Does Your Workplace Have Symptoms of Groupthink? – HigherEdJobs Podcast Recap

Are you experiencing groupthink at your institution? Are some members of your team intentionally or unintentionally not speaking up? How are you trying to work through this?

In Episode 7 of The HigherEdJobs PodcastKelly and Andy interview Justin Zackal about his article Working Toward Productive Conflict and Away from ‘Groupthink’.

Higher education benefits from confronting opposing ideas, but how do you spot productive conflict from unproductive conflict? Kelly and Andy learn how to combat groupthink and spot the differences in conflict in the workplace.

Productive Conflict
How can you identify productive conflict in your work settings? Zackal says, “…you want to have dialectical conversations…not just getting into having opposing ideas where you’re focusing on imposing your opinion on somebody to try to win an argument.”

“You want to try to reach a solution that’s, uh, agreeable and advantageous for both parties involved…great solutions happen by talking through [conflicts].”

Unproductive Conflict
You can identify unproductive conflict when “…conversations are arguing over frivolous matters, resorting to sarcasm or abusive language that could be harmful for any department organization” Zackal advises.

Not all groupthink is bad, according to Zackal, “…groupthink in most senses is a pejorative term, but if you interpret it in the way of sharing values ​​and the path to a productive output…groupthink [could] be consensus around the mission of the organization.”

But there are negative outcomes to groupthink, “one of the symptoms of groupthink is when you have a group that is structured in a way where nobody sees a need to speak up because you all share those same values, but also it could be the character of the leader that doesn’t provide the psychological safety for the people with dissenting views to speak up because they feel they might be punished socially or within the organization if they challenge an authority figure.”

Zackal compares higher education to other professional industries and mentions “academic departments, you might [be] less susceptible to groupthink” but “…the administrative staff side, I think it’s just as likely to have groupthink present itself compared to other industries.”


For more answers from “Do You Think It’s Groupthink?” check out Episode 7 of The HigherEdJobs Podcast below with guest Justin Zackal.

Drop a comment below? to share your insights. We’d love to hear from you!

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