Q. Critically evaluate the need for conformity in organizations.
Groups and organizations, one is a part of are very important for the social and psychological development of an individual. A group is “a collection of individuals who interact and communicate, share goals and norms, and who have a subjective awareness as ‘we’.” (pg 642, Sociology, 4th edition, M. L .Anderson and H. F. Taylor). According to Shaw (1981), a group consists of two or more people who interact with each other in such a way that each influences and is influenced by the other. They give the individual a social identity, which is “the part of the self concept which comes from the membership of groups; it contributes to ones self esteem.” (pg 356, Organizational Behavior, 5th edition, Buchanan and Huczynski). Tajfel and Turner came up with this social identity theory. Tajfel states that individuals not only compare themselves to others but also compare their groups with similar, but distinct, out-groups. When an individual recently becomes a member of a new organization, the existing members will build and transmit complex ideas and those ideas may seem unfamiliar. This process is termed as social representation. This name was coined by Serge Moscovici in 1984. It is important to point at this time that via social representations, group members gain a shared frame of reference. “This is a set of assumptions that are commonly held by all the group members, which shapes their thinking, decisions, actions and interactions while being constantly defined and reinforced through those interactions.” (pg 357, Organizational Behavior, 5th edition, Buchanan and Huczynski). Organizations and groups tend to exert tremendous influence on their members to fit in with the norms of that group or organization. Such type of influence is referred to as ‘social influence’; it can be defined as a “change in the judgments, opinions, and attitudes of an individual as a result of being exposed to the view of others.” (Page 404, Introduction to Social Psychology, Third edition, by M. Hewstone and W. Stroebe). Also according to Cialdini (1994), it is efforts by others to change our attitudes, beliefs, perceptions, or behavior. Social influence is a basic fact of social life. It plays a key role in many forms of social interaction, such as leadership and some others. For instance, everyday one receives a number of direct requests from people they know such as friends, family members, coworkers and many times even total strangers such as panhandlers or salespersons; they all try to influence us in some way or the other. However this process is not one way, even we attempt at exerting influence on to others. Many individuals tend to be under the false belief that they are not victims of social influence or group pressure, this belief according to social psychologist Philip Zimbardo is referred as the ‘Not-Me Syndrome’. We all think: “Other people yield to group pressure, but not me.” However experimental evidence reveals that there is a gulf between what people think they will do and what they actually do. The group or organization that one is a member of tends to exert heightened pressure on its members either consciously or unconsciously. If one doesn’t comply with the norms and values of the group, they are considered an outcast. It must be noted that organizations, that one is a part of , have the same effect on individuals as groups because groups also exist in organizations and organization themselves are one big group. Social influence that tends to be exerted by organizations consists of three main types, they being, conformity, compliance and obedience. Obedience is the most coercive in nature and conformity is the least coercive. Obedience “is a form of social influence in which one person obeys direct orders from another to perform some action(s).” (pg 319, social psychology, 8th edition, Baron Byrne). Obedience is very obvious in organizations whether large...
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