Group Dynamics: The Nature of Groups as well as Dynamics of Informal Groups and Dysfunctions

Textbook 2013 50 Pages

Psychology - Social Psychology


Table of contents

Executive Summary

Table of contents

List of Abbreviations

List of Figures

List of Tables

1Problem Definition

2 Objectives

3 Methodology

4 What is a Group about?
4.1. A Global Definition
4.2. Social groups
4.3. Other Social Gatherings – Are these also Groups?

5 Formation of Groups
5.1. Group Formation – The Bernstein and Lowy Model
5.1.1. Phase of Orientation
5.1.2. Phase of Power Struggle
5.1.3. Phase of Familiarity
5.1.4. Phase of Differentiation
5.1.5. Phase of Closing
5.2. Group Formation According to the Phase Model of B. Tuckman
5.3. Roles of Group Members
5.3.1. Roles in Groups According to their Function
5.3.2. Roles in Groups According to their Ranking

6 Types of Groups
6.1. The Size of a Group
6.2. Group Characterization According to Tasks
6.3. Group Classification as per the Riemann-Thomann-Cross

7 Group Effectiveness
7.1. Group Effectiveness – A Measurable Parameter?
7.2. The Size of the Group as Rating Basis for Group Effectiveness
7.3. Synergistic Effects in Groups

8 Implications from Research

9 Informal Groups – Definition

10 Aims of Informal Groups

11 Development of Informal Groups
11.1. Forming (Orientation) or “All for One, One for All!”
11.1.1. Forming Process
11.1.2. Why groups form
11.2. Storming (Conflict)
11.2.1. Storming Process
11.2.2. Constructive Storming
11.2.3. Destructive Storming
11.3. Norming (Structure)
11.3.1. Norming Process
11.3.2. Norms
11.3.3. Roles
11.3.4. Role Conflicts
11.3.5. Intermember Relations
11.4. Performing (Work)
11.4.1. Performing Process
11.4.2. Atmosphere within the Group
11.5. Adjourning (Dissolution)
11.5.1. Adjourning Process
11.5.2. Planned Adjourning
11.5.3. Unplanned Adjourning

12 Leadership in Informal Groups
12.1. What is Leadership?
12.2. Specific characteristics of Leaders in Informal Groups
12.3. Personal Qualities of Leaders in Groups
12.3.1. Height, Weight, Age
12.3.2. Intelligence
12.3.3. Gender
12.3.4. Personality
12.3.5. Expertise
12.3.6. Participation

13 Cohesion in Informal Groups

14 Results

15 Conclusion

16 Bibliography

Executive Summary

A group consists of some people who interact during a certain time. The number of group members is that small that there is the possibility for every member to interact with every other group member face to face. If people meet by accident who are not close friends, it will be not a group.[1]

If you want to learn more about the formation of groups you will find two leading models which display the phases of group formation. On the one hand there is the Bernstein and Lowy model on the other hand Bruce Tuckman also designed a phase model which shows the formation of groups.

Roles in groups can be positive and negative. They are supporting the group as collectivity and are not only the result of individual need, abilities and characteristics.

There are different ways for the classification of groups. Groups can be classified in general according to following characteristics:

- size
- topic / task of the group

Also a way for classifying groups is the classification according the Riemann-Thomann-Cross[2]. The next chapters this assignment shows a rough overview of the various possibilities for the classification of groups.

As there are many influencing facts for the effectiveness of groups and very contradictory interests, the advantages for one group of interest are the disadvantages for the other group of interest. The economical group of interest measures the effectiveness of a group by its productivity, flexibility and quality. The individual in a group identifies effectiveness in the group by reasonable tasks, feeling of togetherness in the group and diverse interpersonal relationships.

At workplaces, with friends together or even with complete strangers – informal groups emerge nearly everywhere in real life.

The aims of informal groups are usually – but not always – different from those of formal groups.

