This article throws light upon the top six functions performed by groups in order to improve organisational performance. The functions are: 1. Assignment of Roles 2. Group Norms and Conformity 3. Group Cohesiveness 4. Group Decision-Making 5. Group Communication 6. Informal Leadership.
Function # 1. Assignment of Roles:
Role refers to a set of expected behaviour patterns attributed to someone who occupies a given position in a social unit. Groups expect their members to perform certain roles or behaviours. In formal groups, these roles are defined by their job titles and positions and in informal groups, they are defined by their expectations and perceptions of other managers.
Group members perform the following roles:
(a) Task-oriented roles:
Group members perform organisational tasks and keep other group members focused on getting the work done.
(b) Relations-oriented roles:
Group members offer ideas and support other people’s ideas.
(c) Self-oriented roles:
Members expect to do something for themselves. These roles may or may not support their formal, task-oriented roles. Members perform these roles in different degrees. Higher the clarity in degree of roles played by group members, higher is the performance of the group.
Function # 2. Group Norms and Conformity:
Group norms are acceptable standards or expectations that shared by group members. They may relate to output levels, absenteeism, promptness, dress, loyalty, socializing on the job etc. A group norm that states that members shall not produce more than 50 units per day becomes a norm followed by all.
Even if a member can and wants to produce more than 50 units per day (in order to earn more), he would not do so for the fear of losing group approval. Norms also define the dress to be worn by group members, their working hours on weekends etc. Norms have powerful influence on individual performance. Members perform as the group norms provide.
Purposes of Group Norms:
Group norms serve the following purposes:
(a) They define acceptable standards of behaviour.
(b) They promote group cohesiveness by limiting the performance.
(c) They allow members to behave in a consistent, uniform and predictable manner.
(d) They provide discipline in group activities.
(e) They promote group culture and allow members to socialize and interact with each other.
(f) They provide order to group activities by restraining discretionary powers.
(g) They ensure group effectiveness and survival.
Enforcement of Group Norms:
Group norms promote conformity.
Members align with group activities and therefore, conform to these norms. Group norms can be enforced in the following ways:
(a)Members voluntarily conform to norms as they want to be accepted by the groups.
(b)Rewards like esteem, recognition, appreciation, acceptance, social satisfaction etc. make members conform to group norms.
(c) Desire to retain and strengthen group membership makes the members conform to group norms.
(d) As against rewards for conforming to group norms, penalties for non-conformance (disapprovals, social boycott, loss of membership etc.) also make members conform to group norms. They wish to avoid penalties and, therefore, conform to norms.
Function # 3. Group Cohesiveness:
Group cohesiveness is the degree to which members are attracted to a group and commonly share the group goals. It represents the attraction of group members towards each other in terms of loyalty and commitment to group goals. It is “the degree to which members are attracted to a group, are motivated to remain in the group, and are mutually influenced by one another.”
Group cohesiveness provides a numbers of benefits like:
(a) Group goals and group norms can be achieved effectively as members are loyal to the group goals and leadership.
(b) Highly cohesive groups perceive management as supportive to their group goals and, therefore, perform better than less cohesive groups.
(c) Members communicate freely and frequently and understand each other’s feelings, emotions and behaviour patterns.
(d) Members collectively indulge in problem-solving and decision-making. This provides higher job satisfaction than members of less cohesive groups.
(e) Members develop trust and confidence leading to strong inter-personal relationships.
(f) Membership of cohesive groups is stable. Members, therefore, willingly accept innovations and change.
Function # 4. Group Decision-Making:
Group decision-making in most circumstances is more effective than individual decision-making as decision makers can collect more information upon which their decisions are based. It is a process whereby, in response to social pressures, individuals go along with a decision even when they do not agree with it and, in order to avoid conflicts, do not even voice their reservations.
Groups spend substantial time in formulating problems, finding solutions and their effective implementation. Group decisions involve superiors and subordinates in problem-solving and decision-making which reflect diverse, open and new ideas.
Function # 5. Group Communication:
Groups communicate through informal channels. Members communicate with each Other to derive social satisfaction. Messages are readily and clearly understood by each other. They can be verbal or non-verbal and have effective feedback from group members. Feedback helps to correct misunderstandings in messages communicated. It is an important supplement to the formal communication channel.
Information gaps created in formal communication systems are filled by informal communication channels. It also promotes healthy inter -personal relationships amongst group members. It speeds up the flow of information amongst the group members. It connects people in the group and simultaneously transmits information to them.
Though rumours can spread through informal channels, members should make judicious use of this channel to avoid gossips and rumours. They should use informal communication channels to attain group goals, informal organisational goals, solve group problems, improve task performance, increase group cohesiveness, improve coordination amongst activities of group members, resolve group conflicts etc.
Function # 6. Informal Leadership:
Though formal leaders lead the group, informal leaders emerge as group members interact with each other. They emerge by common consent of group members and offer suggestions to direct the group activities.
They are self-confident, assertive individuals who perform:
(a) Task role:
They help group members to achieve organisational goals. They provide unity of action to group efforts. A sales manager, for example, assigns territories to sales people and supervises the new sales force members.
(b) Group building and maintenance role:
In this role, leaders provide emotional, psychological and social support to group members. They build group image and fulfill their social needs by strengthening their solidarity. They settle non-work related disputes and keep members attached to the group for a fairly long period of time. It is often difficult for the same person to perform both these roles. Different members, therefore, become leaders to perform different roles.