What types of informal groups do you belong to in your workplace? Reliable Assignment Help


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Influence of Informal Groups

Informal groups exist in almost every kind of organization. Answer the following questions and provide examples to support your position:

  • What types of informal groups do you belong to in your workplace?
  • How do norms of the informal groups to which you belong influence your behavior and that of other group members?

Respond to at least two of your classmates’ posts. 

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Losh, S. (2011). Group behavior in organizations. San Diego: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.
Group Composition
Members of any given group can vary considerably. Group members may differ, for example, in their educational levels, skills,work experiences,
or position in the corporate hierarchy. Group membership on such characteristics can range fromhomogeneous to highly diverse. Such variabili
ty can encompass knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs as well as demographiccharacteristics.
Similarity, Diversity, and Outside Hierarchies
Losh, S. (2011). Group behavior in organizations. San Diego: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.
Losh, S. (2011). Group behavior in organizations. San Diego: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.
Men’s and women’s communication styles candiffer, and those differences in conveying ideasneed to be underst
ood and accounted for in theworkplace.
When members share many characteristics in common, pressures towardconformity may increase because individuals expect their fellow mem
bers tohold similar views (e.g., Wald, Owen, & Hill, 1990). Group dysfunctions indecision making, such as groupthink, which we will examine lat
er in moredepth, may then occur because the narrow range of opinions that can becomfortably expressed in highly homogeneous groups leads
members tobelieve that deviant opinions are rare and will not be tolerated.
On the other hand, members of highly diverse groups may initially feeluncomfortable (Hansen, Owan, & Pan 2006), in part because they don’t k
nowquite what to expect from members who appear different. Group membersmay erroneously rely on stereotypes about different demograp
hics or aboutideological positions when assessing members who appear dissimilar fromthemselves (Berger, Fisek, Norman, & Zelditch, 1977). H
owever, over time,diverse groups can provide a richness of background and experience that cancontribute to new ideas and group productivity.
The statuses that group members hold in the “outside world” (often calleddiffuse status characteristics) can contribute to the richness of group
composition but also may influence how members interact (Berger et al.,1977). Members may defer to others who are older, who have moreed
ucation, or who are in more prestigious occupations.
Studies have found that those higher in diffuse status characteristics moreoften interrupt or touch others or otherwise influence the course ofin
teraction, than members with lower diffuse status characteristics. These asymmetries occur because of relative socialstatus, rather than from p
ersonality traits or some inherent personal quality. Conversational differentiations and inequitiesmay appear more often in diverse groups, rath
er than in those composed of members holding the same diffuse statuscharacteristic (Hansen et al., 2006). For example, in their observational a
nd experimental studies, West and Zimmerman(1983) found that men and women interrupt at roughly equivalent rates in samesex groups, while men interrupt women farmore than the reverse in mixedsex groups. The meaning of touch or the use of terms of endearment in a job interviewsituation differs by gender and is evaluated differently by
male and female perceivers (e.g., Good & Rudman, 2010;Hertenstein & Ketner, 2011).
Business in the Real World
Increasing Your Value as a Group Member
Volunteerism should not be viewed just as a popular movement in the business world. It can lead to personaland career benefits while also ben
efiting your employer. Volunteering for the sake of volunteering can lead topersonal satisfaction. However, you should approach volunteering f
rom a strategic standpoint, to gain personalsatisfaction as well as gain skills that could benefit your employer and fellow employees. That is the
value-addedfunction of volunteerism.
Pick a nonprofit organization that has an ongoing volunteer function, not just onetime events. As you participateover a period of months and years, you may meet other professionals, build your professional network, andperf
orm key tasks that increase your skill level and thus develop transferrable skills. Your participation can serveas a resume builder and a reputatio
n enhancer, and improve your expertise, self-confidence, and effectiveness inwork groups.
Group Size
Losh, S. (2011). Group behavior in organizations. San Diego: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.
