What is Group? Features, Importance, Types

What is Group?

The word ‘group’ or a ‘team’ is often used for one another. Is there a difference between the two? Consider this example. What would you call a bunch of people gathered together in the evening kicking a football in a parking lot? It can be called a group, as there is no format or structure to the activity;

it is just some people behaving in an unorganized, uncoordinated manner. This bunch of people might be together for the simple reason that they are friends and like spending time together after office hours.

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However, taking the same bunch of individuals and turning them into a football team would be a challenging task. Once they are made into a team, then their tasks would have to be clearly defined, and as a team they will have a well-defined objective, for instance, winning 5 out of 7 matches.

This team will have to perform in an organized and coordinated manner and will have to be trained for achieving the team objectives. Thus, a team is a group of individuals, which are united toward achieving a common goal.

In simple words, a group refers to a collection of two or more individuals who come together to accomplish their common objectives. For example, in an organization, people eating lunch together form a group to fulfill their social need for interaction.

On the other hand, a team refers to a set of two or more individuals who come together to realize their pre-determined goals. For example, in an organization, people belonging to a particular department form a team, such as all the members of the quality department forming a quality assurance team.

The success and failure of an organization depend on how effectively it manages its groups and teams to optimize the output.

The formation of groups and teams plays an important role in the decision-making process of an organization.

It helps in maintaining coordination among various activities of an organization and carrying out day-to-day operations. In addition, group behavior and team culture influence the overall environment of an organization.

This chapter begins with defining group dynamics. Further, the chapter explains different types of groups. Further ahead, the chapter discusses group processes and the formation of groups. In addition, different theories of group formation have been explained in the chapter.

Towards the end, the concept of the team has been explained in the chapter.

Group Dynamics

In general, a group is described as a gathering of people at a particular place and time. For example, people traveling in a bus or employees gathered in a training program organized by the organization will be considered as a group. However, in organizational settings, the definition of a group is quite different.

Organizational behavior defines a group as the collection of two or more independent individuals interacting with each other to achieve a common goal. For example, heads of different departments of an organization gathered in a meeting with the CEO to identify the causes of the problem faced by the organization.

Group dynamics is a social process by which people interact face-to-face in small groups. It describes how a group should be organized and operated. The features of group dynamics are as follows:

  • It outlines the interaction model within the group.
  • It estimates the pressure of other groups.
  • It estimates the pressure exerted by members of the group.
  • It facilitates the decision-making process of the group.
  • It measures and increases the satisfaction level of group members.

Group dynamics affect the productivity and performance of group members. Thus, the importance of understanding group dynamics is as follows:

  • It enables managers to manage the groups effectively and promotes the effective working of the organization.

  • It helps managers to harness the synergy of the group for any contingent business need.

  • It prepares the groups for better future performance.

Features of Groups

Have you ever noticed, that employees going on a vacation trip organized by their organization are considered as a group and not a team even when they belong to the same organization?

A number of people gathered together or working together will only be considered as a group. However, this bunch of people must have the features of a group.

Some of the features of a group are as follows:

  • Groups emphasize on the development and accomplishment of common goals of the group members rather than individual goals.

  • In groups, full participation of all the members is expected.

  • Groups mainly focus on behavioral changes instead of personality changesGroups mainly focus on behavioral changes instead of personality changes.

  • Groups emphasize the impact of behaviors, rather than their intent.

  • Groups help in determining the reasons for less participation by the members in a group activity.

  • Groups facilitate the efforts of people to establish reasonable boundaries with colleagues.

  • In groups, power or authority is not used for resolving problems.

  • In groups, all the members feel vulnerable despite their positions in the organization.

Importance of Groups

Groups are important for an organization as they provide an opportunity for the employees to interact freely with other employees having similar goals.

In addition, groups help the organization in the following ways:

Groups Provide a Sense of Becomingness Among the Employees

Employees feel satisfied if they get a common platform where they can share their views, ideas, and feelings. Thus, they feel comfortable in their group as it satisfies their urge to become as well as the need for affiliation.

Groups Act as a Source of Warmth and Support for the Employees

It means that no individual can live in isolation and it has been observed that individuals perform better in a group. According to Elton Mayo, “employees who are isolated from each other because of plant layout find their jobs less satisfying than those group members who are able to socialize on the job.”

