CHARACTERISTICS OF GROUPS

Groups in organizations are more than collections of individual employees. We can distinguish effective groups in terms of role structures, norms, cohesiveness, leadership, status, tasks and size.

Characteristics of Group behaviour in an Organisation

These characteristics of group behaviour act as a means of understanding why some groups perform better than others.

  1. Role Structures: Each person in a group has a role, or a pattern of expected behaviours associated with a certain position in the group. Each group member's role is a part of the group's overall role structure, that is the set of roles and relationships among roles that has been defined and accepted by group members.
  2. Roles develop through a combination of group processes and individual processes.

    1. Group members have an expected role for each individual. In formal groups, the organization has expectations for what employees in each position should do.
    2. Through verbal and behavioural messages, group members communicate their expectations: a sent role. For expected roles in formal groups, the organization often spells out its expectations in job descriptions.
    3. The individual group member's perceptions of these communication results in a perceived role.
    4. The group member's response, acting out (or not acting out) the perceived role is the enacted role. The way the role is enacted influences the group's future role expectations.

    A group is most likely to be effective if its members understand and accept roles that are consistent with high perform.

  3. Norms: The standards that a work group uses to evaluate the behaviour of its members are its norms of behaviour. These norms may be written or unwritten, verbalized or not verbalized, implicit or explicit. So long as individual members of the group should do, or they may specify what members of a group should not do.
  4. Norms may exist in any aspect of work group life. They may evolve informally or unconsciously within a group, or they may arise in response to challenges. Norms reflect the culture of the particular group, so they vary from one group to another. When the group's norms are consistent with the organization's goals, they can contribute to organizational effectiveness. The degree to which norms have an impact depends on the extent to which group members comply with them and the group's enforcement of them.

    Individual Adjustment: The degree to which group members accept norms is called individual adjustment. The impact of individual adjustment on the group depends on whether norms are pivotal or peripheral. Pivotal norms define behaviour that is absolutely required for continued membership in the group. Peripheral norms define behaviour that is desirable - but not essential - for continued group membership. Combining these types of norms with the choice of whether to accept them results in four possible levels of individual adjustment:

    1. Acceptance of both kinds of norms is "conformity" to the group.
    2. Rejection of both kinds of norms results in "open revolution".
    3. Accepting only pivotal norms amounts to "creative individualism".
    4. Accepting only peripheral norms amounts to "subversive rebellion".

    Enforcement of Norms: To function effectively, groups enforce their norms in various ways.

    1. The group may increase communication with a non-conforming member.
    2. If that does not work, the group may ignore the non-conforming member and exclude him or her from activities.
    3. In extreme cases, group members may resort to physical coercion or expulsion.
  5. Cohesiveness: The commitment of members to a group and the strength of their desire to remain in the group constituted the group's cohesiveness. It is the "interpersonal glue" that makes the members of a group stick together is group cohesion. Group cohesion can enhance job satisfaction for members and improve organizational productivity. Highly cohesive groups at work may not have many interpersonal exchanges away from the workplace. However, they are able to control and manage their membership better than work groups low in cohesion.
  6. This is due to the strong motivation in highly cohesive groups to maintain good, close relationships with other members.

    Factors Affecting Cohesiveness: Individuals tend to consider a group attractive if it meets the following conditions:

    • The group's goals are clear and compatible with members' goals.
    • The group has a charismatic leader.
    • The group has a reputation for successfully accomplishing its task.
    • The group is small enough that members can air their opinions and have them evaluated.
    • The members support one another and help each other overcome barriers to growth and development.

    Furthermore, cohesiveness may be easier to establish in a group whose membership is homogeneous. Groups also tend to be highly cohesive when they perceive a threat that gives group members a "common enemy".

  7. Leadership: A key role in determining the success of the group is the role of the leader. Effective leadership can shape a group into a powerful force for accomplishing what individual members could not or would not do alone. Organizations need to cultivate effective group leaders whose goals support the organization's objectives.
  8. Status: Status is the degree of worth and respects that other members of the group accord individual group members. Status may arise from the person's job or behavior in the group. Often, a group member's status is linked to the person's position in the organization. Someone near the top of the organizations hierarchy has a higher status. Status may also be based on age, gender, education level, seniority, race or other characteristics.
  9. The status of group members can enhance effectiveness if the high-status members have the most to contribute to the group's objectives. However, if status causes a person to have influence beyond his or her ability to contribute to group goals, the group's effectiveness will suffer.

