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SYMLOG and Belbin

The authors coded the Belbin items into the SYMLOG dimensions. The results revealed that the questionnaire used by Belbin to determine one’s team role preference focus mainly on task-oriented and influence-seeking behavior. Social-emotional behavior is only represented by 10 of the 70 possible items in the Belbin questionnaire. "Neither fundamental opposition or destructive behavior nor empathy, making jokes, releasing tension are mentioned. Even negative aspects of team work are characterized by strongly task-oriented behavior" (accepting of authority, rules, regulations, inflexibility, and authoritarian behavior perceived as negative by others)…"Social-emotional aspects seem to be of secondary importance." p. 27.

Positions of the nine team roles within the SYMLOG space model
SYMLOG and Belbin
Beck and Fisch research, 2005
(Click image to enlarge)

Note in the field diagram representing the results of the study, eight of the roles are located in the Forward part of the SYMLOG space, either Positive-Forward (P-F), Negative-Forward (N-F), or merely Forward (F) as is the case with the Resource Investigator. Only the Plant is in the Backward (B) part of the space which represents values on opposing authority, and encompasses both rebellious and nurturing, training, empathic behavior—all necessary for effective social interaction. “…the location of the team roles within the SYMLOG space shows some bias of the team roles neglecting to some extent the interpersonal dimension and nonconformistic (sic) and emotionally determined behavioral values.” p. 30.

“The team role approach and SYMLOG present instruments to identify differences between group members with respect to team role preferences and behavioral values. The factor analysis of the team role self-perceptions, and the location of the team roles within the SYMLOG space model, suggest potential lines of polarization of team role diversity which have to be overcome for the realization of effective group work: Polarization may arise from different degrees of personal orientation, differences between ‘worker’-roles and ‘leader’-roles, differences between the roles ‘special and ‘generalist’ and from differences in managing change and innovation. These results indicate different aspects where tolerance for diversity has to be focused.” pp. 32-33.

The team member roles show individual preferences. The choice alone of a role shows the potential for polarization within the group, but not the value-orientation of the members. Using SYMLOG in conjunction with the Belbin team roles can help clarify the interpersonal conflicts and diversities within the group, and thus address and formulate strategies to mediate these differences effectively.


Beck, Dieter, and Rudolf Fisch. Dynamics of Group Role Diversity in Work Teams: Belbin’s Team Role Approach. In Analysis of Social Interaction Systems, Hare, A.P., Sjovold, E., Baker, H.G., and Powers, J. (Eds.). Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, Inc., 2005, pp. 17-34.

Beck and Fisch compared the theoretical and methodological foundations of the Belbin team role approach to the more general social interaction theory of Bales.

Belbin, Meredith. Team Roles at Work. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann, Ltd., 1993.

Davies, Martin F., and Eleftheria Kanaki. Interpersonal characteristics associated with different team roles in work groups. London: Goldsmiths University of London, 2006.

Davies and Kanaki used the SYMLOG Interpersonal Effectiveness Profile (a self-report 26 item trait adjective instrument) as a measure of personality, the EPQ, and Belbin’s checklist of team roles to investigate the interpersonal characteristics associated with Belbin’s team roles in work groups.

Among other findings, the authors determined that the SYMLOG dimensions were more strongly correlated with team roles than the EPQ measures. Specifically, the SYMLOG Upward-Downward (U-D) dimension, measuring dominance and submissiveness, was positively associated with the roles of Implementer, Coordinator, and Resource Investigator. The SYMLOG Forward-Backward (F-B) dimension, relating to accepting or opposing authority, was positively associated with the roles of Completer/finisher, Monitor Evaluator, and negatively associated with Plant and Shaper. The Positive-Negative SYMLOG dimension (P-N), measuring orientation to others or self, was positively associated with the Belbin roles of Teamworker and Plant.

To quote their abstract for practical implications of their research findings, “Organizations might improve the functioning of their teams by analysing the sorts of interpersonal characteristics that are duplicated or lacking in their personnel so that a balanced mix of personalities can be established across different roles.”

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