Groups and how they influence the individual (Part One)

WomenEvery individual belongs to a group of some kind. People belong to some groups involuntarily, that is to say they have no choice in belonging to the group, they find themselves in these groups naturally. And these are groups such as the family, ethnicity, race, class, gender and so on.

But there are some groups that people join voluntarily, like supporters’ clubs, professional groups, singing groups, and religious organizations.

Groups are very much a part of social life; indeed groups influence people greatly. On the other hand people also have some amount of influence on groups that they belong to.

People form attitudes based on the influence that groups have on them. What are acceptable and unacceptable patterns of behaviour are learned from the group. Fact is, the norms that govern behaviour that the individual subscribes to are what the group determines and approves and what the group disapproves, the individual avoids.

The group also sanctions, in other words, rewards people for what it considers good behaviour and punishes those who violate standard rules of conduct and by so doing, behaviour patterns are reinforced in people.

The way people act also influences groups to formulate codes of actions. Groups formulate codes for observance by members, so they can maintain what they consider their ways.

Groups are an inevitable part of human life, people cannot do without groups, and groups cannot do without people. We are bound by our human nature to belong to groups, because we cannot live as islands. We are naturally drawn to groups because we are raised to become so dependent upon groups, for example, the family set up, relatives, neighbours and friends. However, how we fit into and play our roles successfully within the groups that we find ourselves in, go a long way to determine the course of our lives.


Defining a group can be difficult sometimes. Groups, however, can mean a collection of three or more individuals who interact about some common problem or interdependent goal and can exert mutual influence over one another.

Another popular definition by Baron and Byrne (1991), says “a group is two or more interacting persons who share common goals, have a stable relationship and somehow interdependent and perceive that they are in fact part of the group.”


The following criteria make a group;

–    The people interact with one another either directly or indirectly
–    They must be interdependent in some regard, i.e. what affects one must affect others to some extent.
–    The relationship must be relatively stable, i.e. must persist over some period of time. (weeks, months, years).
–    Individuals involved must share common goals
–    Members must perceive themselves as being part of the group.

There are groups that come into being for particular circumstances, and for sometime and are dissolved when they achieve their aim.

We also have organizations

According to Schein (1980) an organization is a “planned coordination of the activities of a number of people for the achievement of some common goals through division of labour and functions and through hierarchy of authority and responsibility.”

There are three characteristics of organizations, they have
1.    A deliberate design
2.    Specific purposes or goals
3.    Emphasis and reliance on formal prescription of both acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. (Written rules and regulations)

Omni Media is a formal organization but, our focus would be on the informal group that evolves within a formal organization such as Omni Media and how that informal group within the institution can to a large extent determine how the organization functions.

The Individual

The individual in a group is motivated by several factors. Some of these factors are primarily personal. I have classified them as egoistic, achievement and emotional.

– Egoistic – every person has a sense of personal pride, a sense of self value, self esteem. And being part of a group enhances the individual’s personal perceptions of him or herself and increases self-esteem.

The fact that you belong makes you have a good image of yourself, because you feel accepted and part of your society.

–    Achievement – naturally individuals are achievement oriented, and by being part of a group, you are able to bring your skills to bear on your activities within the group. By so doing, you achieve your personal goals. For instance if you have a good voice, you would want to achieve one thing, i.e. sing. A singing group offers you the opportunity to achieve that aim. People join groups where they can find the opportunity to achieve their aims.

–    Emotional – Individuals derive emotional security from joining groups. In times of sorrow, loneliness and difficulties, groups provide the needed emotional support to contain the situation. So people would join groups to meet these needs.

Groups and the Individual

Individuals make a group. Individuals constitute even formal organizations. The organization brings together skillful individuals and sometimes even those without particular skills to perform functions that would eventually lead to the attainment of its objectives. Like the human body, each part must work in cohesion to attain good health.

For these objectives to be attained, they first of all must be made known to members of the organization. There are rules and regulations that guide the activities of the members towards the goal.


To get members of the group to work towards attaining group goals, the goals must be communicated to them. Sometimes they must be part of formulating the goals. This communication must be done in simple and clear language for members to understand, because it is only when they understand, that they can work to achieve the goals.

