Group Processes and Types of Groups

Group behavior is affected by the processes that go within a work group. The process comprises the communication pattern used by members for information exchange, group decision process, conflict, interaction etc. The group process is very much important to understand and group behavior. By understanding group behaviors, the behaviors can be controlled and with the help of desired behavior, work can be accomplished. Group process includes the following synergy: 

An action of two or more substances that results in an effect that is different from the individual summation of the substances. For example, social loafing (i.e. the tendency for individuals to expend less effort when working collectively than when working individually) is a negative synergy. 

Social Facilitation Effect 

The tendency for performance to improve or decline in response to the presence of others, while this effect is not entirely a group's phenomenon - people can work in the presence of other and not be members of the groups. The group situation is more likely to provide the condition for social facilitation to occur. 

Concept of Group Tasks 

There is certain nature of task, which needs groups to perform it. Individual alone cannot perform it. Sometimes one group has to depend upon other group due to its nature. The impact of group processes on the group's performance and member satisfaction is also moderated by the tasks that the group is doing. The complexity and interdependence of task influence the group effective. 

Group task can be simple or complex. 

1. Simple Task 
  • Are routine wise or standardized
  • Group's members do not need to discuss alternatives. 
  • They can rely on standardized operation procedures for doing the job. 

2. Complex Task: 
  • Ones that tend to be novel or non-routine.
  • The more complex the task, the more the group will benefit from discussion among members on alternative work method. 
  • There is high degree of interdependence among the tasks that the group member must perform. 

Types of Groups 

There are many types of groups in organizations and each type plays an important role in determining organizational effectiveness. The basis of differentiation may be purpose, extent of structuring, process of formation and size of the group membership. Each type has different features and different effect on its participants. Brief descriptions of different types of groups is as follows: 

1. Formal Work Group

Formal groups are created and maintained to fulfill specific needs or tasks which are related to the total organizational mission. Thus, these are consciously and deliberately created. Such groups may be either permanent in the form of top management item such as board of directors or management committees, work units in the various departments of the organization, staff group providing specialized services to the organization and so on or the formal groups may be constituted on temporary basis of fulfilling certain specified objectives. When such objectives are fulfilled, they disappear. These may be in the form of temporary committee, task-force etc. Managers establish formal work groups to help the organization achieve its goals. The goals of a formal work group are determined by the needs of the organization. There are different types of formal group as follows 

a) Command Group

Command group is the collection of subordinates who report to the same supervisor. It is composed of the subordinates who report directly to a common superior. This type of group is determined by organization chart. Command groups are based on the basic reporting relationships in organizations and they are frequently represented on organizational charts. These groups have a profound effect on the extent to which an organization is able to achieve its goals. Example of such a group may be a production manager and his subordinates in his department, a college principal and teachers and so on. 

b) Task Force

A task force is a collection of people who come together to accomplish a specific goal. It is made up of a group of people with different backgrounds who are assigned to a specific task or mission. Since the tenure of a task force is over when the task or mission is over, usually membership in the task group is temporary; each person remains part of it only so long as his skills and knowledge are required and task force continues. The task force also differs from a matrix organization in the sense that the later appears almost on continuous basis and personnel are assigned tasks in different projects at different periods of time. A task force is constituted when the organization faces some unusual problems which cannot be solved by a single individual or by a single department. A standing committee or task groups are task forces that may be enduring (though members may change) or permanent in nature. 

Formal group has following characteristics:

  1. Group structure is designed by the top management to fulfill certain requirements like performance of necessary activities there by achieving organizational goal.
  2. Group structure is based on the principles of division of labor and efficiency in operations.
  3. Group concentrates more on the performance of jobs and not on the individuals performing the jobs.
  4. The authority and responsibility assigned to each job have to be adhered to by the job holders. Based on the concept of authority and responsibility, people are placed in hierarchy and their status is determined accordingly. 
  5. Coordination among members and their control are well specified through processes, procedures, rules etc. 

2. Informal Work Groups 

Informal work groups emerge naturally in organization because organizational members perceive that membership in a group will help them achieve their goals or meet their needs. In other words, informal groups are created in the organization because of operation of social and psychological forces operating at the workplace. Members create such group for their own satisfaction and their working is not regulated by the general framework of organizational rules and regulations. 

The different between formal group and informal group can be better understood with the help of the following table.

Formal Groups
Informal Groups
The formal groups are created deliberately and consciously by the framers of the organization.
Informal organization are created because of the operation of socio-psychological forces at the work place, that is people while working together develop certain liking and disliking for other and interact on a way not prescribed by the framers of the organization.
Formal groups are deliberate creations; they are created for achieving the legitimate objectives of the organization.
Informal groups are created by organizational members for their social and psychological satisfaction. Thus, they serve the purpose of organizational members which formal groups are not able to satisfy.
Nature of Group
The formal groups are stable and may continue for a long period. Their membership is specified through organizational process. There may be many standing groups in the organizations.
Informal groups are quite unstable in nature. Since their formation and functioning depend upon the value systems, general liking and disliking and other personality features of its members concerned. They may disappear very quickly because of the change in the membership or they may cause to be attractive for the members and the members may from alternative group.
Members of Group
The number of formal groups is decided to serve the organizational purpose. This depends upon the organizing pattern.
A large number of informal groups may also be found in the organization. However, an individual may become member of several informal groups. Therefore, there is overlapping of membership.
Communication is prescribed in the formal groups. It is normally through chain of command to which people refer as formal channel of communication.
In the informal group, the communications pass through informal channels. This informal channel may be in any form.
The members of formal groups derive authority through the formal source that is through the process of delegation and re-delegation. Thus, authority flows from the higher to lower levels.
In the informal groups, all members are equal. However, some may command more authority by their personal qualities.
Normally formal group does not arise because of informal group.
Informal group emerges while working in a formal group.
Superior-subordinate relationship
Personal and social relationship
Based on formal authority and position
No bounds, operates in different directions
Operates within set boundaries
No boundaries, operates in different directions.

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