Groups Provide Power/authority to the Group Members

Power is the result of authority provided to group members. On the other hand, the group itself can be so powerful that its association provides power to its members.

Groups Provide Security to the Employees

An individual feels secure after being a part of a group.

Groups Offer Recognition and Status to the Employees

If individuals enjoy high status within the group, they get respect and recognition from their group members. In addition, if a group enjoys a superior status in society, it provides social status, recognition, and appreciation to its members.

Types of Groups

Various types of groups exist within an organization depending on their nature and purpose. Some of the groups found most commonly in the organizations are depicted in Figure:

Formal and informal groups are discussed in the next sections.

Formal Groups

Formal groups are the groups formed by the organization for accomplishing a particular task. For example, a group is formed to organize an event on a particular occasion in the organization.

Formal groups can be further categorized as follows:

Secondary Group

It is a formal, general, and remote group. The members of this group do not form personal associations. They are more concerned with formal communication and relationship. The members of these groups may not necessarily have face-to-face interaction with each other.

Command Group

It is a group where subordinates directly report to one superior only. The organizational chart provides detail about the reporting relationships that exist in an organization.

For example, departmental heads are clearly mentioned in the chart, making it easy for a subordinate to know about his/her reporting head. The size of the command group increases with an increase in the span of control of departmental heads.

Task Group

It is a group of employees who work together to complete a particular task, project, or job. In a task group, employees work in coordination with each other to get the work done.


It is a group of individuals working together to solve certain problems. This group explores analyses and discusses various problems to find solutions.

Types of Models

Different types of models are used for communicating in formal groups. Some of these models are discussed as follows:

Chain Model

In this model, the hierarchy of an organization needs to be followed for communication. The chain model is followed in traditional or bureaucratic organizations.

The figure shows the chain model:

Wheel Model

It is a model wherein group members report to a single superior. In this model the team members are not allowed to communicate amongst themselves; all communication is done by the superior. In such a model coordination among the group members becomes a challenging task.

The figure shows the wheel model:

Circular Model

In this model, information flows from one group member to another. In the circular model, generally, communication among the group takes a lot of time.

The figure shows the circular model:

Free Flow Model

It is a model in which each group member is free to communicate with other members. The free flow model facilitates faster communication; however, coordination amongst the group may be a problem in this type of model.

The figure shows the free-flow model:

Inverted V Model

It is a model that facilitates the communication of a group member, not only with his/ her own superior but also with his/her superior’s superior. In the inverted V model, communication takes place at a much faster pace among group members.

The figure shows the inverted V model:

Informal Groups

Informal groups are the groups that people form to satisfy their social needs. People belonging to informal groups have a common interest.

Informal groups are classified as follows:

Primary Group

It is a group wherein intimate interaction, informal communication, and cooperation among members take place. For example, a group of friends is a primary group.

Interest Group

It consists of members who have some common interests, such as sports, social awareness, and politics.

Friendship Group

It is a group of individuals who share some common characteristics, such as age or religion.

Reference Group

It is a more influential group that shapes the behavior of its members; therefore, it has great significance in the study of organizational behavior. It is a group with which the individual identifies or draws a feeling of becomingness.

The communication models followed in the informal groups are discussed as follows:

Single Strand Model

It is an informal group model in which one individual communicates with another individual through other individuals.

The figure shows single strand model:

Gossip Model

In a gossip model a person transfers a piece of information about a person to as many people as possible.

Probability Model

In this model, an individual communicates with others in a random manner. The figure shows the probability model:

Cluster Model

It is a model wherein the individuals communicate only with the individuals, who are trustworthy according to them. Figure 8.10 shows the cluster model:

Understanding Group Processes

In every group, there are certain inherent processes, which are called group processes. After the formation of a group, it is assumed that stable relationships, bonds of intimacy, and appropriate behaviors for individual members have been established.

This results in a definite structure of the group along with some important processes, which characterize the dynamics within groups. Some of the important dynamics of the group are as follows:


It is the position assigned to different members of a group. There are various other dimensions of roles, which are discussed as follows:

  • Identity: It is the different attitudes or behaviors that are specific to a role. The identity of an individual may change according to the role. For example, a peon would have an attitude change, when he/she is promoted to a clerical level in a government organization.

