THEORIES OF GROUPS
Though a number of theories have been propounded by various experts to explain the dynamics of group formation, the most important ones are discussed hereunder :
Homan's theory of group formation is based on three elements, namely, activities, interaction and sentiments. According to Homan, these three elements are directly related to each other. The required activities are the assigned tasks to people to work. The required interaction takes place when any person's activity takes place or is influenced by the activity of any other person. As regards sentiments, these are the feelings or attitudes of a person towards others, i.e., his likes or dislikes, approval or disapproval.
The key element is interaction because of which they develop common sentiments for one another as shown in Fig. 2.2.
Fig. 2.2: Interaction Theory of Group Formation.
This theory explains the basic ideal behind forming groups. Scott observes that interaction is not only helps in attaining goals but also to solve problems, facilitate co-ordination, reduce tension and achieve a balance. Participants interacting in this manner tend to form powerful groups.
The following imaginary example will help understand Homan's theory in a better manner : Suppose, the students of Business Administration are in queue to deposit their examination fees in the State Bank of India. All of them have a common purpose, that is, to deposit fees when there turn comes. They see, a student from Mass Communication Department comes and breaks the queue to go ahead. The student whose turn was dislocated by the queue breaker tells the queue breaker not to do so and pushes him out. This influences all other students standing in the queue to follow the student whose turn was dislocated, in telling him not to break the queue. In this example, they can see activities and interaction taking place among the students. When the students actually disapprove the queue breaker in doing so, it reflects their sentiments towards each other. In sum and substances, all these activities took place because of the sentiments or feelings of the students/people.
Exchange Theory of Reward and Cost Outcome
Thaibaunt and Kelly put forward their theory of group formation, stating the outcome of interaction as the basis of group formation. According to them, the outcome of interaction should result in attraction and affiliation, also called rewards, among the persons of a group. In case, the interaction incurs anxiety or frustration or embarrassment or fatigue to the members of a group, it is, then, called cost for the members rather than a reward. In exchange theory, affiliation, interaction and common attitude play an important role.
This theory was propounded by Newcomb. According to this theory, groups are formed on the basis of attractions of people towards each other having similar attitudes and values. Rao and Barman form relationship because of their common attitudes and values. They try to maintain a symmetrical relationship between the attraction and common attitudes and values. As and when, their relationship becomes unbalanced, both try to restore balance. However, if balance cannot be restored, then their relationship gets dissolved. Thus, one will appreciate that both attraction and interaction play a significant role in balance theory.
How this theory helps in group formation is presented in Fig. 2.3 below :
Fig. 2.3: Group formation theory.
This theory also does not explain the full view of group formation as mere similarity of attitudes does not necessarily lead to group formation. Further, there are other reasons for group formation besides similarity of attitudes.
The term propinquity means nearness. Thus, the theory of propinquity states that individuals affiliate with one another because of spatial or geographical proximity. Thus, in organizational context, individuals working together tend to form a group with others more easily as compared to with individuals working relatively at a distant place. This theory appears to explain the group formation process based on nearness. However, it does not consider more important issues in group formation which are much more complex than nearness. Nearness is only a facilitating factor for group formation and not the reason for it.
Problems of Informal Groups
1. Resistance to Change : With regard to the function perpetuating cultural values, there develops a tendency for the group to become over-conscious and over-protective for its life style. The group resists any change suggested by the management and it stands like a rock in the face of change. Informal groups although, are bound by no chart on the wall, they are bound by customs, conventions and culture. As members cherish certain cultural values, they adapt a hostile posture, if any change brings something against them. Their natural belief is that anything which has been practicing for long in the past, should continue in future as well, no matter how the situation has changed. It may also be possible that such change may bring bitterness to the members of the group in the long run. But still, they prove themselves as opponent number one for that change.
2. Role Conflict : As regards the function of social satisfaction, it sometimes lead to role conflict. There may be role conflicts between the group and organization, if suppose, a group member is work conscious and does not want to while away his time. At the same time, he is a member of the group the orders and norms of the group he is to follow. He wants to be loyal to both to the organization and to the group, but he cannot do so at the same time. Thus, organization interests may suffer in the wake of small group interest. This role conflict may be disadvantageous to both organization and the general public because it will result in reduced productivity. Much of this role conflicts can be avoided by the management by carefully cultivating and integrating formal interests with the informal interests. The more these interests are integrated, the more productivity and satisfaction are expected. But, however, perfect harmony in this area is not possible.
3. Rumor : The informal groups serve as a device of communication, which, at times, gives rise to rumour-mongering. Though, researches showed that three-fourth of the communication is accurate, but the remaining one-fourth part is so important, it gets dramatized and the whole informal communications system is looked at with a jaundiced eye. Rumours get momentum from a group lacking in co-operation and having low morale especially in times of conflicts when labour - management relations are at their lowest ebb. Rumour, is thus, a product of interest and ambiguity. People spread rumour if their interests are affected and when ambiguity exists.
4. Conformity : The function of social control of informal groups exert strong pressures for conformity. Loyalty to a group produces pressures towards conformity. A group may demand conformity to the idea of supporting, encouraging and giving recognition for individual creativity or it may value rigidity of behaviour with seriously narrowing and dwarfing consequences.
Informal groups require a uniform behaviour from their members and that behaviour is controlled by the norms of the group. The group whose norms are accepted is called reference group. Rewards and penalties that a group uses to induce persons to conform to its norms are sanctions. Informal norms and sanctions do induce conformity. They consistently guide opinion and wield power for or against the organization of union. Non-conformers are pressured and harassed until they capitulate or leave.
Thus, on the one side, functions of informal groups serve their members but on the other hand, they create certain difficulties or problems to the management or to the formal organization. The management should take care of such areas of difficulties and make necessary adjustment to avoid any clash between informal groups and the organization in advance.