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Group in OB: Characteristics, Reasons, Stages, Types, Behavior, Nature, Importance, Issues

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Concept and Definition of Group in Organizational Behavior (OB)

Organization is composed with various people with variety of knowledge, skills, and experience. They carry different attitude and behavior as they can be from different socio-economic background. Though people enter individually in an organization as employee but they get enrolled in formal and informal groups. Such groups affect on the overall performance of the organization directly or indirectly. Thus, group perception, attitude and behavior are being more important to understand.

Group is a collection of two or more people with shared common objectives. Groups fulfill their objectives through meaningful interaction and interdependence. Group members show stable behavior pattern as relationships among the members. Such behavior of individual influence the group activities and hence to the organizational performance. Group behavior is important to understand the organizational behavior. "Group dynamics is concerned with the interactions and forces among group members".
Moorhead Griffin - "Group is a two or more people who interact with one another such that each person influence and is influenced by the other person."
In conclusion, a group is characterized by collection of two or more people connected with common interest and shared values and behavior expecting to fulfill them with interaction and interdependence. Group activities influence the group members and organizational activities at large extent. Organizational policies and programs are largely affecting with group influence in today's organizations. Groups can be formal and informal.

Characteristics of Group in Organizational Behavior (OB)

1. Collection of two or more people

A group is formed with collection of two or more individual having common objectives or goals. Groups come in existence with interaction and interdependence. Groups exist till the motivation of group members being member or till the fulfillment of group goals.

2. Shared interest

Individual having common interests and objectives join group. Shared interest help to accept the group norms and values. For instances, employees with to join employee union with common interest of security and prosperity.

3. Interaction and interdependence

To satisfy the shared objectives, group members interact to each other with formal network of communication. They share ideas and experience for better output. Each member becomes dependent to other members for activities and quality of result. In general, groups are formed with complementary skills i.e. interdependent in skills.

Also read: Organizational Behavior (OB): Motivation Theories

4. Group identity

Each member in the group gets collective i.e. group identity. Members get distinct identity as being member of group. Values and importance of members of group and non-members are different. Society or management gives different recognition to the group members.

5. Defined structure

In general, group has defined structure. Roles, responsibility and authority are clearly defined. Groups set the clearly defined channel of communication.

6. Group values and norms

For effective functioning of group, each group establishes common values and norms. Such values and norms are accepted by each member for fulfillment of groups objectives.

Reasons for Joining Groups in Organizational Behavior (OB)

Groups are formed by organization at different levels and from individual employees at their will. In this way, groups can be formal and informal. Almost all employees joining organization wish to join group whether it can be formal or informal. An employee may be member of many groups within and outside the organization. It is interesting to understand why people like to join the group. Here are some reasons for joining group which are discussed from employee's view points and organizational view pints as below:

A. Employee's view point

Employees with to join the group specially because of with to satisfy of individual needs. They wish their job security, identify, power and goal achievement. Following reasons are common to join group by employees:

1. Security

Individual wish to join employees union or other groups in order to insure their job security. They think the collective voice gets strong bargaining capacity on their interest. To pressurize the management for job security, financial security and physical security, employee wish to join group.

2. Identification

Group provides collective identity. Collective identity and status increases the level of satisfaction. To get benefits of status and identity, individual wish to join group.

3. Power

By joining group, employee may get authority. Organization fixes responsibility-authority relationship in formal groups. Authority is assigned to the member of groups.

4. Goal achievement

Individual believe that their goals can be achieved being member of group. Normally, goal accomplishment becomes possible only with the joint effort. To get joint effort i.e. synergy effect of effort, employees want to join group.

B. Organization's point of view

Organization for various purposes, form formal groups. Decision making, planning, execution of plans, etc. become more effective with joint effort. Following reasons are common to form groups in organization from organization's point of view:

1. Communication

To communicate formal information, it is easier to with formal groups. As formal groups have formal structure, flow of formal communication becomes easier with formal chain of command which becomes impossible by individual communication.

2. Plan execution

It becomes easier to execute the plans made by management to accomplish the organizational goals. If formal and informal groups are convinced to the organizational plans. they convince the members and even none-members of the organization. It will be easier to execute plans with motivated employees.

3. Decision making

Effective decisions can be made with group of people. Identification of alternatives, determination and analysis of premises, future estimation, etc. are required for effective decisions become effective with many heads. So, effective decisions can be made with joint effort of group.

4. Socialization

Groups are formed to socialize new employees. Groups help to socialize new employees regarding organizational culture, working procedures, rules and regulations. This helps to reduce the burden of managers.

