Schaefer (2011) defines a group as “any number of people with similar norms, values, and expectations who interact with one another on a regular basis” (p. 111). Complete the Social Group Matrix by identifying and describing the relationship between yourself and the members of any social group you are a part of.
Identify the group.
I honestly had a tough time even thinking of a “Social Group” that I belong to because when you think of it you tend to think of the traditional well known groups. Living in such a small town there are very few formally organized Social Groups outside of Church, work and politics. In my personal life I tend to wrap myself up in my family and have very little outside influences and interaction. However, many of the major oil companies I work for have Safety Committees that collaborate on a monthly basis. The group I have chosen for this exercise is the Freeport McMoRan Oil & Gas New Construction Safety Committee. Social group or organization
Describe the function of the social group. Our group of about fifty people gathers on the first Friday of every month for a luncheon and collaboration. Through out the previous month we will meet up in groups of one to three and go into the construction field to observe crews working. We look at the basics of paperwork, personal protective equipment, how they use tools and other potentially hazardous situations. If we do happen to find a crew that is working in an unsafe manner we will then coach the crew on how to do the task in a safer way. If it is a situation that can physically harm the welfare of those involved we will stop the crew immediately and make the proper corrections. After that we will document our findings on a Safety Observation Checklist Card and the analyst will enter all of the data in to the CAMs database.
Authority and hierarchy
Describe authority and hierarchical patterns within the group. Within the group there is no real leader per say because we are just a group that has the same end goal, but just different ways of getting there. Freeport McMoRan is an extremely large oil, gas copper and gold mining company that is broken out into many different industries and areas. The oil and gas is separate from the copper and gold side. Within oil and gas there is on shore production and drilling, then off shore drilling. After that we are broken out into countries and states. Our committee is the California San Joaquin Valley New Construction group. We have a top safety rep in our home Bakersfield office that is the highest representative for California.
He usually just sits back and doesn’t interfere or coach us on how to handle situations. Under him there are lower level field safety representatives, Operators and Construction Foreman. Very few of our members are consulting contractors that act as visitors. If you run into a problem the norm is to contact your immediate Supervisor or the at-risk parties Supervisor. The only rule we do live by is that we do not report a problem without first notifying that crews Supervisor first. We have found that not doing this causes conflict and competition among groups and crews.
Describe social patterns you might find within the group, and explain their social significance. We look at social patterns most in our committee because we use our data to perform “behavioral based studies”. We look at the most at risk behaviors, like not wearing gloves while working, and try to answer why they are doing this. We look at the numbers to determine if we need to look at our company policies to help prevent any future incidents. This is very inline with Sociology because we are analyzing the behaviors of those around us.
Describe any conflicts within the group.
Many conflicts come up every time we meet along with times in between our formal meetings. In the safety field everyone has a different view of the right way to handle a situation. When preparing to construct a job our safety committee is divided into three groups, older people, younger people and those who don’t care. We all can agree that we have to get from point a to point b as safely as possible. The older men and women of the group tend to have blurred lines on what is safe and what isn’t. They will try to cut corners and push limits that were not there many years ago. The younger group is very black and white about the situation. You are either following the safety rules and regulations or you are not. Obviously the last group doesn’t care one way or the other. They usually side so randomly that it is hard to predict.
Role of language
Explain the role of language, and describe the components of nonverbal communication in the group.
We use nonverbal communication the most because we usually stand back and just observe people as they work. Many of the field crews tend to get intimidated by the observations crews being on site. We have learn to watch peoples movements to try and stop and incident before it arises. We watch the crew body movement and what is going on around them that they may not see themselves. If something is going wrong we will then verbally communicate those hazards with the crew to keep them safe.
Symbols meaningful to group
Describe and explain symbols that are meaningful to the group.
Our group being a safety group we signify with typical construction based safety signs. Such as hazardous warnings and labels that help us know what can cause us and those around us harm. The hardhat and PPE logo is a big one for us because this is what we wear everyday. We cannot get out of our trucks without this clothing. The identification logos must be visible to all others so they know we are wearing out personal protective equipment. There are so many different signs and symbols that are everywhere in the oil fields.
Norms, sanctions, and values
Describe the norms, sanctions, and values of the social group.
The biggest sanctions that govern our group, and any other group like it nation wide, is OSHA. They set the standards in which all companies and industries must abide by. They say how long we can work, the protective precautions we have to take, and every other little regulatory measure possible. If an incident does happen that requires us to report to OSHA they will come in to help access the damage and solutions. Certain infractions, especially environmental problems, carry a monetary fine that the company must pay.
Status within group
Describe what status you hold in the group.
In our group I am the youngest and one of three women. I am the facilitator and data analyst. I have been in the group for two years now and don’t quite hold and hierarchy status. However, I do facilitate all of our meetings and assign further follow up to those who can handle the tougher situations. Even though I am newest to the group I feel that I have respect among my peers and colleagues. If a someone is looking for answers they will most likely ask me because if I don’t automatically know the answer or solution, I will know who will and can. Social role within group
Describe the social roles you perform in the group.
As the data analyst I am in charge of preparing and distributing the findings. I use these numbers to put together safety flyers and bulletins that get distributed to the field crews. We like to get these to the field to communicate what we are finding that can be hazardous to them. I also facilitate all outings and luncheons for our group. I get to schedule lunch and times that work best for the group as a whole. Sociological perspective
Suggest which major sociological, theoretical perspective would be most appropriate for future study of your social group. Why?
We already use a theoretical perspective per say with what we call a “5 Y”. We get a smaller core group of the committee together every quarter to discuss the biggest problem in the field. We take a problem such as not wearing gloves and ask the; who, what, when, where and why. Who is having the problem? Does it tend to trend in certain situations only? We keep asking the same questions over and over until we can’t answer it with a fresh answer. We do this to learn from our own mistakes and help future generations.
Schaefer, R. T. (2011). Sociology: A brief introduction (9th ed.). Boston: McGraw-Hill.
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