Without doubt, membership size has been one of the most studied compositional qualities of groups. Size can facilitateperformance, making it
easier to create a division of labor that capitalizes on the unique contributions of members. If yournew product group is larger rather than small
er, you’re more likely to find that some members have the specific skills neededto develop, construct, test, and market your app or new training
Conversely, large group size can create a process loss; that is, members perform below their cumulative individual potential—
or possibly not at all. Even when all members chip in, average individual performance levels can still decline. Some groupmembers, believing so
meone else will accomplish the collective tasks, fail to participate due to social loafing, sometimescalled “free riding.” Motivational loss among
members, often called the Ringelmann effect, may also result from perceivedlow individual visibility. Many highachieving students or workers hesitate to participate in collective projects because theyhave experienced social loafing or decreased group mot
ivation in prior group tasks, in which some members are unengagedin the task but take at least their share of the rewards earned through the p
roductive efforts of their fellows.
Without a set of norms or group rules delineating exactly how the responsibility for different jobs is to be allocated,responsibility may diffuse ac
ross the membership with no one member feeling personally accountable for completinganything. Social loafing increases when the group is dis
organized or when members receive the same incentives regardless ofthe quality of their contributions. Better coordination by group leaders a
nd providing individual feedback throughout the taskprocess to increase accountability can help minimize it. Erb (2011, April 18) of Entrepreneu
r.com found that a Denver,Colorado, accounting firm, Ehrhardt, Keefe, Steiner, & Hottman, gives monthly feedback to its employees. If compan
ies tieraises, bonuses, and promotions to performance they can combat social loafing and free riding.
Larger groups typically have less informal interaction and their members view them as less friendly (Foels, Driskell, Mullen, &Salas, 2000; Mathi
eu, Maynard, Rapp, & Gilson, 2008). In general, the larger the group, the less satisfied individuals tend tobe with their membership, perhaps be
cause of the lower levels of interpersonal interaction. To produce more friendlyrelations—
or even to ensure that tasks are accomplished at all—
large groups can create smaller, more specialized, subgroupswithin the overall group context. This proliferation of subgroups not only may crea
te a more effective division of labor butmay confer other benefits as well.
Losh, S. (2011). Group behavior in organizations. San Diego: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.
Soliciting ideas from various members andgroups in the workplace is a good way to keepfresh ideas flowing into
the organization.Sometimes something as simple as a suggestionbox may help to facilitate this process.
Earlier in the chapter you learned that Google has almost 30,000 employeesand that the organization uses groups to tie the employees togethe
r. Just likeother large organizations, Google has to work at helping employees form tiesto one another and to groups within the organization. As
a function ofpersonal leadership, regardless of your role in the organization, get involvedas much as possible in the opportunities for group inte
raction. If yourcompany has a suggestion box, suggest ways to get employees involved ingroups. Also encourage other employees who may not
have strongconnections with other employees to get involved.
Political scientists have found that bureaucratic skills, such as using Robert’sRules of Order or creating officer positions, can be immensely use
ful inorganizing groups and generally occur more often among welleducatedAmericans (e.g., Miller & Shanks, 1996). In fact, religious congregations thatwere largely composed of higher socioeconomic status res
pondents moreoften created support groups in the first place (Losh, 1992). However, Millerand Shanks also found that Black parishioners who
were active in largely Blackreligious congregations also more often developed bureaucratic skills, regardless of the estimated socioeconomic sta
tus ofthe congregation, perhaps because parishioners were actually receiving informal training in leadership and grouporganization. Historically
, churches have occupied a central role for the American Black community, serving not only religiousand spiritual needs but also educational, fin
Losh, S. (2011). Group behavior in organizations. San Diego: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.
ancial, business and political functions. Thus, creating smaller subgroups in alarger organization can pay off in a more unified organization and h
elps develop skills in subgroup members.
