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Roles (Including Gender)


February 2, 2009

What does the term “role” entail?

• Set of group expectations defining the appropriate behaviour of a member
• Roles are associated with obligations and rights; a role often has an obligation which in turn are
the rights of other group members (Johnson & Frank, 2003)

How are roles determined?

• Individuals have a role though their interactions with others
• Factors that contribute to group members’ roles include:
• A) Personality traits
o Each individual brings unique attitudes, motives, interests and skills to a group
o Personalities, reputations and stereotypes may cause members of the group to expect
certain behaviours
• B) Social situations
o Role expectations differ a great deal in the range of behaviours covered and in the degree
of their specification
o Depends on level of organization, structure and role specificity
o Some roles are formally assigned (e.g. President, Treasurer) (Johnson & Frank, 2003)
• C) Group process requirements
o Members often play several roles at a time, depending on the requirements of the group
o Groups without a recognized leader can still be effective if the leadership roles are filled
• D) Behavioral patterns of others
o Automatic perceptions of one another contributes to role development (Patton & Griffin,

What are different roles in a group?

• Group roles can be placed into three categories: task roles, social roles and individualistic roles
(Benne & Sheats’, 1995)
• Task roles help the group define and accomplish their goals (Dimock, 1970; Posthuma, 1999;
Benne & Sheats’, 1995):
o Initiator-contributor: suggests new ideas
o Information seeker: asks for clarification or facts about a task
o Opinion seeker: asks for clarification about group’s values
o Information giver: states facts or relates personal experiences
o Opinion giver: states beliefs about ideas
o Elaborator: explains suggestions using examples and rationale
o Coordinator: clarifies relationships between ideas, pull ideas together
o Orienter: directs group discussion
o Evaluator-critic: measures group’s progress in comparison to a standard
o Energizer: stimulates group to greater activity
o Procedural technician: takes care of group logistics, administration
o Recorder: writes down group activities
• Social roles help interpersonal interactions among group members (Dimock, 1970; Posthuma,
1999; Benne & Sheats’, 1995):
o Encourager: praises contributions of others
o Harmonizer: helps reconcile differences between members
o Compromiser: offers compromise when involved in conflict
o Gatekeeper and expediter: keeps communication/participation open
o Standard setter: presents suggest criteria for group accomplishment
o Group observer: records group process to provide feedback
o Follower: passively goes along with movement of group
• Individual roles: allow individuals to meet their own needs, not helpful to the group (Dimock,
1970; Posthuma, 1999; Benne & Sheats’, 1995):
o Aggressor: put others down, take credit for contribution of others
o Blocker: resistant and disagreeable without reason
o Recognition seeker: brings attention to oneself
o Playboy: shows lack of interest in the group
o Dominator: takes control over the group through manipulation
o Self-confessor: shares personal feelings unrelated to the group
o Help seeker: wants sympathy from the group
o Special interest pleader: uses stereotypes to project own views

What is the relationship between group roles stages of group development?

• Required roles depend on stage of group development and task at hand (Posthuma, 1999)
• Role flexibility is useful to adapt roles that are needed or when roles are not distributed
proportionally among members (Dimock, 1970)
• In early stages, task and individual roles are typically high while social roles are low
• As group progresses, social roles increase while individual roles decrease (Dimock, 1970)
• Groups at performing stage have a wide representation of task and social roles (Dimock, 1970)

(Dimock, 1970)

What is a gender role?

• A distinct and culturally constructed phenomenon defined as the shared expectations of
individuals based solely on socially identified sex (Eagly, 1987)
• Gender-role expectations are according to beliefs about what constitutes socially acceptable
behaviour for men and women
• Gender role is not necessarily dictated by biological sex (Eagly, 1978; Eagly & Johnson, 1990;
Eagly & Karau, 1991)

What are the gender roles in a group?

• The classification first introduced by Bem (1974) is based on the characteristics that American
society values in one sex or the other
o Masculinity – assertive; focused on task-related behaviour in order to attain leadership
o Femininity – places greater emphasis on social tasks; concerned for the welfare of others
o Androgyny – flexible in behaviour; adapts to be more masculine or feminine depending on
what is appropriate
• Research evidence:
o Men prefer being members of larger, more formal, and task-focused groups while women
prefer to be part of smaller, informal and intimate groups (Taylor et al., 2000)
o Men tend to define themselves separate and distinct from others, while women’s self-
definitions may be more interpersonal, defining themselves in terms of their memberships in
groups and relationships with other people (Costa, Terraciano & McCrae, 2001; Taylor et al.,
o Androgynous and masculine participants are more likely to emerge as the leader for a gender-
neutral task and goal-oriented task (Moss & Kent, 1996)
o In a study of all-female groups, participants with androgynous and masculine characteristics
emerged as leader more frequently (Gershenoff, & Foti, 2003)
o Women tend to be more extroverted and demonstrate warmth (Forsythe, 2006)

What is the influence of gender composition on group dynamics?

• All-male groups responded in a more aggressive manner than any other gender structure (Mabry,
• Groups made up of mostly females argued less but had more tension than male groups (Mabry,
• Men interrupted women more frequently than they interrupted men, whereas women did not
show discrimination in interruption patterns (Smith-Lovin & Brody, 1989).

What are some factors that explain the association between gender role and leader emergence?
• A) Type of task
o The perception of leader may depend on whether the leader’s gender role is congruent
with the gender orientation of the type of the tasks (Lord & Emrich, 2001).
o Masculine attributes and behaviors such as independence and initiating structure, with a
focus on effective or efficient task completion (Hall et al., 1998; Lord & Maher, 1991).
o Feminine attributes and behaviors such as friendliness and consideration, with a focus on
maintaining good relationships with followers (Hall et al., 1998; Lord & Maher, 1991).
• B) Culture/societal norms and values
o Masculine cultures exhibit a belief that men should dominate in society and be assertive
and there exists clearly defined sex roles in the masculine society
o Sex roles in feminine society are more flexible due to the belief that sexes are equal, and
because men are not expected to be assertive
o In communities having low masculinity traits, it might be the case that gender roles do
not influence the leader in a group
o E.g. a study conducted in Turkey, which has feminine society, neither masculinity nor
femininity was found to be influential in leader emergence unlike similar studies
conducted in the states (Turetgen, Unsal, Pinar, & Erdem, 2008)


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