The development within the group is – apart from small differences – not much different from formal groups. The process of forming, storming, norming, performing and eventually adjourning, as Professor Tuckman has described, is nearly the same. One crucial point is that informal groups are NOT part of a formal organisation and members in most of these cases are free to leave whenever they want. Therefore it is unusual to undergo e. g. a destructive storming. Before it comes to such a storming, often one or more members will leave the group in advance.

Leadership is – especially in informal groups – a difficult topic. But here again, the main characteristics of leadership are not much different from those in formal organisations.

List of Abbreviations

illustration not visible in this excerpt

List of Figures

Figure 1: Group formation according to Bernstein and Lowy. Source: Own interpretation

Figure 2: The Reimann-Thomann-Cross used for characterization of groups. Source: According to Stahl (2002), p

Figure 3: Groups. Source: Own interpretation

Figure 4: Tuckman-Model. Source: According to Stahl (2007)

Figure 5: Consensus. Source: Own interpretation

Figure 6: Possible Intermember Relations. Source: Own interpretation.

List of Tables

Table 1: Connection of functional and ranking roles in groups. Source: Own interpretation.

1 Problem Definition

“Group Dynamics” is a very complex topic. There are various definitions for groups; scientific ones and non-scientific ones. In this assignment only the scientific definitions are mentioned.

A lot of scientists concern oneself with the formation, types, complexity of groups. There are a lot of different scientific views to this topic

The natures of groups as well as the specific form of informal groups are topic of these assignments.

Informal groups have nearly the same nature as formal groups. The certain differentials are realized in the second assignment with the Headline “Group Dynamics II – Dynamics of Informal Groups and Dysfunctions”.

2 Objectives

The objectives of the assignments are:

- the clear scientifically definition of a group inclusive a clear dissociation from other social gatherings
- the description of group formation
- showing different types of groups
- having a closer look at the effectiveness of groups and
- a short analysis of the implications from research to groups
- a differentiation from formal and informal groups

Given that there is a specified limit for this assignment we decided to cover the above mentioned objectives in such a range that the assignment will give an overview of these.

As mentioned in the problem definition there is a wide range of scientific research to this topic. We made the effort to cover the most important scientific views and models that come up in daily life

3 Methodology

- Internet research for getting a first overview of the topic
- Reference book research
- Research in topic related learned and professional journals
- Consideration of formal/informal groups and teams that are part of our daily life

4 What is a Group about?

You will find several definitions about groups in the general literature. Here the most important points for defining a group shall be summarised.

4.1. A Global Definition

A group consists of some people who interact during a certain time. The number of group members is that small that there is the possibility for every member to interact with every other group member face to face. If people meet by accident who are not close friends, it will be not a group.[3]

This is a very general definition for groups. This definition shows the basic constituent parts of a group:

- some people
- interaction
- for a certain time

There is also a great variety of groups: families, group of pupils, groups in sports, workshop groups, working groups, ethnical and religious groups, for showing some examples. All these groups show the above mentioned three constituent parts. Recapitulating the examples for groups you come to the conclusion that some people sitting in an underground or a large number of people joining a demonstration are not a group, in the meaning of the first definition above for a group.

4.2. Social groups

Social groups are more specifically defined. The definition of social groups is based on the above mentioned three constituent parts of a group. But a social group means more. A group is a highly organised social formation that consists of a small number of members most of the time. The members are interacting individuals that are linked in an emotional and intellectual behaviour.[4]

A small social group consists of three up to twenty members. Groups with more than twenty members are called big groups. That means that a couple is not a group.

Additional to the constituent parts mentioned in chapter 4.1. social groups are more detailed defined with the following parts.[5]

- rom 3 up to 20 members (for small groups) and more for large ones
- a mutual agreement upon a task or a goal
- possibility for face to face communication
- feeling of togetherness
- mutual values and standards for the interaction
- diverse social roles in a group targeting on the aim of the group

The definition for social groups shows clearly that it is important that the group members have a mutual understanding of the group and that there are some social roles in the group.

