Informal Group Dynamics
The group cohesiveness dynamic
A third characteristic of informal groups is group cohesiveness-the force that holds a group together. Group cohesiveness varies widely based on numerous factors-including the;
- size of the group
- dependence of members upon the group
- achievement of goals
- status of the group and
- management demands and pressures.
For example group cohesiveness increases strongly whenever the membership perceives a threat from the outside. This threat produces the high anxiety that strong group cohesiveness can help reduce.
If the supervisor presses the group to conform to a new organizational norm that Is viewed as a threat to the security needs of group members The group will become more unified in order to withstand the perceived threat. Thus management can limit its own effectiveness by helping to increase the group's cohesiveness. With the passing of the threat the group tends to lose its cohesiveness.
Perhaps paradoxically the most dangerous time for group cohesion is when things are going well. Supervisors can use the factors that affect group cohesiveness to increase their own effectiveness.
Decision making process involvement
For instance a supervisor can involve the informal group members in the decision-making process. Input from group members will not only reduce their feeling of alienation but also improve communication between the supervisor and subordinates thereby reducing potential conflict.
Where group participation in decision making is not practical the supervisor should carefully explain the reasons to play down what might be seen as a threat to the group. In some cases the supervisor may want to increase the groups cohesiveness deliberately devising situations that put one group into competition with another. If this gambit is carefully controlled the solidarity that results may bring a higher level of performance.
The danger of this strategy is that the supervisor may be unable to control the reaction of the group. The ploy could backfire bringing competition and dissension within the group.
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