There are groups in every organization. To managers, to directors, to project managers, to operational staff, etc.
Groups in organizations are often created involuntarily by uniting the professional and personal interests of the people in the organization.
Project managers are often grouped into a professional community. Programmers or designers too.
People need to communicate with their peers. Most of us, sometimes unconsciously, actively seek interaction with other people.
In most cases, our contacts with other people are short-term and insignificant.
However, if two or more people have had direct contact long enough, they gradually begin to be psychologically aware of the mutual influence on each other.
Awareness that they think about them and expect something from them makes people change their behavior, adapting or opposing the expectations of other people and thus confirming the existence of social relationships.
It is these processes that contribute to the emergence of sustainable groups of people.
Some groups we have to interact with are short-lived, and their mission is simple.
When the ultimate goal is reached, or when members lose interest in it, the group disintegrates.
Other groups can exist for many years and influence their members and even the external environment.
Formal and informal groups
Each organization consists of one or more groups. Management may form groups on its initiative when conducting horizontal (subdivisions) and vertical (management levels) divisions.
There can be dozens of levels of management in each department of a large organization. Thus, a large organization can consist of hundreds, even thousands of small groups.
These groups, created at the will of management to organize the production process are called formal groups.
Their function is to perform specific tasks and achieve certain goals.
The emergence of informal organizations
As soon as a formal organization is established, it also becomes a social environment, where the rules of communication are formed far from the instructions of management. Reference: https://www.vedantu.com/commerce/informal-organization#:~:text=Informal%20organizations%20exist%20in%20every,personal%20interactions%20and%20common%20interests.&text=It%20does%20not%20possess%20any%20definite%20structure%20or%20hierarchy.
From social relations are born many other associations – informal groups, which together represent the informal organization.
Thanks to the formal structure and its tasks, the same people come together every day, sometimes for several years.
People who would otherwise find it difficult to meet are often forced to spend more time together than even with their own family.
In addition, the nature of the tasks they perform very often makes them interact with each other.
As a natural result of this intensive social interaction is the emergence of informal organizations. Informal organizations have a lot in common with formal ones – they also have their hierarchy, leaders, tasks.
It is inherent in informal organizations to exercise social control over their members.
This control can influence and direct the group’s efforts to achieve the goals of the formal organization.
Resistance to change
People can also use an informal organization to discuss upcoming or actual changes that may occur in their department or organization as a whole.
Resistance will arise whenever the members of the group see in the changes a threat to the future existence of their group as such, common interests and positive emotions.
This is a kind of instinct for self-preservation.
Like formal organizations, informal ones have their leaders. The only difference between them is that the leader of a formal organization has support in the form of official powers and they usually operate only in one specific functional area.
The support of the informal leader is his recognition by the group itself. In his actions, he relies on people and their support. Reference: “Manager or Leader: What are the differences and similarities”, By Louise Dupont, Writer at Business Value-Oriented Principles (2021, https://bvop.org/journal/manager-vs-leader/)
The sphere of influence of the informal leader can go far beyond the administrative framework of the formal organization.
Management of the informal organization
Informal organizations interact dynamically with formal ones. One of the first to study this factor, as well as to study the formation of informal organizations, was George Homans, a theorist in the field of group analysis and organizational development.
According to him, although the informal organization is not created by the will of management and is not directly under its control, it always needs effective “management” for the company to achieve its goals.
Factors that affect the effectiveness of the group
Size. According to some studies, we can conclude that groups consisting of 5-11 members usually make more accurate decisions than those that exceed this number.
Increasing the size of the group increases the tendency for informal division into subgroups, which can lead to mutually inconsistent goals.
Composition. This implies the quality of the group, the degree of similarity of its participants – their views, ways to solve problems.
Group norms. The norms adopted by the group have a strong influence on the behavior of the individual, but also on the direction in which the group will work. The informal leader (the core of the group) has a significant influence on the change of these norms.
Cohesion. Because a cohesive group works well as a team, a high level of cohesion can increase the effectiveness of the entire organization. Cohesive groups also have fewer communication problems.
However, if the goals of such a group differ from those of an organization, a high level of cohesion may, on the contrary, harm the overall performance of the company.
The behavior of team members
One of the factors that determine the effectiveness of the group is also the behavior of each member.
For a group to function effectively, its members must behave in a way that helps to achieve common goals and to carry out active social interaction.
In general, we can talk about two types of roles in the group – target and support.
Target roles are distributed in such a way that they can select group tasks and perform them. Supporting roles contain behaviors that support and activate the life and activities of the group.
Examples of target roles are: initiating the activity, seeking information, gathering opinions, presenting information, expressing opinions, coordinating, summarizing.
Supporting roles include encouragement, setting criteria, feasibility, expression of the group’s feelings. The high level of efficiency of the group speaks of its development to the stage of a coordinated team.
However, the difference between a team and a group is that teams often coincide with formal organizations, they are created and developed according to a clearly defined plan, following the goals of the organization as a whole.
Informal groups are formed spontaneously and may not only not coincide, but may also oppose the organizational structure and the relationships within that structure.