Group Dynamics

Boce Elder, was the new manager of the delivery team. Boce had agreed to head this team as he saw great potential in the product in the next seven to ten years and he had also studied the profiles of his team members. Each of the team members was highly qualified and also had a rich experience to back them.


It was over six months from the time the product was released in the market and the response had been tremendous and the number by which the clients had been increasing was truly remarkable. But, despite the qualification and experience, the team failed to set standards in productivity, performance and efficiency. Boce was facing a problem of 'Group Dynamics' here.


Understanding group dynamics


Group dynamics is an important theory that can enable managers to adopt the right approach of interacting with others. People work in groups quite frequently and in many different areas of their life e.g. at work, school/college, sport, hobbies. 


Groups can be of two types: informal groups and formal groups. Informal groups are a collection of people seeking and sharing emotional traits. Formal groups on the other hand are a set of people created to do something productive. 


As in most cases, Boce was also facing an informal group. Informal groups are formed more often than formal groups, in an organization. Informal groups have their own code of implicit ethics. They can have a powerful influence on the effectiveness of the organization's function. Although the tendency of the group members is to resist outside influences, the impact depends on the norms of that group.


Norms are general standards of conduct for various social and organizational settings. Norms can be positive, negative or neutral. Groups enforce norms to:

  • Facilitate survival of the group
  • Simplify role expectations
  • Protect self-images
  • Express key group values and enhance the group's unique identity·
  • Avoid rejection from a group

Group thinking and influences


In a group, thinking is a decision-making process in which maintaining cohesiveness becomes more important than considering the facts objectively. The group's influences tend to occur under the following conditions

  • Groups are highly cohesive.
  • Groups are isolated from contrary opinions.
  • Groups have directive leaders who voice a preference for a certain decision.
  • No standard procedures are maintained for considering alternatives in making decisions.
  • Groups often operate under high stress.

Under these influences the group's behavior results in invulnerability, rationalization, pressure on dissent and doubts. This further results in incomplete survey and evaluation of alternatives and failure to examine the risks of the favored action.


Group leadership


Informal groups are known to have rotational leadership. The leader emerges as the individual possessing qualities that the members perceive as critical to their satisfaction. The needs of the group are specific to the moment and as the needs change, so does the leader. The point to be exploited here is that this leader does not possess formal power.


If the leader fails to meet the team member's expectations, then the leader is mercilessly replaced. The informal groups decisions are quicker and more cold-blooded than the formal groups.


Managerial strategies 


Looking back at Boce's problem, here are a few strategies managers and supervisors can employ to deal with group dynamics.


A leader can be replaced and if this seems impossible, the manager can cause certain characteristics of the leader to change resulting in the change of the group


The manager should be alert to the leader's needs and the leader should be influenced to be sympathetic towards a manager's objectives


The correct approach would be to involve informal leaders in the decision making process. This would allow the informal group to be involved in the decision making process indirectly 


Providing relevant information to the group will help foster harmony between the manager and the group 


Managers can use factors that affect group cohesiveness to increase their own effectiveness


Managers should attempt to encourage positive norms and alter negative ones. Managers should make the group aware of the negative norms and then should try and foster positive norms. 


Managers need to build trust within the group by communicating openly, supporting the group members, respecting the members' point of view, being fair, being predictable and transparent and by being competent.




Finally, the informal group serves as a defense mechanism against forces that group members cannot resist on their own. Joining forces in small groups makes the members feel stronger, less anxious and less insecure in the face of the perceived threat.


As long as needs exist that are not served by the formal organization, informal groups will form to fill the gaps. Since the group fills many important needs for its members, it influences member behavior.


Managers should recognize the needs of these groups and should harness the powers of these groups to achieve formal objectives and goals of the organization.