  10. Tasks: The productivity and satisfaction of group members also depend on the kinds of tasks the group carries out. Major ways to describe group tasks are in terms of type and performance requirements.
    1. Task Type: The type of task carried out by a group is defined by the major kinds of activity involved. Tasks may be classified as follows:
      • Production tasks: Tasks requiring the group to produce and present ideas, images or arrangements.
      • Discussion tasks: tasks requiring the group to evaluate issues and
      • Problem-solving tasks: Tasks requiring the group to decide on a course of action for resolving a particular problem.
    2. Performing Requirements: The performing requirements of a task may be of following types:
      • Disjunctive Tasks: Tasks that can be completed through individual efforts of group members.
      • Conjunctive Tasks: These are tasks where each person's efforts are tightly linked to the efforts of others. Group members are highly interdependent.
      • Additive Tasks: Are tasks where productivity is measured by adding together the output of each group member.

Group and its Characteristics

Characteristics of a Well-Functioning, Effective Group

Characteristics of a Well-Functioning, Effective Group

Characteristics of Mature Groups

The description of a well-functioning effective groups in the figure above characterizes a mature group. Such a group has four distinguishing characteristics:

  1. Purpose and Mission: The purpose and mission may be assigned to a group or may emerge from within the group. Even in the case of an assigned mission, the group may re-examine, modify, revise, or question the mission. It may also embrace the mission as stated. The mission statement is converted into a specific agenda, clear goals, and a set of critical success factors. Stating the purpose and mission in the form of specific goals enhances productivity over and above any performance benefits achieved through individual goal setting.
  2. Behavioural Norms: Behavioural norms, which evolve over a period of time, are well-understood standards of behaviour within a group. They are benchmarks against which team members are evaluated and judged by other group members. Some behavioural norms become written rules while other norms remain informal, although they are no less well understood by group members.
  3. Group Cohesion: It enables a group to exercise effective control over its members in relationship to its behavioural norms and standards. Goal conflict in a group, unpleasant experiences, and domination of a subgroup are among the threats to a group's cohesion. Groups with low levels of cohesion have greater difficulty exercising control over their members and enforcing their standards of behaviour.
  4. Group cohesion is influenced by a number of factors, most notably time, size, the prestige of the team, external pressure, and internal competition. Group cohesion evolves gradually over time through a group's normal development.

  5. Status Structure: Status structure is the set of authority and task relations among a group's members. The status structure may be hierarchical or egalitarian (democratic), depending on the group. Successful resolution of the authority issue within a team results in a well-understood status structure of leader-follower relationship. Where leadership problems arise, it is important to find solutions and build team leader effectiveness.

External Conditions Imposed on the Group

Groups are a subset of a larger organization system. Therefore, the organization will impose some conditions on the group. These external conditions are: -

  1. Authority Structures: Organizations have authority structures that define who reports to whom, who makes decisions, and what decisions individuals or groups are empowered to make. So, while someone who emerges informally from within the group might lead a work group, the formally designated leader (appointed by management) has authority that others in the group don't have.
  2. Organizational Culture: Every organization has an unwritten culture that defines standards of acceptable and unacceptable behaviour for employees. Members of work groups have to accept the standards implied in the organization's dominant culture if they are to remain in good standing.
  3. Formal Regulations: Organizations create rules, procedures, policies and other forms of regulations to standardize employee behaviour. The more formal regulations that the organization imposes on all its employees, the more the behaviour of work group members are consistent and predictable.
  4. Organizational Resources: When organizations have limited resources, so do their work groups. What a group actually accomplishes is, to a large degree, determined by what it is capable of accomplishing. The presence or absence of resources such as money, time, raw materials and equipment – which are allocated to the group by the organization – has a large bearing on the group's behaviour.
  5. Physical Work Setting: The physical work setting imposed on the group by eternal parties has an important bearing on work group behaviour. They physical setting creates both barriers and opportunities for work group interaction. Workers will not be able to waste time if their superiors work close to them.
  6. Reward System: Since work groups are part of the larger organizational system, group members will be influenced by how the organization evaluates performance and what behaviours are rewarded.

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Principles of Management and Organisational Behaviour Topics