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Foundations of Group Behavior Essay

Groups can be as small as two people or as big as the number may reach even in hundreds of thousands. They are formed for different reasons and serve different benefits to their members and also to their organizations. However, there may be some drawbacks too as it will be seen in this paper. Formal and Informal Groups Groups can be divided into two types: Formal groups and Informal groups. Formal groups are those groups which have been recognized and created by the organization. (Robbins 2004, p. 164) They have a longer lifespan and have a more formal structure.

They also have specific jobs that are to be handled and the efforts of the group are directed in such a way that they will lead to the accomplishment of the organization’s objectives. (Robbins 2004, p. 164) These groups are formed after extensive planning regarding their volume and constitution of the group. Waiters in a restaurant can be thought of as a formal group. On the other hand, informal groups are groups that are not made formally by the organization and do not have a specific structure that is recognized by the organization. (Robbins 2004, p.164)

These can be formed by social interaction between workers in an organization and can be diverse in their nature in any sense. For example, four employees who met in the canteen can develop a sort of relationship with each other although they may not be required to interact with each other to accomplish any organizational objectives. This group has formed without any formal structure that can be identified in the organizational structure and is an example of an informal group. Command, Task, Interest, and Friendship Groups Groups can also be categorized into command groups, task groups, interest groups, or friendship groups.

(Robbins 2004, p. 164) Command groups are created formally and they are recognized in the organizational hierarchical structure. These groups comprise of members who are answerable to one manager. Although task groups are also made by the organization and interact to achieve organizational objectives, their members are not always answerable to their immediate managers. Workers who originally report to different managers can be combined by an organization to accomplish a certain task and during this task, these individual members can skip the original organizational hierarchy if required.

For example, an organization can ask employees from the software development team to interact with members of the human resources team to decide about vacancies in the organization. Both command groups and task groups are types of formal groups as both of these groups are formed formally to achieve organizational objectives. On the other hand, an interest group is a type of an informal group that can be formed to achieve some particular goal that has a common interest for all of the group members. (Robbins 2004, p. 164) For example, a few workers can join hands to ask for a salary increase.

Similarly, friendship groups can also be categorized as a type of informal groups as they are formed by members who share some common characteristics that led them to develop friendship with each other. (Robbins 2004, p. 164) Moreover, friendship groups can also interact outside the dimensions of the workplace. Both interest groups and friendship groups are types of informal groups as they are not made formally by the organization, are not recognized by the organizational structure, and do not necessarily meet to accomplish organizational objectives.

The aim of informal groups is more inclined towards fulfilling social requirements of the individuals in the group. (Robbins 2004, p. 164) However, the relationship between members of informal groups has significant impacts on their work performance and their actions. A group in the past was usually associated with some social activity where a number of people from the society would join each other for a specific reason. These social alliances, widely known as informal groups, fulfill the social needs of the members.

In interest groups, society members from different fields join each other for vested interests while friendship groups are characterized by the common characteristic(s) of the members. The member of these groups may meet in health clubs, cafe, and public parks and so on. Since these groups lack a formal structure and rules and guidelines, the chances of conflicts are high but once the members get along, the group may be able to fight for their interest even in the worst situations. External and Internal Factors affecting Groups

When we hear the word group, we infer it to a collection of people in an organization that work together to achieve a desired specific goal. These are the groups in which the members are confined to work within the boundaries of organizationally set guidelines and rules to achieve a goal or number of goals. They may face the problems of time limitations, resource(s) restriction, or the group may not be empowered with authority to make decisions on its own, or the organizational culture may not be aligned to that of the group.

Similarly, the organization’s selection and rewarding policies may affect the performance of the groups as groups are composed of personnel that are hired and rewarded by the organization. These limitations are not under the group’s control and can be called as the external factors affecting the group’s performance. Internal factors affecting the group’s performance may be those factors that form the structure of the group. The reason is that these factors affect the behavior of the members.

Group leaders that serve as a mentor, facilitator, conflict manager, and so on may bring about the desired changes in the member’s behavior and thus may increase the group’s performance. Tuckman’s Five-Stage Model It was in 1965 that Bruce Tuckman revealed his four-stage model comprising of Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing. Afterwards, he added a fifth stage, Adjourning, too to his original four-stage model. (Clark 2005, n. p. ) (Clark 2005, n. p. ) Forming Forming is the first stage where individuals in a group get acquainted with each other.

In the beginning, the group members are careful not to show any behavior that may be considered as unacceptable for a group behavior. For example, at this stage, a group member may refrain from pointing out mistakes of another member as he might be afraid that it can give rise to some conflict. During this stage, members interact with each other to exchange basic concepts and primary matters. It can be difficult to figure out all of the problems at this stage as individuals within the group can get distracted by the different situations in which they try to adjust themselves.