On the one hand you know now what the fundamental tees of a group are and on the other hand it is clear that a social group means more than only being more than 2 persons interacting for a certain time.

For a more concrete definition of groups let’s have a look at other related terms.

4.3. Other Social Gatherings – Are these also Groups?

The audience of a football match is not a group with reference to the above mentioned definitions. There are only some people coming together with no ostensibly interest in interaction or communication. The interest of this crowd is to watch the football match. This example is valid for all major events.[6]

There must be done a differentiation to such major events from big groups. More about big groups and their specific formation you will find in chapter 6.1. of this assignment.

There are also institutions and organisations – are these forms of gatherings groups?

Social scientists speak of institution as a certain cultural and in most cases lawful, social structure. Examples for institutions can be found in our daily life: marriage, family, institutions of law or economy and so on. Institutions are characterized with a social purpose and permanence, and with the making and enforcing of rules guiding cooperative human behaviour.[7]

Organisations are often parts of institutions. A common known example will explain the context of institution and organisation: The institution of education arises in the organisation form of different school types. Organisations are social system with a great formalism. It is typical of organisations that the people are only in contact to each other in a very detailed and specific manner. All parties are principally exchangeable without endangering the existence of the group itself. All these facts display that organisations are the contrary of groups. Personnel connections are not part of organisations.[8] Even organisations are conflictive to groups which have a lot of intersections and interactions. There are a lot of groups which are certainly acting inside of an organisation. The formalism of organisations impacts the acting of groups.[9]

If we think about other social gatherings which also may be groups we must not forget networks. Nowadays networking and networks are presented as important sources for communication, knowledge transfer and so on. It seems to be courteous today to have a network or to be a member of a network. There the question arises: “Are networks groups or are they part of institutions or organisations?”

Literature says that networks are more than groups but less than organisations. This means that networks consists of many social relationships of human beings or also of a group which are laxly and often informal connected.[10] Some examples for networks are insider relationships, information networks, informal supporting networks and so on.

On the one hand the definition of groups implies a certain durability and obligation of the relationship. On the other hand there are networks that underline weak relationships that are available as social resources in case of need. This determines the difference between groups and networks.[11]

After this introductory definition of groups and the dissociation from familiar social gatherings the next chapter of this assignment deals with the description of the formation of a group.

5 Formation of Groups

If you want to learn more about the formation of groups you will find two leading models which display the phases of group formation. On the one hand there is the Bernstein and Lowy model on the other hand Bruce Tuckman also designs a phase’s model which shows the formation of groups.

5.1. Group Formation – The Bernstein and Lowy Model

The formation of a group, regardless of which type of group, follows every time similar phases.

Bernstein and Lowy designed the process of the formation of groups in a five phase’s model.

These five phases are visualized in the next figure:

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 1: Group formation according to Bernstein and Lowy. Source: Own interpretation.

Bernstein and Lowy say that there are certain behaviour pattern and accruing problems in all phases of the group formation process regardless of the composition and target of a group.[12] In the following you will find a description of every phase. Every phase has its typical characteristics.

5.1.1. Phase of Orientation

In the first phase every group member is more or less uncertain. They are not familiar with the new situation. Most of the group members are rather contained, monitoring the going on in the group and focus their interest on the group leadership. Group members behaving dominantly and provokingly are refused from the other members. Every individual is interested in getting to know the other one. Becoming acquainted with each other is often for a lot of group members not very easy, they often do not know how they should act and react.[13]

Summarized we can say that the first phase of the formation process is characterized by some uncertainties of the members.

5.1.2. Phase of Power Struggle

Every member clears up him or her position in the group. Some members are interested in acting active in the group and in controlling the group actions. This process is accompanied with power struggling. This means members try to force their points and search for supporters and federates. Rivalry and competiveness are part of the interactions in the group. At this phase it is possible to some extent that group members rebel against the leadership.[14]

This phase of the group formation process is often the most essential one. For some groups it is very hard to get over this phase. Others will often return to this phase if a decision has to be made.

