9 Dealing with misaligned behaviour

Despite the precautions taken in forming groups and introducing group evaluation, it is not excluded that there are group members with (uncorrectable) misaligned behaviour. This may be due to generally limited social skills, strong external regulation, extrinsic goal orientation or, in the extreme, a state of amotivation. As a consequence, the person in question pursues different goals than those formulated in the project assignment or by the group. As previously reported in “working together to learn” (paragraph PS1) this can seriously disrupt the transactive dialogue. From the point of view of group functioning, we can qualify such misaligned individuals as “dissidents”. Formative group self-evaluation will reveal this and the question is what you can do as a leader, or instructor, if the group is unable to find a solution? What we describe below applies particularly to formal learning or working groups, i.e., projects that last several weeks or longer (Hollenbeck et al., 2012).

Expel the dissident from the group

This option is only applicable if the member is easily replaceable and there are alternative options (in the case of low authority differentiation and low skill differentiation groups (Hollenbeck et al., 2012). In education, it is impossible not to give the dissident a learning task, so a new task must be created, but it is also often difficult to replace the dissident because you would have to remove one person from other, already formed, groups. In the case of corporate project organizations, the person may be difficult to replace because of the need for specific competencies. Exclusion increases the chance that the person will dysfunction on several fronts.

Putting the dissident next to the group.

This option means that the dissident remains in the group, continuing to work on the project, but in collaboration with the leader or instructor (see Figure 1, below). This approach has three major advantages: preserving the group, preserving group work for everyone, and preserving the pleasure of group work. The dissident comes alongside the instructor or leader and this one forms an intermediate in the group process. The disadvantage is an (unforeseen) enhanced workload for the leader or instructor. This approach assumes that the direct link to an instructor or leader places the dissident in a hierarchical situation that satisfies her/his need for external regulation. It also assumes that the instructor or leader is able to communicate with the group and the dissident (impartial, process oriented attitude). Of the 176 or so collaborative projects that we have supervised, four required this type of intervention.

figure showing a way to deal with misaligned behavior: taking a group member apart, under supervision of leader or instructor
Figure 1. Dealing with misaligned behavior (“dissidents”)


Hollenbeck, J.R., Beersma, B., & Schouten, M.E. (2012). Beyond team types and taxonomies: a dimensional scaling conceptualization for team description. Academy of Management Review, 37(1), 82-106.