Have you ever felt like you don’t belong in a group or in a team? Whether it’s with friends, work colleagues, or even with your family, I would assume this a feeling we’ve all had at least once in our lives. I believe “belonging” is a vital part of our social lives as it provides us with a sense of value and appreciation. Other members of the group will tend to respect you more and demonstrate trust in your character and abilities.
But what happens when you don’t belong? Will you be trusted, appreciated, and valued? One of the major problems I’ve seen with groups that promote a strong sense of belonging is that individuals with different opinions and that have a tendency to challenge the group, even in the best of intents, are prone to be pushed away from the group. If you don’t abide to the leader’s principles and if you constructively challenge the leader’s opinions, chances are you will no longer belong, and in the worst case scenario, you might even be portrayed as an enemy, in all its meaning. I’ve seen this behavior in the context of groups of friends, in the work place, and even in families. If you have strong beliefs and opinions and are not afraid of sharing it with your peers, you might just end up as the enemy. It’s possible to hear in the workplace so-called company leaders say they would like to knock a colleague’s teeth out for not being in agreement with their opinion and not inline with their way of operating. Someone might even be called a “spy” or a “traitor” for willingly changing division within the company – such a person is clearly seen as an enemy for not following the group. How bad can it get? This also even extends to families, where family members are pushed away, chastised, because they weren’t following the family “leader”.
This is at the core of groupthink. Groupthink is a thought process that individuals tend to adopt when they are deeply involved in cohesive groups where unanimity is the prime objective. The characteristics of groupthink include feelings of invulnerability, moral superiority, group pressure, and self-censorship. This type of behavior has even been shown to be partially responsible for corporate scandals and bankruptcies (WorldCom Scandal).
I see this as an extremely unhealthy cult-like attitude that has no place for independent thinkers. It’s the “tribe” mentality without restraint. By the way, I’ve heard of a book called “Tribes”, which apparently sells well and is quite good, but I haven’t read it. First, to me the word tribe has a negative connotation and is not well viewed from a cultural anthropology perspective. In addition, it portrays the concept of seclusion and lack of cooperation between different entities, outside of the so called tribe. But that’s my opinion.
In any case, whether its groupthink, closed tribe mentality, or any other form of association that restrains creativity and open thinking, I believe it will lead you to failure. It will drain your energy, kill your confidence, and you will lose your sense of unique value. It may be hard to actually see if you’re currently in such a situation, but if you are, I would say do all you can to get out of it. If you’re reprimanded for providing constructive feedback that is not inline with the group’s vision, or if you feel you’re being put on the side because of your independent thinking, than chances are you’re living it head on.
Blindly playing follow-the-leader doesn’t always end well.