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Status and Role in Groups

Status and Role in Groups

Author: marlene johnson

At the end of this tutorial, the learner will understand how parties' perceptions of their status and role in a group may become interests within a conflict.

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Video Transcription

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We all belong to groups. Many different kinds of groups. And sometimes our involvement within a group can lead to conflict. I'm Marlene, and today I'd like to talk with you more about that. Just to review, we've talked about in-groups and out-groups-- put the terms here-- and the in-group of course is any group we belong to. If we're in the group-- if we define ourselves as part of that group, we call it our in-group.

An out-group on the other hand would be any of those people that are not in our group. They're the out-group. So it's us and them. Sometimes this leads to conflict. It doesn't always have to.

But the groups we belong to really are a way in which we identify who we are. It's part of our self identity. And so we're going to talk about the actual in-groups today, and how we get our identity from those groups and how sometimes that can lead to conflict. When we belong to a group we have a particular role.

So you are part of a volunteer organization. You joined the organization. Maybe your role is as a volunteer. Let's say you get elected to the board and you become the treasurer on the board. So that's a particular role now. You're the person in charge of finances.

So role is the job, basically. It's a good way to look at it. Your job. How you contribute to this organization, and there could be many different roles depending on the group and how you contribute. But now there's also something else here in terms of role, and that's status.

Now status is the rank we give to a particular role. Its value, its importance. So you are now on the board of this volunteer organization. You're the treasurer. So that's got some status.

But the board chair maybe has higher status in terms of the value we give to that role. So we get our identity-- the roles we play. The status we see in those roles. It's part of our identity.

This happens as I said with any group we belong to. It can happen at work. You're on a project working-- you have a specific role. People are depending on you to maybe produce reports in Excel and get them-- and to crunch the numbers.

But you'd like to be the team leader on the project. The team leader has a higher status. So oftentimes we will promote ourselves in ways to get a higher status or a different role because it is part of our identity. The way we see ourselves.

So we might promote ourselves for example, in either of these situations, by highlighting what our talents are. Perhaps showing our resume. New things that we have learned. New skills, new responsibilities. So that we're making ourselves more visible. We are promoting ourselves here, so that we can change roles. Perhaps get a role with a higher status if that's what we want.

Now roles could also be unofficial. These roles here-- team leader, treasurer, board president, chairperson-- those are official roles. But within an organization you might have an unofficial role, and this could happen in say at a condominium association just to give you an example.

Small condominium association, and there has been an individual there-- we'll call him Tom-- who likes to garden and he's been out. They don't have much of a backyard here. In fact, a lot of it is graveled over and some concrete, but he's brought in pots, plants, and things. Made it look nice out there.

So what they do have time Tom is puttered and he likes to do that. Everybody knows this is what Tom does in the condo. It's his unofficial role taking care of that garden. Well there is new people who have moved in, and people on the board here for the condo have changed and they decided to do a little more landscaping out there in the condo.

They're going to get rid of some of the gravel and concrete, and do more with it. Well now someone else has some ideas about what they should do, and they decide maybe they want to bring in a professional landscaper to give them some ideas. And suddenly Tom becomes a little obstinate. He used to be the biggest advocate of fixing up this space, but now he's a little bit-- he's not quite so much on board with this. He begins to object to things.

Well Tom beginning to feel that his role here that he's played is being usurped. They're no longer looking to him for guidance here, but they think they might go outside. Other people are challenging that now that it's become this project.

So this could lead to conflict. Even this unofficial role here could lead to conflict. So let's say this condominium association decides to-- they realize there's conflict here and they decide to have a mediation. Well, the conflict intervener would need to recognize the importance of role.

Sometimes the presenting issue is not always these underlying elements like role and status. It might be something about the more tangible things, like what we're going to do in the backyard I'm objecting to. I don't like this particular design, or this particular plant, or whatever it might be.

But once you get the parties to begin discussing what their really feeling and thinking. What are their underlying interests? If role or status is one of those underlying interests, which it probably is, and in this case with the condominium and Tom. It's important to recognize that as the intervener. To allow that to surface.

So our need to have roles recognized, status in the groups we belong to. Whether it be unofficial as in this condo association example, or perhaps at work. Maybe you're vying for this team leader position. Or you've been the team leader and someone else gets promoted to that or asked to do that, and you're feeling a little edgy about it.

We want to have our roles recognized. Status is important to us. It's part of our identity. And there are times that we want to protect that. And when we feel challenged, it can lead to conflict. So thank you for joining me, and I look forward to next time.

Terms to Know

The group in which a given person identifies himself or herself to be a member.


The group in which a given person does not identify himself or herself to be a member.


A sense of “owning” responsibility or the right to make meaningful contributions in a group or situation.


A state of "rank" or ascription of value and importance in a given situation.