Group, Formal and Informal group, Importance of group values and norms, Characteristics of an effective group

What is group? Distinguish between formal and informal group. Explain the importance of group values and norms. What are the characteristics of an effective group? As a manager – how would you attempt to develop effective group relationships and performance with reference to your organisation or an organisation for are familiar with.


Individuals seldom work in isolation form others. Groups are a characteristic of all social situations and almost everyone in an organisation will be a member of one or more groups. The working of groups and the influence they exert over their membership is an essential feature of human behaviour and of organisational performance. The manager must use groups in order to achieve a high standard of work and improve organisational effectiveness.

There are many possible ways of defining what a group means. The essential feature of a group is that its members regard themselves as belonging to the group. A group consists of a number of people who have:
• A common objective or task
• An awareness of group identity and ‘boundary’
• A minimum set of agreed values and norms which regulates their relatively exclusive mutual interaction.

Another useful definition defines the group in psychological terms as: any number of people who
1) Interact with one another
2) Are psychologically aware of one another
3) Perceive themselves to be a group.

Essential feature of work Organisation
Group are an essential feature of the work pattern of any Organisation. Members of a group must co-operate in order for work to be carried out, and managers themselves will work within these groups. People in groups influence each other in many ways and groups may develop their own hierarchies and leaders. Group pressures can have a major influence over the behaviour of individual members and their work performance. The activities of the group are associated with the process of leadership. The style of leadership adopted by the manager has an important influence on the behaviour of members of the group.

The classical approach to organisation and management tended to ignore the importance of group and the social factors at work. The ideas of people such as F.W. Taylor popularized the concept of the rabble hypothesis and the assumption that people carried out their work, and could be motivated, as solitary individuals unaffected by others.

The human relations approach, however, gave recognition to the work organisation as a social organisation and to the importance of the group, and group value and norms, in influencing behaviour are work. The power of group membership over individual behaviour and work performance was illustrated clearly in the famous Hawthorne experiments at the ‘Western Electric Company in America’.

Group value and norms

One experiment involved the observation of as group of 14 men working in the bank wiring room. It may be remembered that the men formed their own sub-groups or cliques, with natural leasers emerging with the consent of the members. Despite a financial incentive schemes where workers could receive more money for the more work they did, the group decided on 6000 units a day as a fair level of output. This was well below the level they were capable of producing. Group pressures on individual workers were stronger than financial incentives offered by management.

The group developed its own pattern of informal social relations and codes and practices (‘norms’) of what constituted proper group behaviour.
• Not to be a ‘rate buster’ – not to produce at too high a rate of output compared with other members or to exceed the production restriction of the group.
• Not to be a ‘chiseller’ – not to shirk production or to produce at too low rate of output compared with other members of the group.
• Not to be a ‘squealer’ – not to say anything to the supervisor or management which might be harmful to other members of the group.
• Not be ‘officious’ – people with authority over members of the group, for example inspectors, should not take advantage of their seniority or maintain a social distance from the group.

The group had their own system of sanctions including sarcasm, damaging completed work, hiding tools, playing tricks on the inspectors, and ostracizing those members who did not conform with the group norms. Threats of physical violence were also made, and the group developed a system of punishing offenders by ‘binging’ which involved striking someone a fairly hard blow on the upper part of the arm. This process of binging also become a recognised method of controlling conflict within the group.

Another finding of the bank wiring room experiment was that the group did not follow company policy on the reporting of production figures. It was company policy that each man’s output should be reported daily by the supervisor. However, the workers preferred to do their own reporting, and in order to remain in favour with the group the supervisor acquiesced to this procedure. On some days the men would actually produce more than they reported to ‘build up’ extra units for those days when they produced less than reported. Although actual production varied the group reported a relatively standard amount of output contrary to management instructions.

Socio – technical system

The system approach to organisation and management also gave recognition to the importance of groups in influencing behaviour at work. The concept of the organisation as socio – technical system is concerned with the interactions between the psychological and social factors, as well as structural and technical requirements. Again, it may be remembered that technological change in the coal-mining industry had brought about changes in the social grouping of the miners.

New methods of working disrupted the integration of small self-selecting groups of miners who worked together as independent teams. The change had undesirable social effects and as a result the new method did not prove as economically beneficial as it should have done with the new technology. The result was a ‘composite’ method of working with more responsibility taken by the team as a whole. The composite method proved to be not only more rewarding socially to the miners but also more efficient economically than the pervious new method of working.

Formal groups

Formal groups are created to achieve specific organisational objectives and are concerned with the co-ordination of work activities.

People are brought together on the basis of defined roles within the structure of the organisation. The nature of the tasks to be undertaken is a predominant feature of the formal groups. Goals are identified by management, and certain rules, relationships and norms of behaviour established.

Formal groups tend to be relatively permanent although there may be changes in actual membership. However, temporary formal groups may also be created by management for example, the use of project teams in a matrix organisation.

Formal work groups can be differentiated into team groups task groups and technological groups.
• Team groups – these are fairly autonomous groups with broad terms of reference and limited supervisions. The team designate the positions to be filled and the allocation of members, and instigate changes as necessary.
• Task groups – jobs are defined clearly and individuals assigned to specific positions. The groups has some flexibility over methods of work and the pace of work, but otherwise limited discretion. Examples could include many administrative or clerical workers.

