Roles and Small Group Communication

A role is a pattern of behavior expected of a group member.

Formal or designated roles — positions or titles given to a person by the group or larger organization.

Informal or emergent roles — a person in the group begins to assume behaviors expected of the group without being given a specific title.


Three types of roles:

1. Task

2. Maintenance roles

3. Disruptive or individual agenda roles


Examples of Task Roles

1. Leader – helps the group define and achieve goals.

2. Initiator  contributor: Offers ideas and suggestions.

3. Opinion seeker — requests info

4. Information giver

5. Secretary – recorder

6. Devil’s advocate – prevents “group think”

Examples of Maintenance roles

1. Supporter – encourager  provides emotional warmth, praise and acceptance

2. Harmonizer – tension reliever — promotes group peace, uses humor, reconciles conflict

3. Gatekeeper — controls channels of communication and flow of information using openness and supportiveness

4. Feeling expresser — monitors feelings and moods of the group and gives feedback.

Examples of Disruptive Roles

1. Stagehog — recognition seeker

2. Isolate –– withdraws from the group

3. Clown (Playboy/playgirl) — horseplay, practical jokes, comic routines that goes beyond tension reliever.

4. Blocker – opposes everything new.

5. Fighter  starts arguments, bullying.

6. Cynic — displays sour outlook, destroys morale.