Instructions that are given should be understood. It is the duty of the giver of instructions to make sure the message is clear, as well as the responsibility of the receiver to make sure that the instruction given is understood. When this is achieved, time, money and resources are then effectively utilized to the maximum.


There are authority structures in every group. Authority is meant to facilitate the maintenance of order, and the exercise of power to achieve the group’s goals. If there were no authority structure, there would be indiscipline, disorder and chaos.

Authority is systematically organized through a hierarchy. It flows from the top to the bottom. For instance, it is not every one who can exercise authority. The exercise of authority is placed in the hands of people within the group, who are qualified to do so. They are qualified by education, training and sometimes length of time in the organization or by election. Age does not matter in the exercise of authority.

All these are done on purpose – to achieve the goals of the organization.

Rules and Regulations

Every group or organization has rules and regulations. Rules and regulations are the norms that guide conduct within the group. They stipulate what can, must be done and cannot be done.

Members ought to be aware of these rules and regulations, because when they are violated, ignorance cannot be cited as an excuse.

Keeping the rules bring about consistency, peace and harmony.

Informal Groups

Informal groups evolve spontaneously within organizations, and they arise from social relations and interactions between members of the wider organization. The rules governing them are that of social norms, fellow feeling, goodwill, common interest and kinship. Sometimes, people come together by class.

As individuals pursue organizational goals, they interact. Individuals as they work together, develop similar and common interests that are not specifically that of the organization, but their own.

It is this condition that leads to the formation of informal groups within an organization.

The existence of informal groups within an organization can be either positive or negative with regards to organizational goals, depending on the kind of leadership style that is practiced within the organization.

The informal group can be a source of maximizing productivity when properly viewed. When people with the same interest and characteristics converge, they evolve and formulate their own unwritten codes that guide their conduct. They device ways of motivating themselves, and are able to achieve goals that they have set for themselves. And subsequently, they are able to achieve the wider goals of the organization. They take pride in what they have achieved for the organization as a group and would therefore; function effectively when they are given the right atmosphere.

Besides, when individuals are made to see the achievement of group goals as a means to attaining to some extent their individual goals, they would do everything to achieve the goals.


Leadership according to Hollander (1978) is the “process through which one member of a group influences other members of the group towards the attainment of specific group goal.”

The role of the leader is to effectively co-ordinate the activities of the informal groups and that of the organization in such a way that maximum productivity can be attained. In order words, the leader or manager should be able to use the existence of these groups within the organization to attain the wider goal of the institution. This can be done by achieving cooperation and where necessary blending individual and group interests in the pursuance of organizational goals. The leader or manager should be able to channel these interests towards attaining organizational goals.

Fact is informal groups interact with the formal organization in every area of operation. The individual who must work to attain organizational goals is at the same time, working to attain his personal goals. While working within the context of attaining organizational goals, the individual must also satisfy his ego, achieve something and meet his emotional needs.

While, the organizational rules set the barriers of behaviour of members, it is the informal groups that define actual behaviour. People on the job do not go strictly according to the rules. They work in a manner that is determined by the physical conditions of the job.

Example; a mining firm in South America. Miners’ behaviour underground in the face of eminent danger and risks determined their behaviour and not the rules made by the mining engineer who is comfortably seated in an air-conditioned office far from the belly of the earth.

Leadership ought to be participatory. When members of the organization are made part of the decision-making process, they find it convenient to obey the rules and regulations that eventually emerge. The rules are seen as theirs, and not one imposed on them from above. When they participate in the decisions, they tend to have moral obligations in keeping to the decisions.

Leadership ought to show empathy to members. Leadership must show an understanding of the individual, to be able to get the individual to function within the organization to attain its goals. In other words, leadership ought to create conditions for individuals within the organization to have opportunities for self-motivation, such as opportunities for promotion, commendation for good work done as well as provision of the necessary tools for task performance.

Leadership must learn to use what members have to attain organizational goals.

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

Email: [email protected]

Read the Part Two here

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