5.1.3. Phase of Familiarity

In this third phase the uncertainty from the first phase changes to a certain group spirit that put reliability over the members of the group. If there occur some problems the group members will speak about them in an unashamedly manner. The positions in the group are clarified. That brings about that strengths and weaknesses of each member are known in the group and are accepted.[15]

Everyone uses his or her abilities to fulfil duties and tasks of the group. The group is a very important structure for every member, external interactions are rare. From an external point of view it seems that the group screens itself from its surrounding.

In this phase it is very important for the group to make decisions that influence the target achievement of the group in a very positive way.

5.1.4. Phase of Differentiation

The fourth phase is an important advancement of the third phase. The group tasks are solved further on but the interaction with external groups is more and more possible. The different abilities and originalities are mutual acceptable inputs for target-orientated solving the group tasks.[16]

5.1.5. Phase of Closing

A group will be closed if the interaction in the group is no more interesting for the members or the group tasks and targets are successfully solved. It is possible that some members are uncomfortable with the closing of the group. Furthermore it is possible that someone will be held responsible for the closing of the group.[17]

Before going into detail to the group formation process according to Mister Tuckman we have to notice here that the phases follow a scheme by no case. The phases maybe differ in their duration and in their intenseness. Furthermore it is possible that a group returns to a previous phase. This may happen in the case of having new members in the group.

5.2. Group Formation According to the Phase Model of B. Tuckman

The group formation model according to Mr. Tuckman was first shown as phase model with four steps in 1965. In 1970 he added a fifth phase to his model. The stages are called[18]:

1. Forming
2. Storming
3. Norming
4. Performing
5. Adjourning

The stages of Tuckman's model begin with becoming acquainted with each other and end with the closing of the group.

It is fundamental that no single phase of the model can be omitted. Every phase is based on the previous one. The duration of the phases can be, or better are most the time very different.

Phase 1. and 2. are very important for the success of the group. In phase one we find the process of getting to know each other and seeking for certainty. The second phase consists of roll allocation. This phase may be a little bit turbulent because it is humane that persons want to act according to their individual goals. Therefore they try to find some supporters. For the leader of the group in this stage it is very important to clarify the group target and get all members on board for reaching this target.[19]

The third phase is about generating rules for the group. The development of group standards is very important for that stage. After the more or less turbulent second phase this phase of the group formation process is used to implement good manners for the interaction in the group.[20]

After generating a mutual agreed group standard the members of the group begin to act. The fourth phase is characterized by performance and target driven interaction. The members of the group are familiar with each other and they trust each other.[21]

Mr. Tuckman stopped in his first step at the fourth stage of the group formation process. But as at the beginning of this assignment mentioned a group is also characterized by a certain time limit where the group exists. And for this reason it is logical that there will also be closing phase of the group formation process. Bernstein and Lowy showed this phase for the first time in their model.

The fifth and at the same time the last phase of the Tuckman model is called “adjourning stage”. In this phase the group will be closed. The target of the group is more or less fulfilled and the members will be ready for new tasks.[22]

This was a rough description of the Tuckman model. It shows even the stages are different named, a lot of similarities to the Bernstein and Lowy model. In both models the group members play different roles. Therefore let’s have a closer look at the different roles members of a group have.

5.3. Roles of Group Members

Roles in groups can be positive and negative. They are supporting the group as collectivity and are not only the result of individual need, abilities and characteristics.

5.3.1. Roles in Groups According to their Function

In the related literature you will find three types of roles in general according to their function in the group. They are all a result of monitoring and analysing groups[23]:

1. task roles
2. sustainment and system roles
3. negative roles

There are also some models known that are based on characteristic and personality typology. There is a great difference between such personality psychological typologies and the social-psychological-group dynamic views. The first mentioned one assumes that all group members implement their own personality into the group and define according to their personality their role in the group. The group dynamic view assumes on the contrary that roles will be formed by the tasks in the group and the personal formation of the group. This implies that the roles in the group are only partly formed by the individual personalities. According to this a group is only working when there are a certain number of roles in the group.[24]

Let’s have a closer look at the three types of roles mentioned before in groups according to their function.

