Foundations of Group Behavior

A group can be defined as two or more interacting and interdependent individuals who come together to achieve particular objectives. A group behavior can be stated as a course of action a group takes as a family. For example − Strike.

Types of Groups

There are two types of groups individuals form. They are formal groups and informal groups. Let us know about these groups.

Formal Groups

These are the type of work groups created by the organization and have designated work assignments and rooted tasks. The behavior of such groups is directed toward achieving organizational goals.

Formal groups can be further classified into two sub-groups:

  • Command Group: It is a group consisting of individuals who report directly to the manager.
  • Interest Group: It is a group formed by individuals working together to achieve a specific objective.

Informal Groups

These groups are formed with friendships and common interests.

These can be further classified into two sub-groups:

  • Task Group: Those working together to finish a job or task is known as a task group.
  • Friendship Group: Those brought together because of their shared interests or common characteristics is known as friendship group.

For example: A group of workers working on a project and reporting to the same manager is considered as command group, while a group of friends chilling out together is considered as an interest group or say members of a club.

Why Do People Join Groups

There is no particular reason answering why individuals join groups. Group helps individuals to feel stronger, have fewer self-doubts, and be more contrary to threats. The following points helps us understand the need of joining a group by individuals.

  • Security mirrors strength in numbers.
  • Status pinpoints a prestige that comes from belonging to a specific group.
    • Inclusion in a group is considered as important as it provides recognition and status.
  • Self-esteem transmits people’s feeling of self-worth.
    • Membership can sometimes raise feelings of self-esteem like being accepted into a highly valued group.
  • Affiliation with groups can meet one’s social needs.
    • Work groups significantly contribute to meet the need for friendships and social relations.
  • One of the appealing attitudes of groups is that they represent power.
    • What mostly cannot be achieved individually becomes possible with group effort.
  • Power might be aimed to protect themselves from unreasonable demands.
  • Informal groups additionally provide options for individuals to practice power.
  • Finally, people may join a group for goal achievement.
    • Sometimes it takes more than one person to accomplish a particular task.

Group Roles

The concept of roles is applicable to all employees within an organization as well as to their life outside the organization. A role is a set of expected behavior patterns attributed to the one who occupies the position demanded by the social unit.

Individuals play multiple roles at the same time. Employees attempt to understand what kind of behavior is expected from them. An individual when presented by divergent role expectations experiences role conflict.

Group roles are divided into three types:

Task-oriented Roles

Roles allotted to individuals according to their work and eligibility is known as task-oriented roles. Task-oriented roles can broadly divide individuals into six categories initiator, informer, clarifier, summarizer, reality tester and information seekers or providers respectively.

  • Initiator: The one who proposes, suggests, defines.
  • Informer: The one who offers facts, expresses feelings, gives opinions.
  • Clarifier: The one who interprets, defines, clarifies everything.
  • Summarizer: The one who links, restates, concludes, summarizes.
  • Reality Tester: The one who provides critical analysis.
  • Information seekers or providers: The one who gives information and data.

These roles present the work performed by different individual according to their marked designation.

Relationship-oriented Roles

Roles that group individuals according to their efforts made to maintain healthy relationship in the group and achieve the goals are known as relationship-oriented roles. There are five categories of individuals in this category − harmonizer, gate keeper, consensus tester, encourager, and compromiser.

  • Harmonizer: The one who limits tension and reconciles disagreements.
  • Gate Keeper: The one who ensures participation by all.
  • Consensus Tester: The one who analyzes the decision-making process.
  • Encourager: The one who is warm, responsive, active, shows acceptance.
  • Compromiser: The one who admits error and limits conflict.

These roles depict the various roles an individual plays to maintain healthy self as well as group relationships.

Individual Roles

Roles that classify a person according to the measure of individual effort put in the project aimed is known as individual roles. Five types of individuals fall into these roles − aggressor, blocker, dominator, cavalier, and avoidance.

  • Aggressor: The one who devalues others, attacks ideas.
  • Blocker: The one who disagrees and rebels beyond reason.
  • Dominator: The one who insists superiority to manipulate.
  • Cavalier: The one who takes part in a group non-productively.
  • Avoidance: The one who shows special interest to avoid task.

These are the various roles a person plays in an organization.

Well-Functioning Groups

We know what a group is, why it is important to form a group, and what the group-oriented roles are. Now we need to know how to mark a group as a well-functioning group, what features are necessary for a group to mark it as an efficient one.

