Group Norms

GROUP NORMS

Norms are shared ways of looking at the world. Groups control their members through the use of norms. A norm is a rule of conduct that has been established by group members to maintain consistency in behavior. It tells an individual how to behave in a group. Norms are essential if a group is to be a viable unit. According to Hackman Norms have five characteristics:

  1. Norms summarize and simplify group influence processes. They summarize and highlight those things that the group feels it’s important to control. Norms resolve impersonal differences in a group and ensure uniformity of action.
  2. Norms apply only to behavior not to private thoughts and feelings. It will be sufficient if there is behavioral compliance from the members (officially). Private acceptance of norms by members is not necessary and can be detrimental to the survival of the group if it is enforced too rigidly.
  3. Norms are generally developed only for behaviors which are viewed as important by most group members.
  4. Norms usually develop gradually, but the process can be shortened if members so desire. If, for some reason group members decide that a particular norm is now desired, they may simply agree to institute such a norm suddenly by declaring that ‘from now on’ the none exists.
  5. Not all norms apply to everyone. High status members often enjoy more freedom to deviate from the ‘letter of the law’ than do other members.

1. Factors Influencing Conformance to Norms

Why members conform to group norms? Not every member conforms. Each group member, of course, has alternative choices before him. Generally speaking, a person characterized as intellectually average, unoriginal and low in ego strength and self-confidence and having dependent and disturbed relationships with other people, would probably be a conformist. There can be complete conformity where the member accepts all the norms of the group (high conformist). Sometimes, he may accept all important norms but may reject other norms (selective individualism). At times, there may be a case of rebellion where he decided to leave or is expelled from the group .

Thus conformity to norms is not (automatic) usually blind, slavish and unthinking: nor is it only a function of the norms centrality. Conformity depends on the following factors:

1. Personality factors. Research on personality factors suggests that the more intelligent are less likely to conform than the Jess intelligent. They prefer selective individualism. Authoritarians conform more than non – authoritarians. Again, people characteristics of the situation: In unusual situations where decisions must be taken on unclear items, there is a greater tendency to conform to the group’s norms. Under conditions of crisis, conformity to group norms is highly probably.

2. Situational factors. Group size (increasing size increases conformity behavior) communication patterns (decentralized patterns enhance conformity behavior) degree of group unanimity etc.

3. Intragroup relationships. A group that is seen as being creditable will evoke more compliance than a group that is not.

4. Compatible goals. When group goals mesh with individual goals, people are quite willing to adhere to group norms of performance.

2. Enforcing Norms

Norms quite often, can vary form very simple rules to very complex set of prescriptions and prohibitions. So it is always not possible to enforce norms quite easily. Groups employ several specific functions in order to ensure that individuals with the group comply with its standards. Enforcement of “the letter of the law” is achieved through the following steps: 

Education. Arouse a desire in members to remain in the group show them how the group’s standards contribute to the achievement of important goals. Increase each member’s involvement in the group’s work and ask the target person to give up individual gains in favor of the group’s success. Present a right way of behaving to the members and admonish deviations. 

Surveillance. Adherence to group norms is essential to group survival. Detect deviance to group norms. If conformity of members cannot be detected directly, develop a means for determining whether members have done what the group’s standard require.

Warning. Make it known that any group mate who does not conform total group’s standards will be removed from the unit. Issue a strict warning to the de’ · Provide a friendly and supportive contact to the deviate so as to bring his behavior to compliance with group norms. Should be refusing to do so, stop the educational process and allow his to have a ‘feel’ of the negative consequences: razzing, argument etc. 

Sanctions. This is the actual stage of enforcing discipline. Sanctions are imposed only when the deviant refuses to mend his ways. Sanctions take an ugly tum and may result in ostracism, physical violence, tampering with personal possessions etc.

3. Implications for Managers

Among the manager’s most important tasks are learning the norms of the different groups, finding out which are critical and which are not and determining the degree of conformity needed and degree of non-conformity allowed. Effective managers try to change norms that challenge the accomplishment of organizational goals.