As a group we observed the TV show ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ Season 7, Episode 10, paying particular attention to the Red Team. This team consists of four members who have to work in a randomly formed team to show their talent and will to win irrespectively of who they have to work with.
There are three female members and one male. All of them have different backgrounds, ages, ambitions, etc. Autumn is new in the team, she is 29-year-old African American. Holli is 24-year-old banquet Chef, Caucasian. Nilka is 28-year-old line cook, African American. Benjamin is culinary instructor, Caucasian and 33 years old. The environment in which the Red Team operates consists mainly of the red kitchen where they need to cook the meals. At the same house there are also their dorms where they live during the competition.
In terms of goals, every one of them has an individual goal to avoid being eliminated and to win the show, becoming a head-chef in Savoy restaurant, London. Additionally, as a team they have a goal to perform better than the Blue Team, to be rewarded, and to avoid punishment.
Before we compared our impressions for the individual task of the report, we could never have imagined that our answers could differ so much. The main reason for that is that some of us paid more attention to the details, while others focused more on the overall impression of the team. However, we all agreed on the main characteristics of the team (a group of people without any team spirit) and on the collective and individual goals within the team (as individuals, to win the competition, and as a team, to outperform the opposing team, receive rewards and avoid punishment). We also consented that the main motivations for the team are the rewards and the wish to be better than the Blue Team in the Chef’s eyes. We made a conclusion that for communication they use verbal and physical contact, while also showing their emotions to each other (e.g. Nilka crying).
The first point in which our opinions differed occurred when we tried to decide whether the Chef should also be considered as a part of the team. Two team members argued that he should be included as a team member since he was the team’s leader, and the third team member thought that he was more like a judge and since he was also leading the Blue Team, he could not be considered the leader of the Red Team.
When started discussing each individual separately we discovered that we held exact opposite opinions. For example, on one side Autumn was described as a fair player because she wasn’t involved in any conflicting situations, but on the other hand, part of our team thought she was playing unfair because of a comment that she made, saying “I switched the team at the right moment”. Another member of the Red Team, Benjamin, brought much discussion because he made a very ambiguous impression. Two of us described him as a quiet and family-oriented man, while another member considered him as a delegating person. Finally, we all agreed that he was an average person who tries to be ‘something more’ than he is.
After comparing all our answers, we reached the conclusion that we based our impressions on different things depending on our interpretations of the facts, our personality (e.g. paying attention to details or not) and our cultural backgrounds.
To support the arguments each of us made, we came up with slightly different evidence. However, impressions of the Red Team as a group without team spirit, unfriendly and with competitive atmosphere was based on similar evidence, namely, observations of the communication between team members - how brief and formal this communication was. During the episode, interviews of each member of the Red Team were shown and from analyzing them we concluded that there were relatively negative attitudes toward one’s own teammates. Moreover, a rather strong team reaction to Nilka’s fiasco (ignorance, no cheering and Benjamin’s encouragement for Nilka to leave the show) once more showed the group’s disintegration.
For creating a description of Holli and providing evidence for our impressions of her, we mainly paid attention to what her teammates said about her (for example, Autumn saying that Holli has a potential to be a strong player), her performance in terms of cooking (the Chef’s acknowledgement that her dish was the best) and how she behaved with other team members (e.g. provocative eye contact).
We shared a similar impression about Nilka as well. Of course, it was mainly based on the unpleasant situation which occurred during the second round of the show when Nilka could not handle the stress and broke down, kicking the sign in the hall, slamming doors, etc.
Our impressions of Autumn were partially based on the fact that she was eliminated from the Blue Team. Some of us interpreted that as an evidence that she is a fair player and a nice person because she took that fact well, while others took this (and also the comment “I don’t think there is a luckier person in switching teams”) as an evidence that she enjoys victory without enough contribution.
As already mentioned, Benjamin was considered by one of our team members to be a delegating person. The argument for that is the fact that after Nilka was not able to cook the shrimps right, he simply takes over her task. This as well as the fact that he divides the lobster unfairly and takes the biggest part of it leads us to an impression of him as an overbearing and egoistic person. On the other hand, a comment that he would buy necklace to bring it home to his wife and also his taciturnity show him as a person who is quiet, introverted and does not like attention.
