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October 20, 2000
Group Climate and Achieving Goals
The climate in a group is very important. It greatly influences the outcome of the situation and
the outcome of the problem. The amount of support, the type of messages, and the degree of
cohesiveness are the defining factors which determine the climate of the group. The film ?Waking Ned
Devine? shows all these factors throughout the movie, especially in the church scene.
A defensive climate evolves when a member of the group focuses more on his own needs rather
than on those of the group. This person is primarily concerned with his own benefit, even at the his
group?s cost (Cartwright & Zander, 1960). This type of climate appears when the person attacks
another person instead of the issue, tries to manipulate the situation, has a hidden agenda, has no
interest, feels superior, and leaves no room for error (Beebe & Masterson, 2000). In the movie, the
?witch? Lizzie Queen tries to manipulate the situation to gain the most. Her secret agenda is to keep
most of the lottery money, and this brings on a defensive climate. She almost prevents the town of
Tulley More from achieving its goal; she brought the group climate down.
A supportive climate does the exact opposite. In this climate, members of the group truly care
for the group and goal, have no hidden agendas, and can admit when they are wrong (Cartwright &
Zander, 1960). There is also a sense of equality and trust in this climate (Beebe & Masterson, 2000).
There are several examples of supportive climates throughout the movie, including the scene in which
Jackie lets the town know of his plans and wishes of attaining the winnings. The town accepts the offer,
and the people begin working towards this goal with a sense of equality since the money will be spent
in 52 equal shares.
The climate of the group is greatly affected by the type of responses and messages the members
send to each other. The group is bound to have a defensive climate if members use disconfirming
responses, those that lower the people?s self-esteem (Cartwright & Zander, 1960). Ignoring,
interrupting, changing the direction of the conversation, rambling, or dominating the conversation are
all examples of disconfirming climates. Verbally saying something and having your body language say
another is also a disconfirming response (Beebe & Masterson, 2000). If a member receives this type of
response, he will not feel a real and essential part of the group and will therefore lose interest in the
group and its goal (Cartwright & Zander). Towards the first part of the movie, it seemed that Jackie
was sending disconfirming responses; he wouldn?t heed to Annie?s warnings and precautions. He
seemed to be ignoring her and completely undermining her. He put his agenda before that of his
That changed, however, as the sum of the lottery increased and Jackie decided to bring in the
entire town. The responses changed between the original three from disconfirming to confirming. Annie
began reassuring her husband and offering him support. Confirming responses bring a feeling of
security into the group. They do so by the description of good feelings, reassurance, agreement,
acknowledgment, and clarification (Beebe & Masterson, 2000). When these responses are received,
they strengthen the commitment and members of the group work harder to achieve the goal
(Cartwright & Zander, 1960).
All this also plays a role in group cohesiveness, the attraction that exists between the members
of the group. This is not a physical attraction, rather, it is a sense of belonging, trust and commitment
that is achieved when the group goal becomes the individual?s goal (Beebe & Masterson, 2000).
Mutuality of concern is also a key part of cohesiveness, if members don?t feel the same level of
commitment, the group will suffer because this will lead to dissatisfaction and it will make the climate
defensive. On the other hand, if all members have the same level of commitment, they will increase their
communication and feel more attracted to each other. They will make and maintain a bond that will
improve the climate of the group(Cartwright & Zander, 1960). By working together to get the lottery
money, the people of Tulley More achieved cohesiveness. People who had never really associated
much were brought together and remained attractive to each other. The scheme brought the people
together, the group goal became each individual?s goal as each person planned what to do with his
share of the money. The members had a sense of belonging, and they liked it. Towards the end of the
movie, the attraction was established and demonstrated by the celebration in the pub.
The best scene in the movie, by far, is the church scene, when they are celebrating Ned?s
funeral mass. Jim Kelly shows up precisely when Jackie begins talking about Ned. Thanks to Jim?s
distinctive mark, his sneeze, the town people were able to recognize that he was the lottery man. Jackie
decides to change from Ned?s name to Michael, and he gives a wonderful speech. All the people in the
church pick up on this and ?go with the flow.? Nobody denies him or turns him in. This is the scene
where the deepest loyalty and commitment is present, therefore making it cohesive. Every single person
in that church shared the same level of commitment, and they all trusted and respected one another.
Their confirming response was to smile and nod at Jackie, reassuring him that he had their support. He
felt they were behind him all the way, and this created a supporting climate in which they all felt equal.
Everyone that was present maintained the same deep sense of loyalty they felt towards the goal and the
The supportive climate, confirming response, and cohesiveness helped them make decisions and
solve their problems. Jim?s arrival was not expected yet, but since the group was already deeply
committed, all the members were able to make their decisions on the spot and they chose to encourage
and support Jackie at that critical moment. They were able to solve this problem of an ?almost-tragedy?
by sticking together and making good on their promises and remaining loyal to the group. Jim Kelly
asked all that were present if they could do him the favor of pointing out Ned Devine, and they pointed
over to Michael O? Sullivan, just like they had committed to do.
The group?s climate had a positive influence on the outcome of the situation. Through all the
support and commitment, the people were able to convince Jim that Michael was Ned Devine, which is
exactly what the goal was. They got the check and were finally going to get the share they wanted so
badly. They achieved the goal, completed the task, finished the job.
The outcome was a direct result of the group climate. If there had been no cohesiveness, if
there would have been more Lizzies, if no one would have been supportive, they would not have gotten
the money. he level of mutual respect and loyalty, the support, and the shared vision were necessary to
reach the goal. In order to achieve a goal, a group needs to build and maintain a good group climate.
Support, confirming responses, and cohesiveness are the deciding factors in climate.
Beebe, S. A., Masterson, J. T., (2000). Communicating in small groups: Principles and
practices New York: Longman.
Cartwright, D., Zander, A., (1960). Group dynamics: Resarch and theory New York: Harper & Row.
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