Informal Group: Nature and Significance of Informal Groups in Organization

Informal groups are neither formally structure nor organizationally determined. It is based on personal interaction, sentiments and social activities. The membership is voluntary participation. Its primary focus is person. It has members with common objective or similar need for social affiliation and friendship. It quickly adapts to environmental changes but resists to change within the group. 

An informal group arises voluntarily and spontaneously and they generally satisfy the social needs of the members of the group. Each informal group has its own informal leader who is elected among the member of the group not on the basis of authority he possesses in the formal group but on the basis of age, seniority, technical knowledge, respect etc. So authority is to be earned from members of the group. Authority in the informal group is given to the person and not to the position. As soon as the members repose their confidence on him, he will no more be the leader of the group.

Nature of Informal Groups

The informal group refers to the people in group association at work, but these associations are not specified in the blueprint of the formal organization. In other words, informal refers to the natural grouping of people on the basis of some similarities in an organization. Informal group is also called as informal organization which is created because of the limitation of formal one. It refers to group or association at work but these associations are not particularly specified in the organization.

Informal groups are important in our organizational settings. Such groups are formed on the basis of personal relations and interest on the group members. With the help of informal group, people try to fulfill their relatedness needs. The nature of informal groups can be classified as follows:

1. Friendship Group

This kind of group involves close personalities as friends or relatives who are well known to each other beforehand. Mostly, these groups are found in pairs and are useful in spreading influence and information. In other words, in the work place, employees, because of some common characteristics such as age, ethnic background, political sentiment, interest in sport or to desire to drink tea often from a friendship group. These groups often extend their interaction and communication to support the job activities.

2. Interest Group

This type of group consists of the members who join together to achieve such objective as an equitable pension payment. Members of these groups have the same hobby, same professional backgrounds and same educational backgrounds. The members of the interest group may or may not be members of the same command or task group. The membership patterns of interest and friendship groups are not tightly controlled by the organization. However, managerial actions such as layout of work area, allowing workers to take coffee breaks at a specified time and demanding a certain level of productivity influence the interaction and communication patterns of employees, causing individuals to affiliate with each other so that interest and friendship groups emerge.

3. Cliques

These groups consist of collegues and associates who normally observe certain norms and standards. They are closely intimate to each other. The number of members tends to be smaller say fix or six. The object of this type of group is to provide recognition to each other and exchange information of mutual interest.

Significance of Informal Groups in Organization

Informal groups are quite significant because these affect the working of an organization and its members. However, these effects produce both functional and dysfunctional consequences. On the other hand, informal groups benefit both their members and organization as a whole. Some other significance or the functions of informal group are as follows:

1. To fulfill the communication gaps

Informal group acts to fill up the communication gaps of its members, in order to meet the communication needs of its members. It develops systems and channels of communication. Such systems and channels cut across the hierarchical and departmental boundaries and transmit information much quickly.

2. To preserve group integrity

The informal group perpetuates cultural values which the group holds as importance. This function helps to preserve the group integrity. People who work together naturally adopt common points of view that everyone is expected to share. The individuals become wedded to the group as a result of constant association and socializing process. In fact, the basic reason in the creation of informal organization is the group value which every member pursues.

3. To provide social satisfaction

Informal group provides social satisfaction by providing status, recognition and further opportunity to relate to others. Many jobs which appear superficially dull and routine are made more interesting by the individual ingenuity. Management defines a rigid series of job requirements but work-groups provide a setting which spurs an individual to modify the job situation more to his own liking. Thus, the job becomes more interesting and satisfying.

4. To solve the work problems

Informal group helps in solving the work problems of members. They carry out their tasks effectively through the help of other members, group-decisions and sharing job knowledge. The group's solution to problems may differ from what management expects and it may be even more effective because red-tape is eliminated; short – cuts are evolved; informal channel of communication is evolved to cut across departmental boundaries. In fact, where the technology imposes extreme interdependence and precise and instant coordination is required, the organization depends on the group to control and specify the individual's contribution to the total effort. All this contributes to the effective performance of work.

5. To establish and maintain norms of behavior

Informal groups establish and maintain norms of behavior which differentiate between good and bad conduct, between legitimate and illegitimate activities and between moral and immoral acts. Abstract concepts, such as honesty, loyalty, co-operation, self – sacrifice etc. do not convey an immediate meaning except as they are used in operative situations involving informal groups. Larger groups particularly in professional pursuits, often maintain ethical standards designed to further the goals of the overall membership. However, all group standards are not consistent with the objectives of the larger organizations. Many times, groups do urge their members to produce less than they might otherwise accomplish or do try to reject new assignment, or do show their resistance to a change.

6. To protect members from outside pressure

Groups help protect their members from outside pressure. Probably the most important group standards are those that protect the groups against real or imagined outside dangers, particularly from upper management. Dynamic organizations have a tendency to introduce change in work methods and routines at a faster rate that individuals can adjust to them. The place at which these changes are introduced can be materially altered by a determined work group.

Not only is the formal group important in effective performance of the job. But equally important of informal group in organization because of the following reasons:
1. Compensation for the low capacity manager's ability

Manager may not be capable in all the fields. In same, he may snag the ability. Especially, in planning and other decision making his snags i.e. low capacity can be compensated by his subordinates informally, if he has the good relationship with the informal group.
2. Useful channel of communication

Communication through informal group is faster than formal. Any information through the channel of informal groups spreads quickly. Thus, the informal group proves to be very useful channel for effective communication.
3. Compel managers to plan and act cautiously

Informal groups induce the manager to plan and act cautiously because of weak plan and action is always undermined by the groups.
4. Provides sense of belongingness and security

Informal group provides satisfaction and stability of work team to attain a sense of belongingness and security. A new employee will remain an isolate until the group accepts him as a member. When the new comer will be accepted as a group member, he attains a sense of belongingness and security.
5. Greater performance and supervision

Informal groups help get the jobs done or control performance. If the manager feels that his work team is cooperating him, he has less need for checking frequently and confidently delegate and decentralize the work. The informal group support leads in general supervision instead of close supervision, which enhances the productivity of the employees later on.

6. Reduced frustration and allied employee

Informal groups are the safety value for the frustration and allied employee because if any employee feels irritation with his superior's behavior, he can talk it to his group members and can dissipate his unpleasant feelings. 

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