We carefully examined the episode to find any signs of discrimination, stereotypes or prejudice but we couldn’t find anything in particular. We decided that this is a result of the producers’ strategy to reach an enormous range of different people with their television show. They don't want to offend people, by showing discrimination in the show and for this reason we can't find traces of unjust portrayal. There is always the possibility of people within the Red Team to discriminate, but even if this was the case, the editing that episodes go through leaves no evidence for this.
Strengths of the Red Team
Considering the strengths and weaknesses of the team, we all agreed that the group of the Red Team has more weaknesses than strengths. For this reason, our team had difficulties coming up with a strength that the Red Team possesses. However, we eventually did come up with two strengths.
Firstly, the team members are very focused on their tasks and although these are mainly individual ones, they still help for the overall performance of the team. Each team members cooks a meal without help from the others, but in the end all the meals are compared to the ones of the other team and if individually they did well, this improves the chances of the team to win as a whole and not to have to eliminate one of the team members.
Secondly, these tasks are equally divided between the participants and this makes it fair to each member and prevents them from feeling neglected or overloaded. In one of the stages of the competition, each person from the Red Team cooked a different type of meal (e.g. appetizers, main dish, deserts, etc.). This division of the tasks, however, is due to the just decision making of the Chef who is not exactly a member of the team so it could be said that the strength is a result of the Chef’s contribution, rather than the joint efforts of the team itself.
Because of the nature of the TV show and the stages that the competitors go through, there is competition on an individual, as well as on a group level. Therefore, even though the participants were part of a team, they were playing mainly for themselves which affected the team spirit.
We came to the conclusion that this lack of team spirit is a predisposition for the other weaknesses of the Red Team. We thought that in an ideal situation the team should serve as a ‘safety net’ for its members. In other words, when a person is experiencing difficulties with their performance, the teammates are supposed to help him or her. However, when one of the participants (Nilka) started to panic because she was doing really badly and the Chef was yelling at her, the teammates didn’t even look at her, nor did they say anything encouraging. They just kept doing their individual tasks, worried only about their own performance.
Strategies for improvements
In terms of strategies to improve the performance, we came up with several ideas. Firstly, the voting eliminations could be changes and instead of the team members from the team that lost to eliminate someone from their own team, this can be decided by the team that won. This will eliminate the sense of distrust between the team members. Another possibility to improve the team’s spirit is getting to know each other better, so for example learning about the life of the team members outside the competition. This, we thought, will create a friendly atmosphere and will enhance the team’s cohesion. We also considered the exact opposite strategy, which is giving the team members some time apart from each other to cool down and decrease the tension that results from intense everyday competitions. Finally, we decided that another good way to improve the team’s spirit is adding some kind of punishment for not being a ‘team player’. This could be done by the Chef, who could decide whether the teams have a strong team spirit, and if they don’t, he can punish them.
As the best strategy to provoke better team work, we chose the idea to punish bad behavior towards team members. Therefore, we thought about the way in which someone who lacks team spirit should be punished and we decided that team behavior should be one of the judgment criteria of the Chef. This strategy could be implemented when at the end of the show the Chef has to choose one participant (out of two) to leave the kitchen. If the Chef has to choose between two participants with even cooking skills, group behavior should be the second decisive factor and thus this kind of punishment would not change the goal of the game. The Chef should evaluate in what way the participant takes care of other team members and their concerns and also observe how the participant responds to the help offered by his teammates. When he or she performs well on both levels, they can be considered good in team work. We thought the strategy in the form of this new judgment criterion has its relevance for the nature of the show since team work is one of the main aspects of leading a kitchen.
We based our decision on the belief that by punishing the team for the lack of team spirit, the team members have a reason to work as a team because it becomes necessary for the participants to outperform others by communicating better and cover up each other’s weaknesses faster. The accent of the show is now on mainly individual performance, but when group behavior becomes part of the judgment process, the best way to outperform others is coming up with a good result as a team. That is why punishing for poor team work is the best solution to create a better and stronger team spirit.