Original Research

Group-as-a-whole as a context for studying individual behaviour: A group diagnostic intervention

Dirk J. Geldenhuys
SA Journal of Industrial Psychology | Vol 38, No 2 | a1011 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajip.v38i2.1011 | © 2012 Dirk J. Geldenhuys | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 22 August 2011 | Published: 13 June 2012

About the author(s)

Dirk J. Geldenhuys, University of South Africa, South Africa


Orientation: Traditionalists view group interventions from three perspectives: singletons, dyads and whole groups. The focus of this research was on interventions from the third perspective, that of the whole group, using a systems psychodynamic stance. Research purpose: The purpose of the research was to use group-as-a-whole to study individual behaviour in organisations.

Motivation for the study: Team research and practice is not on a par with the complexities that teams actually experience. Traditional group interventions use humanistic and functionalistic paradigms that do not consider the unconscious functioning of groups. Interventions that use the system psychodynamic paradigm could address these dynamics because they study behaviour of individual group members in the context of the group-as-a-whole. Research design, approach and method: The researcher conducted action research in a publishing company. He used purposive sampling and analysed the data using qualitative content analysis.

Main findings: The researcher found that the group-as-a-whole partly explains the behaviour of team members and that intervening from this perspective could improve negative relationships.

Practical/managerial implications: Managers can use interventions that use the groupas- a-whole concept as a diagnostic intervention to study and possibly change the complex behavioural issues that team members experience.

Contribution/value-add: The findings give one an understanding of the behaviour of individual group members when one views it from a systems psychodynamic stance. Furthermore, the researcher proposes a group diagnostic intervention that will allow some of the root causes of poor interpersonal behaviour to surface and group members to diagnose and take ownership of their own behaviour.


change; organisation development; systems; psychodynamics; case study; publishing company


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