Stages of Group Formulation in Organizational Behavior (OB)

Group formulation takes a series of stages. Social scientists have concluded that there is no fixed rule for group formulation. Basically, following five stages should occur for effective group formulation.

1. Forming Stage

People willing to join group contain number of queries, confusion and uncertainties regarding group goals, leadership, norms and values. In this stage, these people introduce each other and get the description regarding group and its norms. People may not understand the group norms, purpose, structure, leadership, and acceptable behaviors clearly. This means people show their willingness to join the group but there is no certainty of joining the group.

2. Storming Stage

In this stage, high degree of conflict and confrontation takes place. It is characterized by many changes in membership expectations, interpersonal styles, problems of groups goal and individual goals. Conflicts may arise in leadership, authority and control. These things can be settled with negotiation. This means, leadership, groups goals, group norms and values are fixed in this stage. Members accept these things with the end of this stage.

3. Norming Stage

In this stage, members start cooperation in group efforts. They develop harmonious relationship among group members. Feeling of we instead of I is developed. They show group cohesiveness and group identity. This stage will be completed after accepting a common set of expectation and way of doing things.

4. Performing Stage

In this stage, each member of the group show matured behavior. Group is thus, characterized as matured, organized and well functioning unit. Synergy effect is created with combined effort of members. Group members will be satisfied with the result. For the permanent and formal work group, it is the last stage of the group formulation.


5. Adjourning Stage

In this stage, group members analyze the achievements of group. Some of them may be satisfied by group achievement where as some of others may not. On the basis of satisfaction or frustration, members decide whether or not new group can be formulated. Groups are formally dissolved at this stage.

Types of Groups in Organizational Behavior (OB)

There can be many types of groups in organizations as they can be formulated by organization or employees. All such groups in organization can be classified into two broad categories as formal work groups and informal work group as below:

A. Formal Work Group

Formal organization structure or managers formulate formal work groups to conduct different planned activities. The goals, leadership pattern, norms and values of such formal work groups are set on the basis of needs or organization. Formal group are again classified into command groups and task groups.

1. Command Groups

Command groups are formed with employees reporting to the same supervisor. This means, command groups are based on the basic reporting relationships in organization. Such groups are represented on organizational charts frequently. Such groups are normally permanent in nature and play important role on the extent of organizational success.

2. Task Force/Groups

A task forces are formed with the people with supplementary skills and experience to accomplish a specific task. Such groups are dissolved after accomplishment of specified goals. A standing committee or task groups are example of task forces which are permanent in nature though members may be changed.

B. Informal Work Groups

Informal work groups are formed with the intention or effort of employees. Such groups are the results of perception of employees that 'membership in a group will help them achieve their goals or meet their needs.' Such informal groups are formed to fulfill their personal goals like to bargain for salary and benefits, to pass leisure time and to get refreshment. Informal groups can be further classified into two categories.

1. Friendship Groups

Friendship groups are formed with the collection of employees who enjoy to each other. Such groups are formed on the basis of age, gender, geographic, area, ethnicity, etc. of employees involved in organization. Friendship groups can be extended beyond the organization.

2. Interest groups

Interest groups are formed with employees having common goal or objective related to their organizational membership. Such groups are formed for the joint effort to achieve their common objectives.

Work Group Behavior

Work groups in the organization are most important aspect of organizational success as their behavior affects on organizational performance. Various factors including external and internal affect on group behavior and performance.

1. External Conditions imposed on the group

Group behavior can be considered as input-output system and which is sub-system of organizational behavior system. This system interacts with external environment. Factors like organizational strategy, authority structure, formal regulations, organization resources, human resource selection process, performance evaluation and reward system, organizational culture, physical work settings, etc. from external environment affect the group behavior.

2. Group member resources

Abilities and personality characteristics of members of the group largely affect to the behavior and performance of group. Abilities are talents of group member to solve problems regarding job responsibilities. Personality characteristics affect the group interaction patter, performance and job satisfaction level. Personality characteristics relate trait, attitude and behavior.

3. Group structure

Each group is characterized by certain group structure. Group structure is characterized with various elements like formal leadership, roles, norms, group size, group status, degree of group cohesiveness. Group structure operates in physical and social setting.

Also read: Leadership in OB: Nature, Qualities, Style, Emerging Approaches, Issues

In the organization, manager, supervisor, foreman, project leader and committee coordinator can be leader in formal groups. Success of the group largely depends upon the vision and leadership style.

Role of group member is a set of activities expected to perform in groups in order to attain group goals. In another words, roles are the expected behavior of group members for a position and job. Roles of individuals may be different and there can be role conflicts. Conflicts in roles are the result differences in role identity, role perception and role expectations.