Although the causal directions from these studies can be ambiguous and research about the virtues of creating smaller face-toface groups within larger organizations has been done more in religious studies than within a business environment, thisline of research has im
plications for managers who want to overcome the feelings of impersonality that often occur within asizable corporation. Smaller groups, typica
lly organized around a division, discipline (e.g., in a college), or specialized tasks,can generate greater member satisfaction and group cohesion.
In turn, these positive feelings may help develop greater taskmotivation and productivity.
Group Communication
Historically, groups functioned in closer proximity to each other. The primary mode of communication was often throughshared space, by way
of conference rooms, offices, brick-andmortar buildings. With increasing use of technology, such ties tophysical space are changing rapidly though. The internet and mobile technology
have greatly accelerated the change in howwe function and communicate as groups. This section discusses the conventional methods of group
communication, as wellas implications prompted by the Internet Age.
Structural Communication Patterns
Losh, S. (2011). Group behavior in organizations. San Diego: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.
Losh, S. (2011). Group behavior in organizations. San Diego: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.
As Zander found in his research using basketballplayers, sometimes the type of position one fillsin the group can
determine the degree ofleadership qualities that emerge
Recall from Chapter 2 the systematic University of Michigan field experimentalresearch conducted by Alvin Zander (1971) with the volunteer co
mmunitybasketball teams. Zander randomly moved team members into center or pointguard positions or rotated them to regular team positio
ns. He found that teammembers who were designated as centers or point guards tended to behavemore like leaders, showing more assertive a
nd directive behaviors, even ifthey had not expressed such conduct before their experimental reassignment.Zander explained these findings by
citing the role demands embedded inthese essential positions that made the players in them exhibit leaderlikequalities even if they didn’t start out on the team that way.
Center and point guard positions, as well as football quarterbacks, perhapsbecome considered leaders in the first place because these positions
arecentral for communication from coaches. While the game is being furiouslyplayed, it is impossible for coaches to simultaneously communic
ate with allplayers on the field. Instead they relay information, recommendations, anddirectives to team members who occupy particular pivota
l positions. In turn,those who hold such positions communicate directives to the rest of the team.These vital communication points tend to conf
er more influence on theindividual who occupies that pivotal position and thus increases theirpotential for leadership.
There are several types of structural communication patterns: the Circle,Chain, Y, Wheel, and Comcon (or common channel; Guetzkow & Simon
, 1955,and see Figure 3.1). Each node in the patterns portrayed in Figure 3.1 is a communication site. Nodes in the diagrams arelinked through s
traight bars. In the Circle, each member can only communicate with someone on either side, while the endpositions in the Chain can only com
municate with an individual on one side. In the Y and the Wheel, group memberscommunicate through a centrally located position, while in the
Comcon, each group member can communication with all theothers.
The kind of communication pattern that is used can affect group decision making, problem solving, and satisfaction as well asmember influence
. Some patterns, such as the Y and the Wheel, inherently make some locations more centrally located in acommunication network than others.
Group members in these positions relay information, often in two different directions,from the exterior to the immediate collectivity, whether f
rom a chain of command higher up or from outside the groupentirely, and then often from members inside the immediate group upwards or o
utwards. Because of their location, membersin central communication positions may also act as gatekeepers, selecting which information to tra
nslate, accentuate, ortransmit, and how much bidirectional communication to instigate. Perhaps not surprisingly, these central positionincumb
ents also tend to be more satisfied with their membership in the group (Bavelas, 1948; Leavitt, 1951).
Figure 3.1
Losh, S. (2011). Group behavior in organizations. San Diego: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.
Other group members tend to be less satisfied with highly centralized formations such as the Y or with those that permit onlylimited communic
ation with other members, such as the Chain. Overall group members express greater satisfaction withmore open communication networks suc
h as the Comcon or even the Circle.
