I read an article recently about how the most negative person in a group often determines the group’s dynamic. This can range from kvetching, to passive/aggressive non-participation, to outright mind games. Why is that? Are humans so easily influenced? Like all studies, it was an interesting, posed question, but it was only looking in one direction-trying to sort out the bad apples.
A larger question occurs to me. Maybe the problem isn’t with the assumed bad apple. Maybe it’s with the concept of the group dynamic still being effective. Let’s face it, the way we work has changed radically, just in the past few years. Most of us who work in an office environment are lone wolves. Emailing and other computer activity is done in a state of solitude. Even when you are interacting “socially” on twitter or facebook you are alone, typing out pithy observations to the other lone wolves in cyberspace.
So how could any group meeting succeed? Most of the standing meetings where I work have dissolved. If a person can’t get out of attending, they are unlikely to leave the iPhone or similar lifeline behind. Of course some folks of a certain age still love to hold and attend meetings. That is the way they have always done things. But they have also had to attempt to master the speaker phone. Or even skype. Many of the folks who may have regularly attended on site a few years ago now are only able or willing to attend via phone. I imagine that in just a few year’s time meeting spaces will be almost exclusively virtual, barring the yearly shareholder or other VIP-necessary meeting.
Maybe the bad apple is calling out with a glimpse of the future. Maybe our time would be better spent not in a dead-color-schemed corporate conference space, but in a brief face-to-face as we pass by each other’s desk. That’s where most of my best project planning is done these days. See you in the hallway …