6 Important Variables Included in the Group Structure of an Organisation

Group structure, as its outer framework, and inner relationship are guiding and controlling factors of behaviour.

Group structure has different variables such as interpersonal relationships, roles played, norms, group status, group size and social density.

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Group Structure of an Organisation

1. Interpersonal relationships:

Every group has a leader whose task is to guide and control group activities. The nature of the group leader and the formal relationship between the leader and the subordinates determines group behaviour.

A sober and serious leader develops a congenial atmosphere. The formal relationships between subordinates and their superior are strengthened.

This relationship plays a crucial role in organizational performance and behaviour. The success of group member resources depends on the framework of the group structure.

The interpersonal relationship influences interaction, expectation and the performance of the group.

A particular structure helps or inhibits the interaction of members. Reinforcement of relationships helps in moulding proper behaviour and achieving better performances. Expectation is shaped and moulded with interpersonal relationships.

Group structure develops a particular pattern of behaviour and interaction of group members. Status, norms and roles are designed as per the forms of group structure.

Many mediating variables such as formal structure and role structure have a great impact on group members’ interaction and performance.

2. Roles:

All the employees and group members play their respective roles as per their positions. They not only behave in a particular manner, but expect specific behaviour from others.

Individuals in the group are assigned certain jobs, positions and titles. They are expected to perform certain roles.

The perceived role is the role expected in practice by the individual himself. A perceived role may be inaccurate.

An enacted role is the way he actually behaves. The expected role is usually not the perceived role because of role ambiguity, lack of clarity and uncertainty.

Role conflict differentiates created roles from perceived roles. Job duties, authority and responsibility are role- factors which influence behaviour.

Distorted role-behaviour is observed when the expected role, perceived role and enacted role are differently understood in reality, although theoretically they are the same.

The expected role is not properly perceived due to a lack of clarity regarding job duties, authority and responsibility.

Role ambiguity is also caused by different factors. It is caused by the lack of clear job description.

An individual or employer may swim or sink when his enacted role is different from the expected role.

Role behaviour at every level of management should be well defined and described in terms of occupational levels, individual characteristics and functional features so as not to create role ambiguity.

Employees may be required sometimes to perform more diverse roles than expected. Many organizations have multiple role performing jobs.

To understand role behaviour it is essential to note role identity, role perception, role expectation, role enactment, role ambiguity and role conflict.

Role identity:

The behaviour and attitude attached to the role together form what is known as role identity. People’s behaviour is predicted as per their roles.

A situation that demands a particular type of behaviour is related to the role identity. Each position has its own type of role behaviour.

For example, an employee if promoted to managerial cadre will have a pro-organization attitude, whereas he may have been prounion when he was an employee. Role identity is dependent on the socio-economic conditions prevailing in and outside the organization.

Role perception:

Role perception is a set of activities or behaviour that an individual is supposed to perform. It is a supposed role to be performed in a given situation.

The perception of an employee toward his job is influenced by different factors such as atmosphere, environment, socio-cultural situations and other stimuli.

Since people have different stimuli, perceptions differ from person to person. Role perception is therefore an individual’s view of how he expects to perform the job in the given situation. It is more a psychological than a real phenomenon.

Role expectations:

Role expectation is the behaviour expected by others from the employee. How others believe an employee should perform the job in a given situation is role expectation.

On the contrary, role perception is the behaviour presumed by the employee himself. Perception therefore is attached to an employee’s own suppositions and understanding. It is his own belief regarding the role behaviour.

Expectation is how others believe that the employee would perform. Role perception and role expectation may be the same when others’ beliefs are the same as the employees’ beliefs. This is role phenomena.

In practice there are differences between role perception and role expectation, because of the different attitudes of employees and the attitudes of other people towards employee behaviour.

What the management expects from employees and what employees expect from management are role expectations.

Similarly, what the management expects from itself and what employees expect from themselves are role perceptions.

Role enacted:

The role enacted is the actual behaviour of individuals and group members. The enacted role depends on the perceived and expected role.

These roles tend to be equated. If there is no difference between the expected role, perceived role and enacted” role, the organization will be free from role ambiguity and role conflict.

There will not be any problems regarding duties, responsibilities, uncertainty and dissatisfaction.

There will not be any deviation, stress, tension and anxiety. There are rare possibilities of equating these roles. An organization desires to have equality of these roles for a better performance.

Role ambiguity:

The differences between the expected role and the perceived role create role ambiguity. Employees do not perceive what others expect from them.

Role ambiguity occurs due to a lack of clarity regarding job duties, job descriptions and job designs.

An individual has to perform his duties as expected, discharge his expected responsibilities and use his authority as required by the organization.

Role conflict:

The differences between the perceived role and the enacted role create role conflict. When an individual’s perception is influenced by multiple demands and directions from one or more supervisor, employees face uncertainty.

Unity of command and direction avoids role conflicts, but this is a rare phenomenon, as in practice employees receive multiple directions. Role conflicts may be intrarole conflicts and/or interrole conflicts.