  • Expectation: It is the level of achievement that an individual aspires to reach to fulfill his/her roles and responsibilities. For example, a creative head in an organization needs to have an artistic bend of mind, to fulfill his/her responsibilities effectively.

  • Perception: It is the pre-assumed way of thought of an individual about how he/she should react in a particular situation. An individual’s perception might be different from the actual roles and responsibilities that he/she has to perform.

  • Conflict: It represents the difference between perceived and actual roles. An individual has preconceived notions about his/her role in the organization, which may not be in synchronization with his/her actual roles and responsibilities. In such a situation, a conflict of role occurs in the group.

  • Ambiguity: It is the confusion between the perceived role and the actual role of any member of the group.


These are the acceptable standards or expectations shared by group members. The norms may differ from one group to another.


It indicates a prestige grading, position, or rank of members within a group. It refers to the respect and recognition that is associated with a group.

Free Rider Tendency

It is a group phenomenon in which individual members reduce their individual efforts and contributions as the group expands.

Group Cohesiveness

It is the degree to which group members feel connected to one another and be a part of the group as a whole.

Formation of Groups

You might imagine that forming a group is as simple as asking some friends to meet and complete a task. However, when people work on a group task, the relationship of each member of a group has to be professional.

Although, it takes time for a group of people to work in a coordinated, professional manner to complete a common task effectively. Thus, before a group reaches a stage where it can function effectively, it has to go through various stages of development.

These stages of development are depicted in Figure:

The stages of group development are explained as follows:


In this stage, the group members are introduced to each other. It is the initial stage where group members behave very cautiously and try to understand each other.


It is a stage wherein group members start interacting and enquiring about each other. The feelings, such as disagreements, resentment, and anxiety, develop as members start interacting with each other.

In this stage, a power struggle can also occur wherein the members decide on the informal leader of the group. This stage is also known as the confrontation stage.


In this stage, all the disagreements are worked out within the group. The group members set norms, try to attain cohesiveness, and understand their goals.


It is the stage wherein group members’ performance is at the maximum and they trust each other completely. In this stage, the performance of group members is evaluated as well as communicated to them.


It is the final stage of group development in which the group dissolves after accomplishing desired goals.

Theories of Group Formation

The functioning of a group depends on its member’s ability to exchange ideas and communicate effectively. Also, individual roles and responsibilities of members are established for the effective functioning of a group.

Thus, the management of the organization needs to have a theoretical understanding of how a group functions and what are the reasons for the formation of groups. Various theories have developed that explain the formation of these groups.

Some of these theories are shown in Figure:

Let us discuss these theories for the formation of groups in the following sections.

Propinquity Theory

The word propinquity is derived from the Latin word propinquity, which means nearness. Thus, propinquity theory states that people who are affiliated with each other either due to spatial or geographical proximity form informal groups.

For example, workers tend to form groups with people who are working on the same process or same areas of a plant or office rather than with people who are working at a distant place in the plant or office.

However, propinquity theory has ignored the factors that lead to the formation of groups, which are many more complex factors than nearness. Nearness can only be the facilitating factor in forming a group and not the reason for its formation.

Homan’s Theory

Homan’s theory is based on three main principles, namely activities, interactions, and sentiments. According to Homan, the more activities

an individual shares with one another in a group, interaction among them increases. This enables these individuals to perform the shared activities of a group, together and effectively. Consequently, individuals develop sentiments for each other, which help them to further perform the group activities more effectively, thereby achieving the group goals and objectives easily.

Thus, the key element in the formation of a group is the interaction that helps in developing common sentiments for one another.

This is one of the basic ideas for forming informal groups. Interaction among the group members not only helps in achieving the objectives of the group but also helps in solving problems, reducing tension, and facilitating coordination among the members.

Balance Theory

Theodore M. Newcomb has proposed the Balance theory. According to him, “Persons are attracted towards one another on the basis of similar attitudes towards commonly relevant objects and goals.

Once a relationship is formed, it strives to maintain a symmetrical balance between attraction and common attitudes. If an imbalance occurs, attempts are made to restore the balance, if the balance cannot be restored, the relationship dissolves.”

This theory states that the similarity in attitudes of individuals towards objects and goals is the basis for the formation of groups.

In Balance theory, both propinquity theory and Homan’s theory play an important role. This is because propinquity or nearness and interaction play a significant role in maintaining a balance in the relationship of the group members.

