Different Types of Formal Groups

1. Permanent and Temporary Formal Groups.

2. Command Group such as sections, department etc.

3. Functional Groups are classified according to functions of the members of the groups such as clerks, typists, etc. These groups possess the authority of both command groups and functional groups. Functional groups can again be classified into :

(a) Team group specifies no fixed role to its members.

(b) Task group specifies a fixed job to each of its members.

(c) Technological group is allotted the roles by the management.

4. Status Groups involve the members of the same status in the organization.

Informal Groups

Groups which are not formal are informal. In other words, these are groups that are neither formally created nor controlled by the organization. These groups are natural formations in the work environment that appear in response to the need for social contact. Four employees belonging to four different departments taking their lunch together represent an example of an informal group. Informal groups arise spontaneously and voluntarily to satisfy the various social needs, not likely to be fulfilled by the formal organization. The members of such groups are called informal groups. The leader of the informal group is selected among the members of the group. Authority in such groups is given to the person and to the position. Communication in informal groups is through informal channels. The various kinds of formal groups are :

1. Friendship Groups : Friendship groups are associations of people who like each other and who like to be together. Such groups are formed because members have one or more common characteristics, such as age or ethnic heritage, political beliefs, religious values and other bonds of attraction.

2. Interest Groups : Interest groups are composed of individuals who may not be members of the same organization (command or task groups), but they are united by their interest in a common issue. Example of interest groups may include a group of University Professors. They organize a seminar on Law and Order Problems in the State of Tamil Nadu.

3. Reference Group : A reference group is a special type of informal group that people use to evaluate themselves. A reference group may not be an actual one that meets together, it can be an imaginary group. The reference group for a new university Lecturer, for example, may be other scholars in the same discipline at other universities.

4. Cliques consisting colleagues and associates closely intimated to each other-cliques may be :

(i) Vertical cliques consisting of members working in the same department irrespective of their rank.

(ii) Horizontal cliques consist of people of similar rank working more or less in the same area.

(iii) Mixed cliques consist of both vertical and horizontal cliques.

5. Sub-cliques consist of member of a cliques along with outsiders.

6. Isolates who are not a member of any group. Another classification of informal groups by Sayles from the standpoint of pressure tactics is divided into four groups :

(i) The Apathetic Group : Not sincere to their demand and members do not actively engage in union activity.

(ii) The Erratic Group : Very sensitive to their demand. Easily inflamed and easily pacified. Engage in union activity without working. Deep rooted grievances exist without any reaction from the group.

(iii) The Strategic Group : These groups have a well planned strategy for fighting with the management for their grievances. They build continuous pressure.

(iv) Conservative Group : Consists of members having critical or scarce skills. Though they have strong position yet are least engaged in union activity.

Distinction Between Formal and Informal Groups

1. Origin : A formal group is deliberately structured and planned to subserve organizational interest. The manager decides about the activities of each individual and his interaction with others. They come together because of the interdependence of their operations or their mutual dependence on their common boss. An informal group, on the other hand, emerges voluntarily and spontaneously. In fact, the formal organization itself contains the seeds for the emergence of informal groups. It allocates people in different departments, work-locations and time-schedules and while performing their tasks, the members develop their activities, interactions and sentiments towards each other which are not cared for by the formal organization.

2. Purpose of the Group Formation : The main purpose of formal groups is to serve the organization as means to formal ends, while the informal groups provide social satisfaction and stability to work groups.

3. Authority : The authority to a formal group is given by the institution according to the position on the organization chart. It is given to the position and not to the man concerned. Whosoever be in that position, will enjoy the authority. Authority in such groups is acquired through delegation from the above to the downward. Contrarily, the authority in an informal group is earned or given permissively by the members of the group. It is given to a person considering his age, seniority, competence, etc. and not to the position and so it flows horizontally or at times, even upward.

4. Communication : All messages-upward or downward-pass through the chain of command strictly as given on the organization chart. In an informal group, all messages are passed through informal channel because there is no such chain of command. People remain in mutual contact with each other, they learn about every person of group what is going on in the organization.

5. Control on Behaviour : Behaviour of the people of the formal group is regulated by the rules and regulations framed with an intention to attain rotationally and efficiency. Violation of any rule attracts penalty and punishment. In an informal group, on the other hand, behaviour of the members is controlled through norms, values and beliefs of the group. The members of the informal group may compel any member of the group to disassociate himself from the group, if he is continuously violating the norms of the group after giving him proper warning.

6. Size : Formal groups are quite large because personal relations have no concern there, while the informal groups tend to remain smaller so as to keep it within limits of personal relations.

7. Nature of Group : Formal groups are stable in character and continues for a longer period. Informal groups are quite unstable because they are subject to sentiments and feelings of the group members. A particular informal group ceases to exist as soon as its purpose is solved.

8. Sanctions to Members : Members are suitably rewarded or punished for their work done in a formal group according to the formal rules and regulations of the group. Rewards or punishments may be financial or non-financial. But in an informal group, the efforts of the person are recognised mainly through non-financial rewards or punishments generally in terms of feelings, status and prestige.

9. Abolition of the Group : As formal groups are subject to management control, they can be abolished at the discretion of the proper authority while a particular informal group cannot be destroyed because any attempt to destroy it may lead to formation of several other groups because there is no management control over it. Management cannot destroy it because it has not formed that.

10. Number of Groups : The whole organization (formal group) is divided into several units and sub-units working for the common cause but a large number of informal groups are found in an institution and some ever outside the institution. An individual may be the member of a number of informal groups for different purposes. So there is overlapping membership and multiple groups.

Table 2.2: Formal and Informal Organizations: A Comparison

Basic of comparison

Formal organization

Informal organization


Planned and deliberate



Well-set goals

Social interaction


Well structured










Any one

Source of power


Given by group

Guidelines for behaviour

Rules and procedure

Group norms

Sources of control



Why do People form and Join Groups?

Groups are formed and joined for a variety of reasons. The most popular reasons for forming and joining a group are related to our needs for safety and security, relatedness or belonging, esteem, power and identity. A brief description of these follows :

1. Safety and Security Needs : Groups provide protection to their members from outside pressures. That is why workers join trade unions to feel safe and secure. Even in the nursery class, when the teacher asks the small kids who broke the toy, he seldom gets an answer. What happens is all the kids keep mum or quiet. Although young, they protected their member by not disclosing any body's name or pointing out at any one in group.

2. Relatedness or Belongingness Needs : People being social beings, belonging to or relating to groups satisfies a number of their social needs. In every organization, there are many persons who are very isolated or who prefer to be absent from work most of the times. Studies show, such phenomena occur more where people are unable to belong to groups.

3. Esteem Needs : When one is a member of a group and does some good piece of work, gets a praise from others. This, in turn, brings a sense of recognition to the group member, on the one hand and also a sense of fulfillment of one's need for growth towards higher achievement of work and better career prospects, on the other.

4. Power : One of the appealing aspects of groups is that they represent power and also offer power to their members. Workers enjoy much greater power by joining groups than they do as individuals. This is because of at least two reasons :

(i) There is strength in numbers and

(ii) United we stand, divided we fall.

5. Identity : As a member of a group, an individual gets identity "Who am I" In practice we understand ourselves through the behaviour of others towards us. For example, when others praise us, we feel we are great, if others laugh at us, we see ourselves as funny ones.

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