Intrarole conflict is caused by different directions pointed to at the same time”, and interrole conflict is the result of conflicting expectations.

Intrarole is the first level conflict, whereas the interrole conflict is the second level conflict. An intrarole conflict is caused by production level multiple supervision, demand for different qualities by the sales manager, repair problems, working conditions and payment systems.

Interrole conflict is caused by the position occupied by individuals. Multiple supervisors lead to multiple role expectations.

One supervisor expects quality, another prefers quantity and yet another desires smooth performance. Diverse expected roles cause multiple conflicting positions and it becomes difficult to reduce such conflicts.

Role behaviour depends on the role ambiguity and role conflict. Less role ambiguity and role conflict lead to higher degrees of performance.

Similarly, a higher amount of role ambiguity and role conflict lessen the performance. Employees may at times succumb to the stresses and strains of role ambiguity and role conflict.

3. Norms:

Group structure incorporates certain norms to be followed by group members. Norms are acceptable standards of behaviour in a group.

Members of a group are allowed to act, interact and perform their functions as per established rules and standards of behaviour. Group members learn necessary behaviour for the effective performance of group activities.

Form of the norms:

The norms are traditionally accepted rules of behaviour which are developed through explicit statements, critical events, primary and carry over behaviour.

Explicit statements made by group members become norms of behaviour if these norms are accepted by them.

For example, if it is stated by the supervisor that the employees would not be allowed to have guests visit them during working hours, it may become a norm of the organization.

However, if the members resist this statement and arrive at the accepted norm that guests will be allowed to visit them only thrice in a month, there will be this new norm.

A critical event in group behaviour may also decide the norm to be followed. For example, if a passerby is injured while standing near the machine on a particular date, it will become a norm of the factory that no one should stand near the machine.

Primacy helps development of group norms. Initial behaviour accepted by the group members forms the norms of behaviour.

If the organization offers tea at an interval of three hours in the office, it becomes a norm of the organization.

In case tea is not offered by the organization, employees will go out of the organization for tea. Carry over behaviour from past experience may form part of behavioural norms. Members of the group are expected to behave in a given fashion which becomes the norm.

Classes of norms:

Norms are of different types and differ as per different groups, communities and societies. Norms being commonly accepted principles influence every member of the group.

Norms may be formalized norms, informal norms, performance norms, related norms, appearance norms and allocation norms.

Formalized norms are written and accepted by the organization, as manuals or code of conduct. The employees have to follow a code of conduct.

The rules and regulations are strictly followed by the members. Sometimes these rules are relaxed and people take them casually.

Besides formalized norms, informal norms are commonly present in organizations. They are not written, but are accepted as a commonly practised tradition.

They are generally related to normal work groups. Social interactions and traditions are well-established norms, although they are not put down in black and white.

Norms of living, lunching and celebrating are examples of informal norms. Giving respect to elders is an informal norm.

Preference related norms are prescribed for channelizing work and group activities. Leaders demonstrate how industrious they are so that employees can develop the work norms of hard work.

The methods of communication, levels of output and other activities are governed by norms known as performance or work norms.

Employees devote maximum efforts to utilise their sprits and capabilities as per the work norms. Many organizations have developed motivation norms for mobilising the employees of an organization.

Appearance norms refer to the presentation of employees in an appropriate dress, loyalty, attitude and communication style.

Many organizations encourage their employees to present themselves in society as outstanding citizens.

Soft spoken, well mannered and pleasant personalities are inculcated by employees to develop the image of an organization. During work hours, employees have to wear a particular uniform and behave in a particular manner.

Allocation norms deal with the rules and principles of allocating resources to employees for performing their jobs efficiently.

These norms include payment systems, assignment of jobs and allocation of tools and machines to employees.

Ex-gratia payment, medical reimbursement and other allocation functions are governed by allocation norms which may be written or oral.

Uses of norms:

Groups are benefitted through norms, as employee behaviour is moulded and modified greatly with the use of norms. A norm is the backbone of employee behaviour.

It facilitates the survival and growth of the organization. Norms essential for survival are inculcated amongst the employees.

It is observed that norms protect employees from indulging in unsatisfactory behaviour. The norms of an organization aim at improving morality and satisfaction among employees.

In the army, norms are accepted as a tool of performance till death. The do or die norms satisfy employees, although they have to sacrifice their lives.

Since the sacrifices are closely related to the image of the country, soldiers prefer to die rather than allow the image of the country to die.

Predictability of behaviour is attached to the norms. People can be prevented from resorting to undesirable behaviour.

Favourable behaviour is inculcated amongst employees. Conflicts and interpersonal problems are reduced to a bare minimum.

Norms encourage the values and integrity of an organization. Group performance is maintained by using norms.

Conformity:

The conformity decides the degree of use of norms. Group success depends on the conformity of norms which is the acceptable degree of norms by the employees.