For example, Mr. Ajay and Mr. Vijay are working in the same organization. When they interact with each other, they found that they have similar attitudes, values, working styles, and cultures. Thus, they constitute a group.

Exchange Theory

The exchange theory was proposed by John W. Thibaut and Harold H. Kelley. This theory is based on the social exchange theory, which states that people get involved in social exchange based on the perceived reward-cost of the interactions.

For example, an individual will join a group based on what he/she will get after joining it. The reward will be in terms of gratifying the needs while the cost is in terms of anxiety, frustration, embarrassment, and fatigue. If the reward is equal to or more than the cost, the individual will join the group.

However, if the rewards are lower than the cost, the individual will not join the group. The reasons given for the formation of groups in propinquity theory, Homan’s theory, and Balance theory are applicable to this theory.

Concept of Teams

A team can be defined as a formal group comprising interdependent individuals who are responsible for the attainment of common goals. A quality assessment team, testing team, and production team are some examples of teams in an organization. In the organization, teams play a very crucial role in completing the work within the deadlines.

A team has the following features:

  • In a team, the members interact freely with each other.

  • In a team, the members depend on each other to complete tasks.

  • A team provides support to all its team members willingly.

  • A team encourages collective decision-making.

  • A team creates an environment of trust and support among team members.

  • A team provides opportunities for the team members to give suggestions.

  • In teams, regular feedback is provided to members for improving their performance by the leader or supervisor.

  • It requires commitment from team members for the achievement of organizational goals.

In contemporary organizations most of the work is project-based, wherein forming a team and allocating tasks among the members helps in completing the project on time and with accuracy.

Project completion would have been a difficult proposition if a single employee was handling the entire work.

For building a strong team, it is important to carefully study the behavioral patterns of individuals and create the right blend of team members.

For example, in a project requiring six individuals, two people can be selected for their creative skills, two people for analytical skills, and the remaining two for their entrepreneurship or leadership skills.

Teams help organizations in the following ways:

  • The team makes the members loyal to each other when they unite to accomplish common organizational objectives.

  • A team increases the performance of individual members by utilizing the collective knowledge, skills, and ideas of team members. This further helps in enhancing the overall performance of an organization.

  • A team provides an opportunity to team members to show their potential through a delegation of work. This will further encourage team members to bring innovation and creativity to their work, which ultimately helps organisations to get excellence in performing certain tasks.

  • The team increases flexibility among the members of the team. This is due to the fact that when people in a team come together from different backgrounds for a common purpose then they become more tolerant, open to discussions, and eager to learn. This further helps the organization to use its workforce in diverse fields.

Teams can be of various types depending on their purpose, structure, membership, and duration.

The different types of teams are discussed as follows:

Functional Team

It involves a manager and his/her subordinate who belongs to the same functional area, such as the finance department or the marketing department.

Cross-Functional Team

It comprises employees from the same hierarchical level, but different work areas or departments. These teams are formed for special purposes and after the completion of the task, they get disbanded.

For example, when an organization wishes to enter a new market, the heads of the different departments of the organization, such as production, marketing, and finance, work together in order to identify the feasibility of the organization in that market.

Self-Managed Team

It is a team that is considered capable enough to handle routine problems; therefore, does not require reporting to its team leader on a daily basis.

Supervised Team

It is a team that works under the direct supervision of a manager.

Virtual Team

It may not exist physically, yet works with the help of teleconferencing and videoconferencing. Such teams gained importance due to globalization where the team members located at different places were not able to physically gather in a single place.

Problem-Solving Team

It is a team formed by a few employees of the same department who meets once a week to solve work-related problems, such as quality issues.

Difference Between Groups and Teams

In the preceding section, we have studied that groups and teams are different. There are certain defined points based on which we can differentiate between the two.

Some of these points are depicted in Table:

The group focuses on individual accountabilityThe team focuses on mutual accountability.
The group emphasizes on sharing of ideas, information, and perspectives of the membersThe team emphasizes taking decisions, discussing various issues, solving problems, or planning for the future.
It focuses on the goals of individuals.It focuses on the collective and common goals of the entire team.
The group produces the outcomes, such as individual projects or assignments.The team produces a collective outcome that is achieved by the entire team.
It encompasses individual roles, responsibilities, tasks, procedures, or assignments.It encompasses shared roles, responsibilities, tasks, and assignments.
Group shows the individual concern of every member of the workgroup for his/her own work.The team shows no individual concerns; the entire team is responsible for the work as a whole.

