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Group Behaviour


Of all the topics in management literature, perhaps, the concept of Group Dynamics appears to be the most rigorously examined, thoroughly researched and possibly the least understood. A 1972 bibliography listed more than five thousand article and books on the subject, and more work has been done since. In the light of such overwhelming evidence, it will be platitudinous to say that small groups influence behavior significantly. In fact, the human group is a pervasive phenomenon, a formidable force in modem organizations. Small groups are found in all types of organizations. They are essential mechanisms of socialization and a primary source of social order. They perform an important mediating service between the individual and the larger society. Again, understanding group behavior and the propet1ies of groups is necessary to being both a good manager and an effective member of groups. When managers understand the nature of human behavior in organizations, they can use the group more effectively in achieving the goals of the organization and of the employees.

According to David Horton Smith “a group is the largest set of two or more individuals who are jointly characterized by a network of relevant communications, a shared sense of collective identity and one or more shared dispositions with associated normative strength.” In other words, a group is a collection of two or more people who have a common goal or interest and interact with each other to accomplish their objective, are aware of one another and perceive themselves to be a part of the group. The above definition stresses the following things: 

1. Interaction

Interaction can occur face to face, in writing, over the phone, across a compute network or in any other manner which allows communication between group members. The interaction can be over a long or a short period of time. A group would be quite static without interactions. It would be a collection of individuals only. However, it should be noted that it is not necessary for all members of the group to interact simultaneously, but each member must interact at least occasionally with one or more members of the groups. Some form of communication and ability to communicate is vital for a group to exist. The term “group dynamics” implies the kind of interactions indicated above. It also implies continuously changing and adjusting relationships among group members.

2. Size

For a group to exist, it must have at least two members. The more group members there are, the more complex and numerous the relationships possible.

3. Shared Goal Interest

The shared goal identifies a common concern of all group members. This means that each group member desired the attainment of same specific objective or accomplishment of some goal. If a group has a variety of goals or interests, each member of the group must share at least one of the group’s concerns. The phrase “associated nonnative strength” indicates the obligations felt by each group member to the attainment of the shared goal.

4. Collective Identity

Perhaps, it is the awareness of each other that most clearly differentiates a group from an aggregation of individuals. Each member of the group must believe that he is a member of, is a participant in, some specific group. Unless people are aware of each other and of the fact that they are a group, they will not interact in the way that achieves the common goal. This is why casual groups of people do not quality as a group because they ordinarily are not aware of one another or, if aware, do not interact with the other individuals in a meaningful way. 

5. Types of Groups

Groups come in a variety of forms depending on the classification scheme adopted. In formal groups, the behavior that one should engage in are stipulated by an directed toward organizational goals. They are structured and are organized with a definite allocation of task among members and a clear description of duties and relationships among them. It is possible to sub classify formal groups into two categories: Command groups, Task groups. The command group is determined by the organization chart. It is composed of the sub-ordinates who report directly to a given manager. The authority relationship between a department manager and the foreman, between a college principal and teachers, constitutes a command group. On the other hand, a task group is comprised of the employees who work together to complete a particular task or project. A task group’s boundaries, it may be noted, are not confined to its immediate hierarchal superior. It can cross command relationships. Task groups or project teams are usually formed to solve a problem or perform an activity that involves a number of organizational units.

Informal groups are formed by the individuals of the group rather than by management. They are natural groupings of people in a work situation in response to the need for social contact. They do not arise as a result of deliberate design but rather evolve spontaneously. They are neither structured nor organizationally determined. Two specific informal groups can be identified. Individuals who may or may not be the members of the same command or task groups may affiliate to attain a specific objective with which each is concerned. This is an interest group. Employees who join together to support a peer who has been fired, to seek increased fringe benefits represent the formation of a unified front to further their common interest. Friendship Groups develop because the individual members have one or more characteristic in common such as age, political beliefs, or ethnic background. Such groups often extend their interaction and communication to off-job activities.