Task roles are characterized by initiative and action. Group members who play that role are searching for information and different views but they also put forward opinions and publish information. Group members who have a task role are responsible for generating tasks, for coordinating them and for summarizing them.[25]

Sustainment and system roles are important for the group because members who play this role are responsible for motivation and encouragement. They observe the group rules and express the feeling of belonging together. Group members who play a sustainment and system role avoid friction by arbitrating between the other group members.[26]

Negative roles are also part of almost every group, but it is the task of the group leader to control them and to restrain them. Group members who play the negative role in the group display aggressive behaviour that block respectively foil the group development. This role is characterized by the following bad manners of behaviour: searching for adherence, rivalling among each other and also baking out of the group.[27]

5.3.2. Roles in Groups According to their Ranking

The ranking in groups is based upon the need that a group must be lead, coordinated, decisions must be made, and the decisions and or views of the group must be forwarded to other people outside the group. That is the first motive for having a ranking inside groups.[28]

The second motive is that individuals are used to have rankings. A ranking in the group provides a basis for the requirement of differentiation of the group members who pursuit career possibilities within the group. When you observe animals, you will find rankings in almost every species.[29]

Now let’s have a closer look on the ranking roles in groups of humans. We will find in almost every group the following group members, playing one of these roles[30]:

- the leader,
- the favourite,
- the brave,
- the follower,
- the opponent,
- the scapegoat and
- the outsider

The leader of a group is responsible for coordination and cohesion of the group. The leader leads the other group members according to reach the group target. Are there no formal leader members who are playing the role of the brave or favourite go for the role as a leader. Both roles are not compatible[31].


[1] Cf. Homans (1978), p. 29.

[2] A figure for visualisation of the Riemann-Thomann-Cross is shown in chapter 6.3.

[3] Cf. Homans (1978), p. 29.

[4] Cf. Battegay (1974), p. 19.

[5] Cf. Homans (1978), p. 16 ff.

[6] Cf. Ammon (1976), p. 92.

[7] Cf. Balzer (1993), p. 13.

[8] Cf. Nikles (2008), p. 8.

[9] Cf. Schreyögg (2003), p. 18.

[10] Cf. Lutz (2005), p. 35.

[11] Cf. Trappmann, Hummell and Sodeur (2005), p. 14.

[12] Cf. Bernstein and Lowy (1973), p. 57 ff.

[13] Cf. Ibid., p. 58 ff.

[14] Cf. Ibid., p. 72 ff.

[15] Cf. Bernstein and Lowy (1973), p. 76 ff.

[16] Cf. Ibid., p. 82 ff.

[17] Cf. Ibid., p. 88 ff.

[18] Cf. Stahl (2002), p. 49.

[19] Cf. Stahl (2002), p. 67 and 95-96.

[20] Cf. Ibid., p. 127-129.

[21] Cf. Ibid., p. 153.

[22] Cf. Mills (1976), p. 88.

[23] Cf. Antons (2000), p. 226 ff.

[24] Cf. Edding and Schattenhofer (2009), p. 424.

[25] Cf. Barker, Wahlers, Cegala and Kibler (1983), p. 63 f.

[26] Cf. Däumling, Fengler, Nellessen and Svenssson (1974), p. 144.

[27] Cf. Battegay (1974), p. 61.

[28] Cf. Kretschmar (1994), p. 14.

[29] Cf. Ibid., p. 15.

[30] Cf. Langmaack and Braune-Krickau (2000), p. 139 ff.

[31] Cf. Homans (1978), p. 56.


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Title: Group Dynamics: The Nature of Groups as well as Dynamics of Informal Groups and Dysfunctions