Problems in Teamwork

A team is like a chain that can only remain strong and effective if all of its links (i.e. team members) are strong (i.e. equipped with the required skills, knowledge, and expertise). If any of the links (or team members) is weak, then it may lead to major problems for the entire team.

Some of these problems are discussed as follows:


This implies that if there are gaps and barriers in communication among team members, it will hamper the teamwork.

Personal Variables

This refers to variables, such as personality and the value system of an employee. Personal variables may lead to individual differences that may act as a source of conflict.

Unrealistic Expectations

This refers to impractical expectations of managers from employees. Unrealistic expectations may de-motivate employees and create conflict between managers and employees.


It indicates that individuals or groups might be resistant to adapt to any new change in an organization, thus, giving rise to conflict.

Goal Conflict

It indicates that the goals of two or more individuals or groups collide with one another, leading to conflict.

Difference in Values

It indicates that people have a different value systems to which they are emotionally attached and uncompromising. In such a scenario, the values of one individual may collide with another which may lead to conflict in a team.


It indicates that any extreme action of an individual, whether defensive or offensive, can be a cause of conflict in a team environment.

A manager needs to resolve the abovementioned problems in teamwork to accomplish the given projects on time and with efficacy. Most of these problems are related to the behavior and self-focused attitude of the team members.

Thus, while forming a team, a manager needs to identify and involve only those people in the team who are passionate about the team goal and wish to work as a team members.

For example, if a team member is not interested in the goals of the team or rather did not believe that the team is accomplishing anything useful; he/she will never work effectively and can also discourage other members from working hard.

In addition, the manager should also work on reducing too much of competition among the team members as it will destroy the team’s ability to work as a unit.

For example, if the team members compete with each other for getting a promotion or hike, it might hamper the team objective. Such actions will spread distrust among the team members and the team will not be able to accomplish as much as it could have in the case of a trusting environment.

Moreover, the manager can organize some team games or activities in order to build healthy and strong relationships among the team members.

Creating Effective Teams in the Workplace

Teams have the power to exponentially empower the organization by creating synergy, which is the interaction of team members to produce an outcome that is greater than the sum of the outcome produced through their individual contributions.

Synergy is the element that differentiates an effective team from a common team. An effective team is one that achieves the target or objective of forming the team. It is a team that provides a competitive advantage to the organization over a period of time.

However, forming and managing effective teams is not an easy task as it involves individuals from different backgrounds and perspectives. In such a case, if the team members are not compatible with each other, the motive for which the team is created will suffer.

For creating effective teams, an organization needs to take into account the following factors:

Clear Goals

Organizational goals should be clear and discrete for all the team members so that they clearly know their job responsibilities.

Relevant Skills

While forming a team certain relevant skills should be kept in mind so that it becomes easier to attain team goals.

Mutual Trust

It ensures the success of the team as a whole. When team members trust each other, then they coordinate well to achieve team goals.

Unified Commitment

All the team members should be committed and dedicated towards the achievement of the team as well as organizational goals together.

Good Communication

An organization should provide an effective communication channel such that team members can express themselves openly. The organization should also promote healthy communication among team members and avoid any communication gaps or miscommunication among them.

Negotiation Skills

The team members should have good negotiating and bargaining skills so that they can demand the required re- sources from the management to work efficiently.

Appropriate Leader

Leaders should be selected according to the requirement of the situation.

Internal Support

All the team members should support each other. This can be done if all the team members possess good interpersonal skills.

External Support

The team should get appropriate support from non-members so that there is no hindrance in attaining the as-signed goal in the stipulated time.

Apart from the abovementioned factors, a manager needs to avoid the following unwanted characteristics to manage and create effective teams:

  • Minimise group pressure and dominance of members of a team as it will reduce free thought and expression subduing great possible ideas of the team members.

  • Avoid control of one member over the entire team

  • Avoid politics in the team as the compromises made by the team members due to political power will affect the overall team objectives and effectiveness

  • Avoid the distraction of team members from the main goals and objectives of the team

  • Avoid group thinking in the teams as it leads to unwanted solutions and will harm the organization.
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