(Clark 2005, n. p. ) Therefore, only minimal progress is attained as far as the accomplishment of organizational objectives is concerned, but this is normal at this stage. (Clark 2005, n. p. ) This phase ends when individuals within the group begin to perceive themselves as constituents of the team. (Robbins 2004, p. 165) Storming During the next stage, storming, group members gradually realize that they have achieved little so far. Each and every member has his own perceptions of how things should be done and a suitable knowledge sharing environment is not formed yet.

This can be considered the most troublesome phase as members start to recognize that the jobs to be done are not as easy as they seemed previously. Interactions with other team members are often limited to arguments about what should the group do as a whole. (Clark 2005, n. p. ) Conflicts may arise as team members do not want to have their individual freedom limited. (Robbins 2004, p. 165) At this stage, members do not trust others and do what seems appropriate with respect to their own experience. (Clark 2005, n. p. ) A lot of energy is wasted in these issues and not much is attained during this stage.

However, members start to develop a mutual understanding amongst themselves. This stage ends when an obvious and established hierarchy of command forms inside the team. (Robbins 2004, p. 165) Norming The next stage is Norming where the group begins to share information with each other. Good associations build up amongst employees and the team shows cohesiveness. (Robbins 2004, p. 165) Members resolve their conflicts and collaborate with each other. During this phase, members also start to criticize others in a productive way so that the criticism benefits instead of creating conflicts.

For example, a senior member can explain the correct way of doing a job to his juniors while supporting arguments from researches published in peer-reviewed journals. At the same time, the senior member can brief the juniors about the consequences of doing things wrong and the benefits of doing things in the right way. Junior members are also more likely to listen as they start realizing the importance of achieving organizational objectives while working in groups. As conflicts are avoided and minimized, most of the energy and time is spent on accomplishing organizational objectives.

This phase ends when team members develop an attitude that matches the members’ mutual perception of acceptable group behavior. Performing The fourth stage Performing begins with members having developed good relationships with each others. Now, team members can identify problems, solve them, and implements the alterations successfully. Finally, group members have learned about the strong points and weak points of their fellow members. (Clark 2005, n. p. ) The group begins to perform very well and is now a successful and cohesive group. This is the final phase for enduring work groups although temporary work groups have another phase.

Adjourning The last stage, which is for temporary work groups like task groups, is known as Adjourning. (Clark 2005, n. p. ) The work is wrapped up in this final stage. Some team members are happy due to the accomplishment of the task. Others may be sad to leave their fellows with whom they had developed cordial relationships. Some relationships may even continue even though the team may be dissolved. Roles The roles that are played by team members also affects their behavior as different teams are formed for different reasons and thus demands different behaviors in different situations.

Several characteristics may always be associated with a role and these make the role identity. Similarly one’s perception of how to behave in a certain situation and other’s expectations of a certain behavior in a situation may also mould one’s behavior. This phenomenon of Role Expectation is visible in the real life where employees and employers form expectations for each others. (Robbins 2004, p. 169) Failure of exposing an expected behavior by any party may cause damage by bringing about an undesired behavioral change that might not be acceptable by the other party.

Managing divergent role expectations arising from different employees and employers can result in a role conflict where meeting the role expectations of one group member may hinder with meeting the role expectations of other members, and this situation results in frustration for the group members. (Robbins 2004, p. 169) Norms and Status The norms that a group possesses explain its members how to behave in a different situations and thus should be possessed by all the members to avoid conflicts. For example the performance norms tell members how to work, how much efforts to put, how to increase productivity and so on.

The appearance norms include things like appropriate dress code whereas social arrangement norms fulfill the social needs within the work groups by creating social interaction among members. (Robbins 2004, p. 169) Then there are allocation of resources norms that demands members to avoid wastage of time and resources and tells about salary and job. Working in groups also comes with problems called deviant workplace behavior where other members disturb others by a number of ways like harassment, verbal abuse, spreading rumors, stealing their goods and so on. Such behaviors may even make a member not only to leave a group but to leave the job.

We see many women who leave their jobs as their boss or colleagues sexually harass them. These behaviors are found to be prevailing in people that have been members of groups whose norms support such behavior. Managers should plan and work to avoid such behaviors so that group members do not have to leave their group/job or reduce their efforts. Status as it affects ones norms also affects ones behavior. But this deviation should not be so much that other group members feel that they are treated unequally as it may affect their productivity and thus may decline the group performance.

This decline in productivity is not just because of member’s sense of equity but also depends on the cultures to which they belong which consequently affect how they value status. Size, Composition, and Cohesiveness As far as the size of the group is concerned, it may not be the right predictor of a group’s success or failure as difference in size depends on the goal to be achieved. While small groups are good for short time projects, bigger groups are required when diverse objectives are to be achieved. Moreover, the composition of groups affects their performance directly.