Member satisfaction in more allchannel groups doesn’t necessarily mean greater accuracy. If too much information isassessed and relayed, information overload can result. Th
us, even in more restricted communication networks such as theCircle, group members may attempt to reduce the amount of information that
they take in or relay; they may select orsharpen particular details, and assimilate incoming information to preexisting cognitive categories and s
tereotypes, making itmore similar to these categories than it really is.
Gordon Allport, in his classic treatise The Nature of Prejudice (1954), presents a vivid example of assimilation. He seatedWhite study participant
s in a circle and then presented only the first individual with a drawing of men on a subway. The firstand then each subsequent participant (lacki
ng the picture) had to briefly describe the drawing to their neighbor, akin to thechildren’s game of “telephone.” In the drawing, one White man
on the subway held a razor. Long before the information hadcompleted traveling the circle, the razor in the description had somehow jumped t
o the hand of the Black man in the subwaycar. In a similar way, an employee who hears of rumored layoffs or furloughs may begin to think in te
rms of stereotypes orunconscious beliefs he or she already possesses, allowing this employee to justify these rumors. In this way, inaccurateinf
ormation may be confirmed and, presumably, communicated to others.
Losh, S. (2011). Group behavior in organizations. San Diego: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.
The spatial configuration of an office can determine the waysin which office members will communicate with ea
ch other.This office dynamic can have profound effects for thecompany as a whole in terms of efficiency, produc
tivity, andeven employee satisfaction.
When solving problems, groups with a centralized communicationstructure, such as the Y, shine with simpler tasks; such groupssolve problems
faster and make fewer errors. Whencommunication patterns are decentralized, communication tendsto be more frequent and direct. Decentral
ized patterns appear tolead to fewer errors on more complicated cognitive group tasks(Shaw, 1951). A centralized pattern would be akin to a c
orporationin which highlevel executives communicate only with divisionmanagers, who then pass along information or directions to rankand file employees. On the oth
er hand, in a decentralized network,employees at any level may use email or texting to communicatewith most or all members of the company.
In traditional communication in large corporations, which are morecharacteristic of businesses or of groups with a centralizedstructure, messag
es tend to be either written or face to face. Inthese kinds of settings, the physical layout of the group can affect communication patterns. For ex
ample, because of theirrole on the team, quarterbacks or centers are more central. Similarly, consider the physical design of the traditionalclass
room: Seats are designed to face forward, toward the teacher. As a result, students less often communicate with eachother, and talk shifts back
and forth from teacher to student. Cubicles in an office may block the occupants on either side butfacilitate communication with the desk oppo
site the cubicle opening.
The diagrams in Figure 3.1 also describe more formal communication patterns, more common, of course, in formal groups.Yet, as noted earlier,
stilted formal centralized patterns can leave many members dissatisfied, especially in rocky economictimes, when feeling out of the loop may l
Losh, S. (2011). Group behavior in organizations. San Diego: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.
eave workers concerned about their jobs. Partly in consequence, group membersmay use informal communications outside of official channels.
Informal communication also makes up most interaction ininformal groups.
Internet and Mobile Technology
Communication via Internet, cell phones and smartphones, netbooks, and other electronic devices introduce new dimensionsinto group comm
unication. First, unlike more traditional means of communication, such as paper memos, these gadgetsquickly democratize contacts among gro
up members; one need not wait for a written directive or a leader’s speech to initiatecommunicative action. The tumbling costs to acquire and
operate these devices means that almost any adult group membercan afford to own at least one. Texting and email under many different servers mean that members can be contacted andorganized outside of any official channels, such as the company email. Group meetings can even be organized and held invirtual space. In addition to e-mail and texting, individuals can conduct longdistance calls using their personal computers andspecialized programs.
How much will these increasingly cheap, portable, and common electronics change communication in groups? By the end of2010, over 20 perc
ent of households were cellular phone only (AAPOR, 2010) and that number is escalating. By 2006, nearlyall American adults with a bachelor’s d
egree owned a personal computer and practically all of these individuals were online(Losh, 2009). Ultimately these portable devices will affect t
raditional modes of group communication. Workers whotelecommute probably attend fewer meetings. Sales personnel may travel less, using s
martphones to transmit images of theirmerchandise.