Norms are standards rules shared by individual to observe or understand the reality. These are common understandings and rules to which each member is attached in group. Norms are dynamic in nature and hence norms are four classes as performance norms, appearance norms, social arrangement norms and allocation of resource norms.

Status is the importance given by hierarchical structure or position in group. Formal groups normally, get status from formal organizational structure whereas informal groups may lack in formal status. Formally governed status remains more permanent in comparison to informal organization. Formal status is closely related to the chain of command whereas informal status can be acquired by such characteristics as education, age, gender, skills, experience, social membership, etc. Status is the source of ranking people in the group and hence in the organization. Status is the basis of human behavior. Equitable distribution of status in the group motivates group members.

Also read: Team in OB: Nature, Types, Building Effective, Processes

Next important element affecting group structure is group size and hence it will have greater impact on group behavior. It is responsible to determine individual interactions in group interaction. Researchers have identified 7 members groups is the ideal maximum size for decision making and 14 is the maximum for a fact finding group. Normally, small groups are more effective in comparison to large organization to complete group task. But, larger groups make more effective decisions while solving problems.

Group cohesiveness is another important factor affecting group structure and behavior. It is the degree of attachment so that each member confirms strictly to follow the group standard. It is the degree of feeling of unity within groups. Cohesive groups contain the following characteristics:

  • Such groups contain relatively few members. 
  • Members of cohesive groups have similar interest and background. 
  • Members have high degree of status within the organization. 
  • There is strong interpersonal communication and interdependency. 
  • Cohesive groups are physically remote or isolated from the other groups in the organization. 
  • Leaders reward for cooperative behavior. 
  • Groups are pressured or threatened by some common outside force, and
  • They have history of past success. 

4. Group processes

Each group contains input-processing-output-feedback mechanism within the organization. This means group contains group processes. Leadership, communication, power, conflicts, groups decision making, authority, etc. are important variables of group processes. Group processes can be gains or losses on the basis of which actual group effectiveness depends. Process gain increases the effectiveness but processes loss decrease the effectiveness. In group, it is important to understand the group processes for the following reasons:

Also read: Communication in OB: Functions, Process, Types, Network, Barriers, Overcoming, Issues

i. Social loafing

Social loafing is the tendency of decreasing effort because of the group influence. Members think that other members contribute to the group effort so that there will be negligible effect of their performance. This explains a process loss as a result of group. 

ii. Synergy

Synergy is the positive effect of group performance producing additional performance greater than just a arithmetic sum of individual effort. This means by working in a group, it results whole which is greater than sum of parts. This explains process gain. 

iii. Social facilitation effect

It is the tendency of improving or declining the performance in presence of other. Some people speed up their task while working with or in front of other while some other decrease the speed up to show the complexity. 

5. Group task

Task is defined as the work activity designed to be performed under a job responsibility. Work group is based on the task interdependence. Complexity of tasks of work group largely affect of the performance and satisfaction of group. Number of group member should be determined on the basis of complexity, variation in task or content of task. 

Nature and Significance of Informal Groups

Informal work groups are formed spontaneously with the intention or effort of employees. Such informal groups are formed to fulfill personal goals like to bargain for salary and benefits, to pass leisure time and to get refreshment. Informal groups can be further classified into two categories as friendship groups and interest groups. Informal groups though they are not formed with organizational purpose and have no fixed structure with roles, responsibilities and authority, are more important for organizational performance. Researchers have established the role of informal groups in organizational success. Management should study and understand behavior of informal groups in the organization and address accordingly for better result.

Also read: Conflict in OB: Outcomes or Consequences, Nature, Transitions, Process, Sources, Types, Dynamics, Approaches

Nature of informal group

Since, informal group are formed with common interests of employees in the organization. Such groups are formed because of similarity in age, gender, language, region, religion, culture, etc. Cohesiveness in informal group members is found strong though the leadership is not fixed. Informal groups possess following features: 
  • Groups are formed spontaneously and hence they are unplanned. 
  • Formation of informal groups is natural process reflecting human relationship. 
  • Groups structure and leadership are not fixed. 
  • Membership of informal groups is voluntary. 
  • Members have common goals and interest. Person is focused rather than position. 
  • Group members use grapevine and informal channel of communication. 
  • Informal groups do not establish formal rules and regulations. They run by group norms, values and belief of group guide the behavior of member. 
  • Informal groups co-exist within formal group. In large formal groups, there is chance of formulation of many informal groups. 
  • Such groups can adapt environmental change. 