• Technological groups – members have very limited autonomy to determiner change the operational activities. The pace of work is also likely to be controlled. Content and method of work are specified and individuals assigned to specific jobs. There is little scope for individual discretion, and often limited opportunities for interaction among members. A typical example is people working on assembly line operations.

Informal Groups

Within the formal structure of the organisation there will always be an informal structure. The formal structure of the organisation and system of role relationship, rule and procedures, will be augmented by interpretation and development at the informal level. Informal groups are based more on personal relationships and agreement of groups members than on defined role relationships. They serve to satisfy psychological and social needs not related necessarily to the tasks to be undertaken. Groups may devise ways of attempting to satisfy members affiliations and other social motivations which are lacing in the work situation, especially in industrial organisations.

The membership of informal groups can cut across the formal structure. They may comprise individuals form different parts of the organisations and/or from different levels of the organisation both vertically and diagonally as well as same horizontal level. An informal group could also be the same as the formal group, or it might comprise part only of the formal group.

The member of informal group may appoint their own leader who exercises authority by the consent of the members themselves. The informal leader may be chosen as the person who reflects the attitudes and values of the members helps to resolve conflict leads the groups in satisfying its goals or liaises with management or other people outside the groups. The informal leader may often change according to the particular situation facing the groups. Although not usually the case, it is possible for the informal leader to be the same person as the formal leader appointed officially by management.

Groups, there fore, help shape the work pattern of organisations and the attitudes and behaviour of members of their jobs. The formation and operation of work groups, and the behaviour of their members has an important significance for the manager. Likert, for example, has developed a theory of organisation based on work groups. In his discussion of group processes and organisational performance he concludes that: ‘Group forces are important not only in influencing the behaviour of individual work groups with regard to productivity, waste, absence and the like, they also affect the behaviour of entire organisations.’

Overlapping group membership
Likert suggests that organisations function best when members act not as individuals but as members of highly effective work groups. He proposes a structure based on overlapping group membership with a ‘Linking-pin’ process by which the superior of one group is a subordinate member of the next group. The superior is therefore the linking-pin between a group of subordinates and the next authority level group.

A structure of vertical overlapping groups helps to develop a committed team approach and would improve the flow the communication, co-ordination and decision-making.

Horizontal linking-pin
Likert also recognises the position of subordinates serving as horizontal linking-pins between different groups, such as functional or line work groups and product based work groups.

Likert recognises that sooner or latter the subordinate is likely to be caught in a conflict between membership of both groups and the provision of information for decision making. He suggests that both groups would need to be involved in group decision-making to resolve differences and that this is more likely to occur with system for management.

Organisation structure
Groups are formed as a consequence of the pattern of organisation structure and arrangements for the division of work, for example the grouping together of common activities into sections. Groups may result form the nature of technology employed and the way in which work is carried out, for example, the bringing together of a number of people to carry out a sequence of operations on an assembly line. Groups may also develop when a number of people of the same level or status within the organisation see themselves as a group, for exp, departmental heads of an industrial organisation, or chief officers of a local authority.

Groups are deliberately planned and created by management as part of the formal organisation structure. But groups will also arise form social processes and the informal organisation. The informal organisation arises form the interaction of people working within the organisation and the development of groups with their own relationships and norms of behaviours, irrespective of those defined within the formal structure. This leads to a major distinction between groups – formal and informal.


Individuals will form into groups, both formal and informal, for number of different reasons relating to both work performance and social processes.

• Certain tasks can be performed only through the combined efforts of number of individuals working together. The variety of experience and expertise among members of the group provide a synergetic effect which can be applied to the increasingly complex problems of modern organisations.
• Groups may encourage collusion between members in order to modify formal working arrangements more to their liking, for example by sharing or rotating unpopular tasks. Group membership therefore, provides the individual with opportunities for initiative and creativity.
• Groups provide companionship and a source of mutual understanding and support form colleagues. This can help in solving work problems, and also to mitigate against stressful or demanding working conditions.
• Membership of the group provides the individual with a sense of belonging. The groups provides a feeling of identity and the chance to acquire role recognition and status within the group.
• The group provides guidelines on generally acceptable behaviour. It helps to clarify ambiguous situations such as for example, the extent to which official rules and regulations are expected to be adhered to in practice, the rules of the game, and what is seen as the correct actual behaviour. the informal organisation may put pressure on group members to resist demands from management on such matters as, for example, higher output or changes in working methods. Groups allegiance can serve as a means of control over individual behaviour. The group may discipline individuals who contravene the norms of the group; for example, the process of ‘binging’ in the bank wiring room, mentioned above.
• The group may provide protection for its membership. Group members collaborate to protect their interests from outside pressures or threats.

Expectations of group membership

Individuals have varying expectations of the benefits from group membership. Groups are a potential source of motivation and of job satisfaction, and also a major determinant of effective organisational performance. It is important therefore that the manager understands the reasons for the formation of groups and is able to recognise likely advantageous or adverse consequences for the organisation.