6 Symptoms of Groupthink in the Workplace and How To Fix It

Updated August 12, 2022

Effective businesses thrive when their team members contribute alternative ideas that promote innovation. While reaching a general team consensus can be beneficial, it can also be counterproductive to pioneering these new ideas.

In this article, we discuss what groupthink is, how to recognize it at your workplace and how to improve your team by eliminating the habit of groupthink.

What is groupthink?

The term “groupthink” was first used by a social psychologist named Irving Janis, and it is a psychological phenomenon that occurs when a well-intentioned group works together to make decisions and strives for harmony and consensus.

This, in turn, leads to non-optimal decision-making and conformity within the group. In other words, groupthink discourages individuals from disagreeing with the leader and overall consensus of a group.

Symptoms of groupthink

These ‘symptoms’ were developed by Janis to show the way groupthink influences individuals and teams. These symptoms display a need for team improvement. Here are a few of the symptoms of groupthink:

  • Self-censorship: Individuals in a team will remain quiet about views that are contrary to the ideas and decisions the group has decided on. 

  • Collective rationalization: Team members won’t reconsider their beliefs and they will ignore warning signs. 

  • Unquestioned beliefs: Moral problems and consequences of individual and group actions are ignored by team members. 

  • Direct pressure: Conformity is insisted when members who question a subject or the group are believed to be disloyal. 

  • Stereotyping: Stereotyping allows members in the center of the group to ostracize other group members who oppose the group’s ideas. 

  • Illusions of invulnerability: Team members under the sway of groupthink are likely to be overly optimistic and take potentially-dangerous risks.

How to recognize groupthink in your workplace

It is important to observe your team’s morale and their current level of engagement. There may be subtle details that you won’t notice until you know how to identify and recognize signs of groupthink in your workplace. Here are some signs that could signal groupthink in your workplace:

Complacency or apathy

Your team members may appear to be uninterested in the decision-making process during team meetings. They may not care about the resolution of an issue or they don’t believe their input will change the outcome. However, they will still agree to the most popular decision at the end of the meeting.

These employees rarely resist or offer any feedback in meetings. If you notice this sign in some of your employees, then you may try meeting with these individuals separately and ask them open-ended questions to reveal the real problem with their lack of contribution. 


The next time you conduct a meeting with employees, take time to observe who is in the room and what you know about them. Individuals with the same background and life experience create a uniform environment with employees who have the same viewpoints that contribute to groupthink.

Diversity among team members allows for new thoughts and ideas to be shared and considered which can lead to successful solutions and further innovation. 


Employees are less likely to provide their opinions in a climate of fear. Some team members may fear that they will be disciplined or lose their jobs altogether if they express thoughts, opinions or ideas contrary to the company’s beliefs or principles.

As a team leader, you may try to observe the nonverbal cues of your team members when you ask for their opinion on a matter to gauge whether they appear apprehensive to give honest feedback. 


Intimidating leaders can further contribute to groupthink. A leader may be considered intimidating if they present a know-it-all attitude in meetings. Team members will be less likely to share their ideas if their supervisor neglects alternative ideas or other points of view.

How to improve your team without groupthink

Groupthink is a habit that is usually firmly established over time. However, by applying the correct strategies you can replace groupthink with good group decision-making habits that will benefit your entire team and company. Here are some ways you can improve your team and avoid groupthink:

Related: 6 Ideas for Team-Building Activities

1. Cultivate a sharing environment

It is important to create an environment that encourages participation and sharing. A company culture that allows for trust and support of ideas of all types is more likely to have more cohesive decision-making and an increase in subsequent positive outcomes. To cultivate a sharing environment, as a leader, you may try: 

  • Including alternative viewpoints in discussions

  • Rewarding employees for expressing opposing opinions 

  • Analyzing information objectively

  • Including information from outside sources for objectivity

  • Encouraging constructive disputes

2. Evaluate your communication style

When you evaluate your own communication style, you will begin to notice how you interact with your team members in a group setting that requires decision making. Try writing down the way you gathered decision-making information from your group in the last two or three meetings.

Reflect on what you might be doing to contribute to the problem. If you found yourself only communicating with the members in the group who had the most input, try engaging more with the ones who don’t voice their opinions as often in the next meeting. This will lead to more engagement and all of the team members will feel that what they have to contribute is important.

Related: Communication Skills: Definitions and Examples

3. Embrace both sides of an argument

As a leader, you should be able to contribute to both sides of an argument. Try testing your team’s opinions to further reveal their true beliefs and feelings on a decision-making matter.

The conflict you stir up will present a positive output of pros and cons that likely would’ve been ignored otherwise. When you encourage your team to remain critical, you strengthen the brainstorming or decision-making process by generating more possibilities that lead to positive team building and employee ownership over the outcomes of decisions.

4. Allow enough time for decision making

Understanding that effective decisions take time is an important factor to consider when you change the groupthink habit in your team. If your team members feel rushed to make a decision, they will likely decide with the majority for the sake of saving time.

Give your team time based on the importance of the decision and set a deadline for a final decision. You may also try leaving your team to make the decision together without your direct supervision. This way the team doesn’t feel pressured to decide quickly and instead, feels trusted and valued as individuals.

Related: Decision-Making Methods for the Workplace

5. Continue to question

The above strategies are part of an ongoing process. Continue to use them in team-oriented situations to keep groupthink from hindering your team. Your team should continually progress and meet challenges with open minds and individual spirits to make optimal decisions together.


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