A group is considered effective when it has the following characteristics:

  • Atmosphere is relaxed, comfortable, and friendly.
  • Task to be executed are well understood and accepted.
  • Members listen well and actively participate in given assignments.
  • Assignments are made clear and are accepted.
  • Group is acquainted of its operation and function.
  • People express their feelings and ideas openly.
  • Consensus decision-making process is followed.
  • Conflict & disagreement center regarding ideas or method.

Group Behavior – Example

Let us understand group behavior with the help of an example.

To work on a specific project, we make a group of four members: Rohit, Raj, Sid, and Rahul. It is not possible for anyone of them to complete the project individually, as it may be time-consuming as well as not all the members as individuals have mastered the skills required to complete the project. This indicates the need to come together as a group.

Moving ahead, now let us specify their roles. Rohit is the initiator as he proposes the idea of the project. Raj collects all the information and resources required for the project and becomes the informer. Sid is the clarifier as he interprets the data and saves refined information, while Rahul is the summarizer as he concludes the result of project stating what is to be achieved by the end of the project. These are the task-oriented roles.

When a group of people come together and present their ideas there is a fair chance of collision. Rohit tries to resolve all the disagreements and disputes in the first place and acts as a harmonizer, Sid makes sure that everybody is giving their full support and effort in the project and acts as a gate keeper, Raj is the one encouraging everyone and motivating them when they fail to try harder to complete the project and is the encourager, and Rahul tests the project at each stage and examines the major decision to be made and is acts as the consensus tester. These are the relationship-oriented roles of each member.

Individually each of them have different tasks to fulfill. Rohit tries to be the group leader and impose his ideas on others and we consider him as the dominator, Rahul is always up with excuses to avoid the task given to him and acts as avoider, Raj is the one who opposes everything but is never up with some new idea and becomes the blocker and Sid takes part in every group activity in a non-productive way and becomes the cavalier.

A team cannot be expected to perform well right from the time it is formed. Forming a team is just like maintaining a relationship. It takes time, patience, requires support, efforts and members often go through recognizable stages as they change from being a collection of strangers to a united group with common goals.

Bruce Tuckman presented a model of five stages Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing in order to develop as a group.

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Orientation (Forming Stage)

The first stage of group development is the forming stage. This stage presents a time where the group is just starting to come together and is described with anxiety and uncertainty.

Members are discreet with their behavior, which is driven by their desire to be accepted by all members of the group. Conflict, controversy, misunderstanding and personal opinions are avoided even though members are starting to form impressions of each other and gain an understanding of what the group will do together.

Typical consequences of the forming stage include achieving an understanding of the group’s purpose, determining how the team is going to be organized and who will be responsible for what, discussion of major milestones or phases of the group’s goal that includes a rough project schedule, outlining general group rules that includes when they will meet and discovery of what resources will be available for the group to use.

At this stage, group members are learning what to do, how the group is going to operate, what is expected, and what is acceptable.

Power Struggle (Storming Stage)

The second stage of group development is the storming stage. The storming stage is where dispute and competition are at its greatest because now group members have an understanding of the work and a general feel of belongingness towards the group as well as the group members.

This is the stage where the dominating group members emerge, while the less confrontational members stay in their comfort zone.

Questions around leadership, authority, rules, policies, norms, responsibilities, structure, evaluation criteria and reward systems tend to arise during the storming stage. Such questions need to be answered so that the group can move further on to the next stage.

Cooperation and Integration (Norming Stage)

In this stage, the group becomes fun and enjoyable. Group interaction are lot more easier, more cooperative, and productive, with weighed give and take, open communication, bonding, and mutual respect.

If there is a dispute or disruption, it’s comparatively easy to be resolved and the group gets back on track.

Group leadership is very important, but the facilitator can step back a little and let group members take the initiative and move forward together.

Synergy (Performing Stage)

Once a group is clear about its needs, it can move forward to the third stage of group development, the norming stage. This is the time where the group becomes really united.

At this stage, the morale is high as group members actively acknowledge the talents, skills and experience that each member brings to the group. A sense of belongingness is established and the group remains focused on the group’s purpose and goal.

Members are flexible, interdependent, and trust each other. Leadership is distributive and members are willing to adapt according to the needs of the group.

Closure (Adjourning Stage)

This stage of a group can be confusing and is usually reached when the task is successfully completed. At this stage, the project is coming to an end and the team members are moving off in different directions.

This stage looks at the team from the perspective of the well-being of the team instead of the perspective of handling a team through the original four stages of team growth.

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