Other Important Group Dimensions
Besides size, homogeneity, and communication patterns, groups vary along several other dimensions. Scholars oftendistinguish between prima
ry groups—
those that are very important or salient to the individual and typically characterized byconsiderable social interaction, such as families or work g
and secondary groups, those that are less central.Depending on culture and circumstances, secondary groups can include extended families or
neighborhood organizations.Tertiary groups are more peripheral still, often larger, and more aloof. Some online electronic discussion lists, wit
h memberswho range from the highly active to the “lurkers” (who read but do not contribute), may fill that bill.
At this point, it is hard to characterize the highly diverse online groups along these dimensions. For example, in 2011 over halfa billion people w
ere online connecting with “friends” on Facebook. Although some of these “friendships” are clearly foradvertising purposes, judging from the n
umber of companies that request you to “friend” them, online social networking sitesprovide a way for people of all ages to initiate, restore, an
d maintain communication.
Losh, S. (2011). Group behavior in organizations. San Diego: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.
Online groups also exist within distance learning classes at colleges, in eBay’s set of “communities,” and in tens of thousandsof diverse hobby a
nd political interest groups on Yahoo and Google. Some of these may come to serve the same functions assupport groups in larger organization
s, and they will pull at least some members away from more familiar collectivities, suchas extended groups of relatives (see research by Robinso
n & Martin, 2010).
The late sociologist Talcott Parsons (1951) described several features, which he called “pattern variables,” that can be used todescribe and infer
structure in groups. For example, ascribed groups (e.g., close relatives) are more likely to be primarygroups. Primary groups may be either for
mal or informal, or they may exist as a formal entity, as a family does with respect tostate and federal law, yet be characterized by interaction t
hat is more informal. As described next, ascribed groups may alsobe diffuse, socioemotional, and particularistic.
Achieved Versus Ascribed Groups
Losh, S. (2011). Group behavior in organizations. San Diego: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.
In an achieved group, one must demonstratesome kind of proficiency required by that groupin order to become
a member. A job interview ispart of demonstrating proficiency to the workgroup to which one wants to belong.
Membership in an ascribed group usually consists of individuals who areeither born or marry in
to the group, are related to members in other ways, orare otherwise placed in the group a prior
i by the norms and customs of aculture or subculture (Parsons, 1951). Many important primary
groups, suchas families, especially the family members you grew up with, are ascribedgroups. In
American society, religious affiliation is often treated as ascribed.Ascribed groups are more typi
cally “who you know” and whom you arerelated to rather than “what you know.”
In societies in which one’s social class or caste at birth follows an individualthroughout a lifetim
e, these entities are also typically ascribed statuses. Incontrast to these societies, the United Sta
Losh, S. (2011). Group behavior in organizations. San Diego: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.
tes has long adhered to a generalideology of social class mobility. Thus we tend to view social cl
ass as achieved,although race or ethnicity has often assumed ascriptive status, even nowamon
g many Americans.
Ascriptive status also describes some family businesses, even those that arelarge, privately held
corporations. In these cases, individuals who are notfamily members often wonder just how far
they can advance up the hierarchy.If advancement avenues are seen as highly restricted by fam
ilial connections, this can suppress motivation among otheremployees or lead to excessive turn
over. Family members may feel less constrained to be star performers, because theybelieve the
y will occupy leadership positions regardless. Finally, disputes among family members can even
lead to dissolvingthe company
On the other hand, members who belong to achieved groups must often accomplish a task or d
emonstrate a skill in order tobecome or remain a bona fide group member. Recruits to youth ga
ngs—or even college fraternity and sorority pledges—
typically complete a required initiation period or execute a set of tasks to demonstrate that the
y have earned membership.Colleges demand that applicants provide a minimum composite of
board test scores and grades, while business organizationsoften require a specific educational l
evel and/or set of skills among potential employees. Even in friendship groups, theprospective
member must somehow demonstrate that she or he possesses sufficient social competencies t
o belong.
