How to Use Group Roles Theory

How to Use Group Roles Theory

How to Use Group Roles Theory of Benne and Sheats

In this article we explain how to you can use group roles theory of Benne and Sheats in simple and effective five steps. Benne and Sheats defined three categories of group roles: task roles, personal and social roles, and dysfunctional or individualistic roles.

Benne and Sheats didn’t prescribe any application of their theory – they simply identified the roles. However, we can use the theory to look at and improve group effectiveness and harmony by asking what roles are being filled, which additional ones might be required, and which may need to be eliminated.

Benne and Sheats noted that the roles required in a group can vary depending on the stage of group development and the tasks in hand. And it’s useful to consider how your group is developing and how the task may vary when reviewing your group’s roles.

Follow these steps to use Benne and Sheats’ theory to consider the roles in your group:

Step 1: Determine What Stage or Function Your Group Is at, Based On What You’re Working on Or Discussing

Here are some common group stages/functions:

  • Forming.
  • Discussing tasks and roles.
  • Setting out expectations.
  • Goal setting.
  • Brainstorming ideas.
  • Discussing alternatives.
  • Completing tasks and duties.
  • Making a decision.
  • Implementing the solution.
  • Evaluating performance.
Step 2: Determine Which Roles Are Most Suitable and Helpful for the Current Stage/Function

Here are some examples:

  • When first forming your group, you will not necessarily need anyone in the Evaluator/Critic or Orienter roles. You will, however, need Energizers, Procedural Technicians, and a Reporter.
  • When discussing alternatives, it is important to have representation in as many Social/Personal roles as possible. Benne and Sheats suggested that the more group members playing Task and Social roles, the more successful the group would be.
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Step 3: Recruit and/or Develop the Missing Roles Within Your Group

Help the group understand where there are gaps in the functions being represented and discuss how filling these roles would help the group’s success. Benne and Sheats also said that the more flexible the group members are, the better – meaning that group members should be able to adapt their roles depending on the group’s needs.

With a flexible group structure like this, members each use a wide range of talents and provide maximum contribution to the team.

Step 4: Identify Any Dysfunctional Roles Being Played Within the Group

Make a plan to eliminate this behavior either through increased awareness, coaching, or feedback. These self-serving roles really must be minimized or eliminated for effective group work to emerge.

By making the whole group aware of these maladaptive behaviors, individuals can reflect on their own behavior. This alone should decrease much of the disruptive behavior.

Step 5: Re-Evaluate Regularly

Groups are constantly changing their function and purpose. Make sure that you continuously evaluate what is going on within the group and take action to maximize effectiveness.


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