Evidence shows that heterogeneous groups outperform homogeneous groups but in return they take more time as members need to adjust and understand each other. (Robbins 2004, p. 174) Same is the case with groups composed of diverse national or cultured members. But as the gap between members having common attribute(s) increases, the group productivity decreases. Cohesiveness is also an important feature of groups. It is the tendency to which members are attracted to each other and thus stimulated to work together.

It affects the group performance and thus its productivity for the performance related norms are high, cohesive groups will perform highly. (Robbins 2004, p. 175) Cohesiveness can be increased by providing a broader span of time so that members spend more time; the size of the group should be reduced as smaller groups make interaction easy. Group Decision Making: Groupthink Irving (1972, 1982) came up with the revolutionizing concept of groupthink that is related with the group decision making strategies. (qtd. In Universiteit Twente 2004, n. p.)

This theory proposes that a group may develop itself in such a way that preserving the integrity of the group may become important than accepting and implementing real facts and optimal solutions. This situation usually takes place when a team is extremely cohesive in its nature, and is led by an authoritative leader where criticism and conflicting opinions are not welcomed. (Universiteit Twente 2004, n. p. ) There are a few drawbacks of having this approach of group decision making. Firstly, the team will restrict itself to only a handful of alternatives.

The solution that is proposed initially and is accepted by the majority is not subject to criticism and arguments that may identify some complicated problems. Moreover, opinions from professionals are not valued very much. Lastly, the team becomes so overconfident of its practices and opinions that contingency plans are not made. (Universiteit Twente 2004, n. p. ) Therefore, groupthink can hinder the overall performance of the team significantly. (Robbins 2004, p. 179) Group Decision-making Techniques Brainstorming In brainstorming, the team leader may mention the problem in a clear-cut way to all members.

Afterwards, each member comes up with his own ideas to solve the problem. It is essential during this stage that members do not criticize each other. All the solutions proposed by members are noted down so that they can be thoroughly discussed in future. (Robbins 2004, p. 181) One obvious advantage of this approach is that one opinion from a member gives rise to a number of opinions and members also come up with out-of-the-box ideas as criticism does not prevail. However, according to one research, members may still hold some ideas faring criticism from others although it is clearly mentioned and understood that no one will criticize.

(Sample 1984, n. p. ) Nominal Group Technique In the Nominal Group Technique, employees join together as a team to solve the problem, but instead of sharing their opinions with each others, they just do brainstorming on an individual basis and note down their own ideas and solutions to the problem. Afterwards, members discuss their ideas one by one with others and each idea is discussed, clarified, and assessed. Then, on an individual basis again, members rank the ideas and solutions without consulting others. The solutions that are ranked higher by the majority are taken as the final group decision.

(Robbins 2004, p. 181) One problem with this approach is opinions of members do not converge and the whole process may seem too mechanical. (Sample 1984, n. p. ) Conclusion When people work in groups, their analytical abilities enhances and they think of one thing in different aspects and since members in group are diverse, many new ways of doing a task can be sought. At the same time, those ways can be analyzed and assessed from different perspectives. Another reason for a group may be efficiency as a group can work faster.

The chances of errors also reduce in groups as members look at minute details which might be ignored if the task was to be done by a single person. Time is another reason for working in groups. Time is saved when people work in groups. Also decision made by a group is usually better than that made by a single person as a group considers different aspects and follow the technique of brainstorming. Data gathering becomes easy in groups as diverse people collect the diverse data which makes the work easy. Groups are now vital to an organization’s success.

They not only save time and other resources but also result in a better decision, but while forming a group, care should be taken as conflict may take place among member which eventually may decline the group performance and productivity and thus not only may waste money but also time and energy that might have been used effectively.

Bibliography Clark, D. (2005, September 29) Matrix Teams [Internet]. Available from: <http://www. nwlink. com/~Donclark/leader/leadtem2. html> [Accessed 15 Sep 2007] Janis, I. L. (1972) Victims of Groupthink. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. Janis, I. L. (1982) Groupthink, 2nd Edition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Robbins, Stephen P. , (2004) Chapter Eight: Foundations of Group Behavior, Organizational Behavior, 11th Edition [Internet]. Prentice Hall. Available from: <http://web. ed. ntnu. edu. tw/~minfei/OBch8. doc> [Accessed 15 Sep 2007] Sample, J. A. (1984) Nominal Group Technique: An Alternative to Brainstorming. Journal of Extension, 22(2) [Internet]. Available from: <http://www. joe. org/joe/1984march/iw2. html > [Accessed 15 Sep 2007] Universiteit Twente (09/06/2004) Groupthink [Internet]. Available from: <http://www. tcw. utwente. nl/theorieenoverzicht/Theory%20clusters/Organizational%20Communication/groupthink. doc/> [Accessed 15 Sep 2007]


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