
maintaining goodwill A bigger newsletter would be one way to have more visuals and keep the content, but
with the cost-cutting measures we're under, that doesn't look likely
What should I do?
As Your Instructor Directs,
Work in a small group with other students to come up with a recommendation for Sheila.
Write a memo responding to her.
c. Write an article for the employee newsletter about the photo policy you recommend and how it relates to
the company's concern for diversity.
18.14 Creating Brochures
In a collaborative group, create a series of brochures for an organization and present your design and copy to
the class in a group oral presentation. Your brochures should work well as a series but also be capable of
standing alone if a reader picks up just one. They should share a common visual design and be appropriate for
your purposes and audience. You may use sketches rather than photos or finished drawings. Text, however,
should be as it will appear in the final copy.
As you prepare your series, talk to a knowledge-able person in the organization. For this assignment, as long as the
person is knowledgeable, he or she does not have to have the power to approve the brochures. In a manila folder,
Two copies of each brochure.
A copy of your approved proposal (44 Mod-ule 21).
3. A narrative explaining (a) how you responded to the wishes of the person in the organization who was your
contact and (b) five of the choices you made in terms of content, visuals, and design and why you made these
18.15 Analyzing the Dynamics of a Group
Analyze the dynamics of a task group of which you are a member. Answer the following questions:
Who was the group's leader? How did the leader emerge? Were there any changes in or challenges to the original
Describe the contribution each member made to the group, and the roles each person played.
3. Did any members of the group officially or unof-ficially drop out? Did anyone join after the group had
begun working? How did you deal with the loss or addition of a group member, both in terms of getting the
work done and in terms of helping people work together?
What planning did your group do at the start of the project? Did you stick to the plan or revise it? How did the group
decide that revision was necessary?
How did your group make decisions? Did you vote? Reach decisions by consensus?
What problems or conflicts arose? Did the group deal with them openly? To what extent did they interfere with the
Evaluate your group both in terms of its task and in terms of the satisfaction members felt. How did this group
compare with other task groups you've been part of? What made it better or worse?
As you answer the questions,
Be honest. You won't lose points for reporting that your group had problems or did something "wrong."
Show your knowledge of good group dynamics. That is, if your group did something wrong, show that you know
what should have been done. Similarly, if your group worked well, show that you know why it worked well.
Be specific. Give examples or anecdotes to sup-port your claims.
As Your Instructor Directs,
Discuss these questions with the other group members.
Present your findings orally to the class.
Present your findings in an individual memo to your instructor.
Join with the other group members to write a col-laborative memo to your instructor.
Polishing Your Prose,
None of us likes to be told that our work isn't good. But criticism is necessary if people and documents are to
Depending on the situation, you may be able to use one of these strategies:
Notice what's good as well as what needs work.
The charts are great. We need to make the text as good as they are.
I really like the builds you've used in the slides. We need to edit the bullet points so they're parallel.
Were you able to find any books and articles, in addi-tion to sources on the Internet?
What do you see as the most important revisions to make for the next draft?
Refer to the textbook or another authority.
The module on design says that italic type is hard to read.
Our instructor told us that presentations should have just three main points.
Make statements about your own reaction. I'm not sure what you're getting at in this section.
I wouldn't be convinced by the arguments here.
5. Criticize what's wrong, without making global attacks on the whole document or on the writer as a person.
There are a lot of typos in this draft.
You begin almost every sentence with um.
Rewrite each criticism to make it less hurtful. You may add or omit information as needed.
Your idea really isn't bad. It's terrible!
This is truly amazing. I actually know less about employee benefits than I did before I read your letter.
Your job performance thus far is proof positive that with a little determination and a lot of hard work, it's still
entirely possible to fail spectacularly.
Your instructions are so confusing, they could have been written by one of those glorified videogame players in IT.
After reviewing the design and content of your Pow-erPoint presentation, I simply can no longer believe in the
Theory of Evolution.
They say charity begins at home, but based on my observation of your work, I think it really begins when-ever
someone receives your résumé.
Did you hear about that experiment where they let a monkey throw darts at stock picks, and half the time the
monkey beat the experts at predicting winning stocks? Well, after reviewing your findings, I'd rec-ommend you hire
Allow me to put it this way: If you were a WWII fighter pilot and this promotional campaign repre-sented your aim,
we'd be painting our company logo under your plane's canopy because you just shot us down.
While I'm aware you were born and raised in the United States, your report draft has so many spelling and grammar
errors in it, I'm considering enrolling you in an English as a Second Language program.
Though the team actually wants the project to suc-ceed, we've all agreed to keep you as a member because—if
nothing else—your ideas are always good for a laugh.
Check your answers to the odd-numbered exercises at the back of the book.