The reasons for a lower degree of conformity are diagnosed to develop the acceptibility of a high degree of norms.

There are four variables influencing conformity. Intelligence and authoritarian attitudes are negatively correlated to conformity.

Highly intelligent people do not follow all the norms, whereas people of submissive nature follow norms in many cases.

Situational factors influence conformity. The group size, group structure and group interaction have positive impacts on the conformity of norms.

Stimuli are important factors for conformity. Intra and inter group relationships influence members to conform to the norms.

Congenial relations help in higher conformity, whereas disturbed relations cause the disregarding of norms.

The leadership styles of supervisors and the attitudes of foremen have a significant impact on conformity.

Voluntary conformity is a welcome step under group behaviour. If a member does not conform to the norms, he is persuaded and pressurized by the group to follow the norms.

In case he does not follow the norms, he is punished or avoided, depending upon the importance of the norms.

If an employee is proved to have rebelled against the norms, he is excluded from the group or sent out of the organization to prevent other employees from being rebellious. It is important to remember that it may not be possible to adhere to norms always as some employees who are very creative and innovative may be different by nature.

4. Group Status:

Status is a defined position or rank. Status may be given to an individual, group or institution. It is a socially accepted position given to a person by others.

Members of a group are recognized by their status, Group members are proud of the status of their group and organization.

A member can understand his role and rights through the status of his group. Status is a significant motivator.

It influences the behavioural patterns of employees. Within the organization, employees enjoy their respective status which is based on position, title, wage level, seniority, skill and education.

An employee is given status because of his personality, work experience, skill, age, education and expertise. People are known by their position or status.

For example, professors, doctors, engineers and foremen are known by their positions in society. It symbolizes their authority and responsibilities.

Status has a direct impact on group behaviour because of status congruence that is the agreement of behaviour with the status.

A professor is expected to be a role model. A doctor is expected to be caring and courteous. Group members have status congruence towards achievements of group objectives.

Status conflict is witnessed in those cases where status relations are not properly defined and their authority and responsibilities are not correctly delineated.

Type of status:

Status may be formal and informal. Formal status is given by a particular group. The manager is given an award by the company and he enjoys this awarded status throughout his career.

Status is attached to an impressive title, high pay, and preferred work style and so on. Status hierarchy, organizational views and employees’ respect are attached to formal status.

Education, experience and skill are linked with status. People accept informal status at large. Social or political leaders are examples of informal status.

Status and norms:

People of higher status are given more autonomy than people of lower status. They are given more freedom to deviate from norms than any other people of the group and are in a better position to exert pressure.

People of higher status care more about the achievement of the objectives than following norms.

Lower status people are required to follow the norms, although they are not much concerned with the objectives.

Status and equity:

Status should be equitable, as otherwise it will create disequilibrium. Inequity creates incongruence.

Pay and status incongruence have always caused dissatisfaction amongst employees. While providing status satisfaction, it must be clear that there should not be any inequity. Group members agree on status criteria, but they have conflicting opinions on status inequity.

5. Group Size:

The size of the group has a positive impact on behaviour because of diverse decision and an adequate number of people in the group.

A large group is more effective in achieving organizational objectives. It has given birth to synergy as a result in social loafing.

People feel free when they work collectively, because they get a chance to relax while this is not possible during individual working.

A large group encourages social loafing, i.e. a tendency to extend less effort when working collectively.

Many people are lazy and inept. They get a chance to reduce their efforts and disperse their responsibilities because they think that their contribution cannot be measured.

A small size group is more easily managed and can produce more qualitative goods. Small groups result in faster completion of work than proportionately higher groups.

A smaller group is better at performing quality work. Members of smaller groups have more satisfaction than those of bigger groups. However, a very small group shows more tension and ignorance of the production process.

The impact of size on behaviour depends on the nature of the task. The size should be decided after considering the degree of interaction and satisfaction required in the group.

In a decision-making group, odd numbers are preferred to decide on the majority opinion. In a very small group for example, three or five members alone may not arrive at an expert opinion. A group of seven or nine members is considered to be more effective and useful.

6. Social Density:

Group behaviour depends on social density, which is the number of people at a particular place, location and system.

The degree of interaction depends on the density and quality of group members. A specific location in a factory would be more appropriate than a general type of location.

The plant layout has some influence on the density and consequently on the performance behaviour.

If a large number of employees congregate at a place, no effective performance is feasible because of confusion and commotion.

A definite amount of space must be provided between one employee and another employee. In an office, at least sixteen square feet is required for an effective performance.

There is no definite rule for social density, but it should be decided based on the task, tool and techniques.

The basic purpose is to avoid crowding or confusion. Stress and tension caused by social density should be avoided.

Similarly, too much distance between one employee and another employee causes unnecessary delay in performances.

Proximity must be decided upon as per the needs of the organization. For example, in technical units less stress is noted in proximity, whereas in offices more wastage of time is observed under close proximity.

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