Informal Group Dynamics
Formation of informal work groups
Individuals are employed by an organization to perform specific functions. Although the whole person joins an organization, attention is usually focused on the partial person, the part of the individual doing the job. Because people have needs that extend beyond the work itself, informal groups develop to fill certain emotional, social, and psychological needs.
The degree to which a group satisfies its members needs determines the limits within which individual members of the group will allow their behavior to be controlled by the group.
Sense of belonging
Several major functions are served by informal groups. For example, the group serves as a means of satisfying the affiliation needs of its members for friendship and support. People need to belong, to be liked, to feel a part of something. Because the informal group can withhold this attractive reward, it has a tool of its own to coerce compliance with its norms.
Identity and self esteem
Groups also provide a means of developing, enhancing, and confirming a person's sense of identity and self-esteem. Although many organizations attempt to recognize these higher needs, the nature of some jobs-their technology and environment-precludes this from happening. The long assembly line or endless rows of desks reinforce a feeling of depersonalization.
Another function of groups is to serve as an agent for establishing and testing social reality. For instance, several individuals may share the feeling that their supervisor is a slave driver or that their working conditions are inadequate. By developing a consensus about these feelings, group members are able to reduce the anxiety associated with their jobs.
All for one, one for all
Finally, the informal group serves as a defense mechanism against forces that group members could not resist on their own. Joining forces in a small group makes the members feel stronger, less anxious, and less insecure in the face of a perceived threat.
As long as needs exist that are not served by the formal organization, informal groups will form to fill the gap. Since the group fills many important needs for its members, it influences member behavior.