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A. Oulanov, V. Thomas, L. Knizhnik, K. Madden, Y. Novitskaya

City University of New York, Medgar Evers College (UNITED STATES)
The present research is an exploratory qualitative study describing the inner composition, structure, demographics, and group behavior occurring in a group of four randomly selected students working on a project in an MBA organizational psychology class. Group work is traditionally used in the MBA environment to allow students to learn how to be efficient team players and overcome possible conflicts resulting from the interaction with other individuals in the team.
Jalajas and Sutton (1985) described the importance of the composition of the group. On one hand the diverse demographics of the group can be a good asset, and on the other hand this diversity can sometimes create a conflict. Different gender, age, culture, and academic background can be an environment that fosters synergy and success. On the other hand, the resulting perceptual differences may also trigger some tension and feud.
WXYZ group used for the current study consisted of four students: W,X,Y, and Z that were randomly selected by the instructor. Similar procedure was used for forming other groups in the same class. The composition of the current group is diverse. In terms of gender, W is female, and X,Y, and Z are males. In terms of age, W, X, and Y seem to be in their twenties or early thirties, and Z seems to be somewhat older. In terms of ethnicity, W, X, and Y seem to be American and speak American English as their first language. W also speaks the language of her parents, who at some point immigrated from some Central Asian country where the major language spoken is Russian. Z is a foreigner, he comes from an Eastern European country, and he grew up in the capital of that country, which happens to be one of the biggest cities in Europe, very vibrant and cosmopolitan in its culture. Z speaks Russian as a first language, has pretty good command of English on the ESL level, and is familiar with some other languages, including some dead ancient ones. The educational background in the group was discussed very little. W probably had it in Business Administration, X might have had it in English (according to W’s information), and Y never mentioned what was his previous degree. It seems that for W, X, and Y current MBA is probably their first graduate degree.
Moderate conflict might be necessary for higher performance of a group, and in this situation WXYZ group got its fair share of the moderate conflict. Comparing the conflict reported in the current study to the conflicts in other student groups, the authors describe this one as definitely moderate and even improving the work of the group. All the four members made appropriate conclusions as a result of this conflict: X stopped active bullying and probably considered a more egalitarian leadership style, W seemed to have stopped bullying altogether. Z probably started being less active in his martyrdom, and Y, who was a less engaged participant, probably also made the proper conclusions and became more engaged As a result the quality of the final project for that class improved and reflects the synergistic effect of the diverse composition of the WXYZ group and the expertise and talents of its individual members. It shows this way the benefits and shortcomings of the group work and suggests possible ways for the necessary improvements that should result for the group members in learning how to be more efficient team players in their future careers.