Formal Groups: 7 Types

What are Formal Groups?

Formal groups are groups formed to accomplish different organizational purposes. In fact, if a group is formed in an organization by a manager to help the organization accomplish its goals, then it qualifies as a formal group. Such groups are expected to accomplish specific goals within an unspecified time frame.

Activities of the members of formal groups are planned by others to achieve a common purpose. These groups are permanent in nature and they remain in existence after the achievement of the current goals and objectives. They have to follow the rules, regulations, and policies of the organization.

Formal groups typically wear such labels as work group, team, committee, or task force. Formal groups fulfill two basic functions: organizational and individual. Examples of a formal organizational group include departments such as the HR Department, the Marketing Department, and the Production Department

Types of Formal Groups

The following are the types of formal groups in an organization:

  1. Task Groups
  2. Command Groups
  3. Informal Groups
  4. Interest Group
  5. Membership Group
  6. Friendship Group
  7. Reference Group
Types of Formal Groups
Types of Formal Groups

Task Groups

Task groups, also known as task forces, are created by organizations to achieve specific objectives within a defined timeframe or contribute to the parent organization’s goals. They are temporary and focus on solving problems or fulfilling purposes.

These groups, like informal committees and work teams, consist of individuals working together to accomplish common goals.

They handle short-term tasks, such as launching a new product, or may take on ongoing responsibilities like grievance handling procedures. Members are appointed by the organization with a narrow set of tasks, such as developing a new product or evaluating proposed procedures.

Command Groups

Command groups consist of a supervisor and subordinates who report directly to that supervisor.

These groups are specified by the organizational chart and managers of command groups can legitimately give orders to others. An example of a command group is the head of the department in an educational institute and the faculty members in that department.

Informal Groups

Informal groups, unlike formal ones, arise naturally based on shared interests and values, rather than organizational goals. They form spontaneously through friendships, common interests, and backgrounds. These groups aren’t appointed by the organization; instead, members invite others to join over time.

Informal groups exert significant influence, impacting organizations both positively and negatively. They create informal communication networks, contribute to the “grapevine” within organizations, and serve as a powerful, influential force that organizations can’t ignore

Managers hold differing views on informal groups, with some seeing them as detrimental and others leveraging them for crucial tasks. Informal groups include interest, friendship, and reference groups, as discussed below.

Interest Group

Interest groups are groups formed to attain a common purpose and comprise people drawn or acting together in support of a common interest or to voice a common concern. Interest groups are usually non-profit and voluntary organizations whose members have a common cause for which they seek to influence public policy, without seeking any kind of political control.

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However, in an organizational setup, employees coming together for common causes like increases in salary, payment of allowances and other facilities are examples of interest groups.

Interest groups are not temporary structures they usually continue over time, What makes these groups more interesting is their composition: members of interest groups may not be part of the same organizational department, but they are woven together by some common interest. As is obvious, the goals and objectives are specific to each group and may not be even distantly related to overall organizational goals and objectives.

Membership Group

Membership groups are groups of individuals who belong to the same profession and know each other. For example, teachers of faculty of management in a university.

Friendship Group

Friendship groups are groups of individuals belonging to the same age group, having similar political beliefs, religious values, or the same views and opinions.

Friendship groups develop among the members of the same organization when they share some common interests like sports or politics. These groups can also be formed outside the organization and can be in the form of clubs and associations.

Reference Group

Reference groups are groups in which individuals shape their ideas, beliefs, values, etc., and are used by people to evaluate themselves. What makes reference groups different from other informal groups is that these groups may not actually meet or be formed voluntarily.

Surprisingly, individuals believe they belong to a particular reference group, whether or not they actually do, and individuals usually seek support from the group. Family and friends are examples of reference groups for most individuals.

The relationship of individuals to their reference group may influence their behavior. Individuals compare themselves with other members of the group and are able to assess whether their behavior is acceptable or not.

For example, if a man buys a more expensive mobile handset than he normally would because his friends use that particular handset then his buying behavior is influenced by his reference group (i.e., friends).

The main purposes of reference groups are social validation and social comparison. Social validation enables individuals to justify their attitudes and values while social comparison helps individuals in evaluating their own actions by comparing themselves to others.

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