GSI Series – The Aggressive/Defensive Cluster

The last of our three-part Group Styles series, breaking down the different clusters (Constructive, Passive/Defensive and Aggressive/Defensive) and looking at the different characteristics each group may possess. Read about the Constructive Cluster and Passive/Defensive Cluster.

The Aggressive/Defensive Cluster
The Aggressive/Defensive styles emerge in groups when members approach the problem in ways intended to help maintain their status/position and fulfill their needs for security. Such groups tend to overemphasize the task side of things and pay little attention to the needs and concerns of group members.

Members of Aggressive/Defensive groups place their own interests and needs above those of the group. They tend to view the group process as a vehicle for fulfilling their needs to win, exercise control, and/or do things perfectly. This tendency, coupled with their lack of concern for other members, can seriously detract from the effectiveness of Aggressive/Defensive groups.

Basic characteristics of Aggressive/Defensive groups include:

  • A propensity for members to treat the group as a means for achieving their own goals
  • Marginal quality solutions limited by the level of expertise among members who gain control
  • Limited commitment to the group and solutions on the part of individual members
  • An impersonal, sometimes tension-ridden group process

The Aggressive/Defensive Cluster is broken up into the below styles:

Oppositional groups tend to have confrontation, conflict and disagreements;

  • People’s ideas are ‘put down’ and negated
  • Members are made to feeling they must defend their viewpoints
  • Group is focused on shortcomings rather than strengths

Power oriented groups are assertive and over confident;

  • Points are made too assertively
  • Ideas by less assertive members are likely to be disregarded
  • Members try to take charge

Competitive groups are not really interested in solving the problem and instead spent time selling their ideas;

  • Everyone is talking and no one is listening
  • Members compete with each other rather than cooperate
  • Group discussions can seem to turn into a contest

Perfectionistic groups make every effort to come up with the best solution and avoid any and all mistakes;

  • Groups lose sight of the ‘big picture’ (get hung up on details)
  • Tendency to be unrealistically or unnecessarily precise
  • Group discussions may be more serious or intense than necessary

Highly Aggressive/Defensive groups are more likely to find that one or more members developed individual solutions that were better than those developed by their groups, and tend to be critical of the groups solution; leading to weak commitment to that solution.

To help move your team forward, suggest that group members refrain from commenting on each other’s ideas until all ideas have been proposed, and be sure to focus comments on the idea itself, not on the individual proposing it.

Download the “Working on ‘we’ – Building high Performing Teams” paper, to gain further insights on teams and what it takes to help teams be more effective.


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