GSI Series – The Passive/Defensive Cluster

In this three-part Group Styles series, we break down the different clusters (Constructive, Passive/Defensive and Aggressive/Defensive) looking at the different characteristics each group may possess. Read about the Constructive Cluster here!

The Passive/Defensive Cluster
Passive/Defensive styles emerge in groups when members behave in ways that reflect a concern for maintaining their personal security with respect to people. Members of such groups may be prevented from performing effectively by their needs for acceptance, conventionality, protection, and the avoidance of threatening situations/people.

Members of Passive/Defensive groups typically assume a position that is subordinate or subservient to the group as a whole. Such groups have difficulty focusing on the task at hand because members are too preoccupied with “staying out of trouble” to make worthwhile contributions.

Basic characteristics of Passive/Defensive groups include:

  • The tendency for individual members to place the group above themselves and become dominated by it
  • Less than optimal solutions
  • Lack of constructive differing, creative thinking and individual initiative
  • Feelings of constraint on the part of individual members
  • Low level of satisfaction with solutions generated

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

Approval oriented groups, conflicts are minimal and interpersonal relations are pleasant – at least superficially;

  • Follow majority without much discussion
  • Differences are smoothed over rather than resolved
  • Members may seem to side with others in an attempt to gain their approval

Conventional groups tend to be constrained and predictable due to formal way members interact, pressure to conform and/or tendency of members to think alike;

  • New and different ideas are resisted
  • Group seems constrained’ limited to certain perspectives
  • Members may be frustrated by the narrow perspective of the group

Dependent oriented groups have too many followers and not enough leaders;

  • Members express a need for assistance
  • More initiative and leadership needed
  • Opinions of one or two members relied on too heavily

Avoidance oriented groups find it difficult to get a lot done;

  • Members are evasive when decisiveness is needed
  • Group puts off dealing with difficult issues
  • Members are reluctant to suggest ideas or present ideas hesitantly

Defensive styles have been shown to be counterproductive and lead to solutions of marginal or poor quality and limited group acceptance, with members having unvoiced concerns and not likely to be strongly committed to the groups solution.

To help make your team more effective, try working to acquire the characteristics and skills needed to more things in a more positive/constructive direction – The Constructive Styles


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