A definition of the term group should strike a balance between being sufficiently broad to include most social aggregates that are true groups and being sufficiently narrow to exclude most social aggregates that are not true groups. The following formal definition meets these criteria: A group is (a) two or more individuals (b) who influence each other (c) through social interaction.
A group of people share a range of qualities and characteristics which signifies it from other groups. One facet of the group's entity is its emotional characteristics. Just as individuals have moods, emotions and dispositional affects, Groups possess similar attributes which influence aspects such as cohesiveness, performance and group members. These aspects, in their turn, also influence the group's emotional state
Our tendency to form groups is a persistent aspect of life. As well as formal groups, committees and teams, there are informal groups, cliques and cabals.
Formal groups are used to organise and distribute work, pool information, devise plans, coordinate activities, increase commitment, negotiate, resolve conflicts and conduct inquests. Group working allows the pooling of people's individual skills and knowledge, and helps compensate for individual deficiencies. It has been estimated that most managers spend 50 per cent of their working day in one sort of group or another, and for top management of large organisations this can raise to 80 per cent. Thus formal groups are clearly an integral part of the functioning of an organisation.
No less important are informal groups. These are usually structured more around the social needs of people than around the performance of tasks. Informal groups usually serve to satisfy needs of affiliation, and act as a forum for exploring self-concept as a means of gaining support, and so on. However, these informal groups may also have an important effect on formal work tasks, for example by exerting subtle pressures on group members to conform to a particular work rate, or as ‘places’ where news, gossip, etc., is exchanged.
There are six key features of groups that provide a basis for discussing their dynamics: interaction, structure, size, goals, cohesiveness, and temporal change. 1. Interaction
Interaction refers to the ways in which group members influence one another's behaviour. Common varieties of interaction are physical, verbal, nonverbal, and emotional interaction. Interaction is a core group characteristic in that it serves as a definitional feature for the concept of group. 2. Structure
Structure refers to the underlying patterns of stable relationships among group members in group interaction. Important components of group structure are roles, status (authority), attraction relations, and communication networks.
Size is an intervening variable, which is to say it has an indirect effect on group dynamics. Hence, size in and of itself is not the critical quality; it indirectly influences other aspects of the group. Dyads (two-member groups), for example, cannot be reduced in size without dissolving. In mobs, on the other hand, the size of the social aggregate is so large that there is not much opportunity for face-to-face interaction among all individuals. Despite its indirect influence on group dynamics, size is nonetheless a core group characteristic, indeed serving as a definitional feature: a group cannot exist with fewer than two members! Most groups have from two to seven members; a general principle of group dynamics is that groups tend to gravitate toward the smallest size. An important group dynamics principle with regard to group size is that the larger the group, the more complex and formal its structure tends to be. There is thus an interaction between group...