Significance of informal groups

Informal groups have significant role in organizational performance. Their significance can be discussed under following points:

1. Sense of belongingness and security 

Member of informal groups feel that they are safe because of the membership in group. This helps to fulfill security needs of human resources. This creates cohesiveness among members of group. 

2. Satisfaction

Employees share their feelings and ideas formally or informally in group. They entertain their work being the member of group. This increases the level of satisfaction of employees because of which employees can be protected from frustration and emotional problems. 

3. Reduced supervision

Informal group members have greater cohesive force for their objectives. They form group norms and values to attain group goals. This helps group member to motivate for group performance. Motivated employees support to management and hence reduce the supervision. 

4. Easy communication 

Members in informal communication follow group norms and values strongly. They experience greater cohesion and connected in grapevine. This helps to communicate messages more effectively and efficiently. 

5. Authority check

Managers become sensitive in using authority in the organization because of synergy of knowledge level of member of informal groups. Thus informal groups act as the check for authority level. 

6. Social control

Informal groups exercise social control through norms and values. This helps to maintain acceptable behavior of employees in the organization. 

7. Improved personality

Members of groups feel proud being member. They maintain self-image which helps to develop their personality. 

8. Innovation and development

Informal group members share ideas and experience more openly among the group members. They identify more effective methods for creating efficiency in operation. Their knowledge can be used to improve the operating system. Informal groups create congenial environment for development products. 

9. Organizational performance

Informal groups can be used to improve organizational performance. Their creativity, skills and coordinated efforts can produce positive synergy.

Also read: Change in OB: Process, Planned and Unplanned, Magnitude, Forces, Resistance, Approaches to Managing

Issues Related to Group Decision Making (GDM)

As, mentioned earlier, there can be different types of groups. Such groups make decisions for organization or for groups purpose. Their decisions affects both individual and organization. It is essential to estimate the effect i.e. positive or negative. Negative effects need to minimize for which various techniques need to establish in organization. Several critical issues are emerged in group decision making. Some of them are discussed below:

1. Issue of group polarization (Shift)

In group decision making, issue of group polarization is being more importantly emerging. Polarization is the tendency of dividing the group members for different issues in decision. This can be simply be understood as grouping of members in decision with opposite opinion. This may occur before the decision making, after the decision making, and after the decision. For instance, if a business organization is losing continuously for three years. Group members may be involved in decision making regarding new strategy. There can be group polarization from the very beginning. The issue of group decision making is to increase sales of goods and improve profitability. There can be following process of decision making:

Also read: Organizational Development in OB: Characteristics, Values, Objectives, Goals, Prerequisites, Process, Interventions

i. 'X types of orientation'

Before joining the meeting i.e. before group decision making, every member may be convinced in improving the quality of goods and service. Sales volume and profitability. There is no polarization. 

ii. 'Y types of Orientation'

During meeting i.e. group decision making, they may be taking the position for no, yes or how? What other companies are doing? etc. There is still no polarization. 

iii. 'Z types of orientation'

After the group decision making process, group member may be divided in strategy. There can be two types of polarization i.e. polarization 'A' and polarization 'B'. In polarization 'A', decision maker may put their version for selling at the same price with improved quality, new packaging and new technology. They will be ready to bear further loss for future benefit. This is conservative shift opinion. While in polarization 'B', members may put their vision for increasing quality along with price. More investment can be made in advertisement. They argue if this project can be dropped with new products if the loss from current product continues. 

2. Issue of time constraints

Another common issue in GDM is that group is that group members waste hours for discussion but make the decision at the influence of single or minimum number of members. Group members is most of time do not make decision because of lack of understanding. To make consensus, they take remarkable time producing little output. 

3. Issue of group think

Group think is the tendency of making decision on the basis of majority or seniority of the group member. Minority or less influential members are pressurized to approve or confirm the decision. Group members will have no sufficient time for thinking and evaluating unusual, minority and unpopular arguments or views. Group think occur when time pressure for decision is intense to the directive leaders in cohesive groups. Such decision result less productive outcome. 

4. Issue of cost and advantages

Group decision making process incurs cost. Cost of accommodation, refreshment, transportation, allowances, and other benefits are direct cost incurring to such GDM. If properly made, decision from such group discussion can be more productive. But, the issue is 'how to reduce the cost of GDM and increase the advantages?'

5. Issue of participation

In most of cases, members participated physically just to fulfill quorum in the meeting. They do not psychologically participate either because of hesitation, or because of unwillingness. This is the issue of decision making and implementation as well. Power sharing i.e. the issue of centralization and decentralization is another important issue because of which real participation may be affected. Similarly, sometimes, decision are made only for formality but they are not implemented accurately which discourages in participating psychologically. 


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