The differences between ascribed and achieved groups provide a partial structure for how the g
roup interacts and whichpersonal qualities it emphasizes. Members of achieved groups tend to
highlight accomplishing group tasks, such as settingproductivity records or winning a critical foo
tball game. They also may publicize members’ individual accomplishments thatreflect favorably
upon the group, as college and companies do when faculty, students, or employees win a natio
nal prize.Indeed, the primary determinant of maintained membership may be the individual’s d
emonstration of the ability to performgroup tasks and contribute to group goals (including socia
l tasks or goals, such as planning a company party or organizing anight out). In other words, the
novice may need to serve a probationary period of demonstrating achievement, as teachers orc
ollege faculty do before they receive tenure. Your work team planning the new training progra
m, course, or app is anachieved group.
Management Connections
Merging the Ascribed and Achieved Groups
Losh, S. (2011). Group behavior in organizations. San Diego: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.
Many small businesses are started by family members. As stated earlier in this chapter, an ascri
bed group usuallyconsists of individuals who are either born or marry into the group. As the co
mpany grows, the need arises toeither hire more family members or to expand the employmen
t pool to include friends or unknown applicantswith the necessary skills. The latter group could
be considered an achieved group.
A problem can arise in the organization where nonfamily members do not feel equal to family members. Thechallenge for owners or managers is t
o meld the two groups into a single productive unit or group. Sometimesthis is done by promoti
ng non-family members into ranks of management and giving nonfamily members otherkey roles or assignments. Another way to help the two groups to meld is t
o have the same rules andaccountability for family and nonfamily members. Such strategies help to build trust between the two groups asthey become on
A merger such as this is, in many ways, a merger of what’s business and what’s personal in one’
s life. If you ran afamilyowned company consisting of five family members and needed to double the size of this compa
ny withfive more employees, how would you go about making such an expansion? Would you tr
y to stick with expansionthrough family? Would you go outside to nonfamily members? Either way, how would you go about integratingthe new members with the ex
isting ones?
According to Parsons, member interaction in achieved groups tends to be more ritualistic and r
ole specific, that is, it focusesupon successful performance in a definite social role. Interaction
may be less holistic, more concentrated on a “slice” of theindividual’s life that is relevant to the
attainment of taskspecific goals rather than the member’s personal characteristics orrelations with outsiders.
Ideally interaction in achieved groups is also emotionally or affectively neutral, again oriented t
oward group tasks.Expectations and rewards for group members typically are expected to be u
niversalistic, meaning that the same criteria areused to judge all members. For example, as not
ed earlier, colleges usually specify a minimum grade point average andscholastic board scores i
n order to admit student candidates, while businesses often cite a minimum degree level andco
mbination of years of experience or special skills in order to seriously consider a job applicant. If
, officially or unofficially,the college or business includes particularistic criteria such as the presti
ge of the applicant’s relatives, the organization beginsto resemble an ascribed group, even if it i
s not a “family business.”
Losh, S. (2011). Group behavior in organizations. San Diego: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.
Because individuals in ascribed groups often have little or even no choice about membership, th
eir face-toface interactionmay be less geared to or only partially oriented toward tasks that benefit the gr
oup as a whole. For example, although familymembers often coordinate their actions to ensure
the group’s financial survival (and such cooperation is often taken forgranted), families are also
typically expected to fill many socioemotional needs, such as nurturing and sensitively supporti
ngtheir members. The members’ personal characteristics thus move to the forefront.
Interaction in ascribed groups is more diffuse; it is geared toward the whole person rather than
toward only the specific rolesthe individual occupies in the group. Interaction is also probably m
ore emotionally expressive. Group expectations may begeared toward a specific person and co
nditioned by their i


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