Diploma Human Resources – The 4 Stages of Group Dynamics

In the Diploma Human Resources you will learn about the 4 Stages of Group Dynamics.

We will call the four stages:

  1. Formation
  2. Frustration
  3. Resolution
  4. Results

Remembering the names are not critically important, what is of value is the understanding that almost all teams go through these stages.


When a team first starts, members are excited about belonging but concerned about where they fit in. Their roles have yet to be defined. Normally someone is in charge at this point and defines what the team goals and objectives is to be, i.e. why the group was formed in the first place. A direct leadership style is appropriate at this stage as it is necessary to create a common vision. Team members are usually quite enthusiastic about the task at hand. Productivity is low but morale is high.

 This first stage is characterised by these feelings:

  • Excitement, anticipation and optimism
  • Pride in being chosen for the team
  • Initial, tentative attachment to the team
  • Suspicion, fear and anxiety about the job ahead

And these behaviours:

  • Attempts to define the task and decided how it will be accomplished
  • Attempts to determine acceptable group behaviour and how to deal with group problems
  • Decisions on what information needs to be gathered
  • Lofty, abstract discussion of concept and issues, or for some members impatience with these discussions
  • Discussion of symptoms or problems not relevant to the task; difficulty in identifying relevant problems
  • Complaints about the organisation and barriers to the task.


This is a stage many people with experience on committees are familiar with.

 It is characterised by the following feelings:

Resistance to the task and to approaches different from each individual members is comfortable using

Sharp fluctuations in attitude about the team and their chance of success

 And these behaviours:

  • Defensiveness competition for power and attention
  • Negative reactions toward leaders and other members
  • Feeling confused
  • Feeling frustrated with self and other team members
  • Realising the task is a lot more complicated than first thought

It can be summarised by the saying:

Some people refer to meetings as a place where you take minutes and waste hours.

In certain circumstances (usually when the team has been formed to do an undesirable task like downsizing or the team members are not there voluntarily or the membership of the team just feels like extra work) a team can skip stage one and form at stage two.  In most other situations however, stage two comes after the team has been through the formation process.

Like human adolescence, there does not seem to be any way to avoid team adolescence.  It is usually the most uncomfortable stage of a group as people are jostling position, morale is lower, and the goal seems much harder than it was. Some groups never make it past this stage.

To move on, the team leader needs to work through the issues inherent in this stage.  People need to be encouraged to constructively express their feelings of frustration and confusion so those feelings can be dealt with and resolved.  Allowing people to mentally withdraw and clam up to avoid disagreement prevents the team from moving to the next stage.


At this stage the group is learning to work together resolving differences and developing confidence and cohesion. Productivity has improved, morale is starting to increase, and the leaders role starts to change from that of controller and provider of information to that of facilitator helping the group control their own content and process.

Resolution includes these feelings:

  • A new ability to express criticism constructively
  • Acceptance of membership in the team
  • Relief that it seems everything is going to work out
  • Increasing satisfaction
  • Developing confidence
  • And these behaviours:
  • More open communication and feedback

And these behaviours:

  • An attempt to achieve harmony by avoiding conflict
  • More friendliness, confiding in each other and sharing of personal problems, discussing the team’s dynamics
  • A sense of team cohesion, a common spirit and goals
  • Establishing and maintaining team ground rules and boundaries (the ‘norms’).


Once the group reaches the results stage, they are truly a team.  They `have it all together’, enjoy each other and the work and the group can manage itself.  At this stage the manager’s role is that of an educator, control is hardly necessary.

 Results include these feelings:

  • Members having insight into personal and group processes and better understanding of each other’ strengths and weaknesses
  • Satisfaction at the team’s progress

And these behaviours:

  • Constructive self-change
  • Ability to prevent or work through group problems
  • Close attachment to the team.

This stage is summarised by the following quote:

You will NEVER, NEVER, NEVER have an empowered, self-directed team unless the manager is willing to share control.

Ken Blanchard

LMIT provides online training and Nationally Recognised Courses in Certificate IV in Human Resources, the Diploma in HR Management and the Advanced Diploma of Management (Human Resources)

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Published by: LMIT

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