Ivancevich et al (2008)



A group is defined by Ivancevich et al (2008) as “two or more individuals interacting with each other to accomplish a common goal”. Groups are important aspect of work pattern of an organization (Mullins 2002) and a part of modern life (Ivancevich et al 2008). A group can be formal or informal (Armstrong 2009). Informal groups according to Newstrom (2007:277) “Are established by the organization and have a public identity and goal to achieve while formal groups emerge on the sense of common interest, proximity and friendship”. Informal groups are set up by the organization in other to achieve organizational goals while formal groups are set up by individuals for the purpose of satisfying the needs of its members (Armstrong 2009). The group used for the purpose of this study is the formal groups. This study will analyze the impact the group has on the individual, factors affecting the behavior of the individual, human relations theory and the factors affecting the behavior and performance of the individual in the group.


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The performance of a group depends on how well its members engage in communication with each other or interacts with each other and also on how the individual learns in the group (Mullins 2002). Mullins (2002:465) argues that “how people behave and perform as members of a group is as important as their behavior or performance as individuals”. Usually, lack of interaction between the individual and members of the group will have effect on the performance of the group as well as the individual in the group and result to lack of satisfaction for the individual (Mullins 2002). It is believed that the group generates better ideas than the individual does, by drawing resources from individual members of the group (brainstorming), the group thereby brings in more ideas and input into decision process than a single person can (Robbins 2001).

In one of my experiences in a group I learnt that groups can be rewarding to the individual because an individual can actually learn from other members of the group. I joined a decoration group in my church and we were told to decorate the church for a program, we all had our ideas on how we want the decoration to look like but instead of pursuing personal goals we brought our ideas together and we came up with a better idea and I also learnt things I did not know before, also I found the experience challenging because I had to think beyond what I know in other to be able to contribute but at the end I left with more knowledge than I went in with.

It is also believed; however, that group ideas can hinder creative thinking, in other words, individuals will ignore their idea in other to conform to the idea of the group (Mullins 2002). For example, as a member of a group of four in one of my classes in Salford University, we were asked to solve a particular question, we were different people with different beliefs, attitudes, perception, culture and behavior, however, three out of four were in agreement but one particular person in the group had a different idea from what the rest of us had and was trying so hard to convince us which was impossible because it was one against three, in other to avoid conflict the individual had to ignore the idea and agree with that of the group.

Groups bind the individual and members of the group in togetherness and in other to be in togetherness, individuals have to see themselves as members of the group and not isolate themselves in other for them to achieve the goal of the group and also to meet their needs (Robbins 2001). Huczynski and Buchanan (2007) discussed the work of Tayfel and Tunner (1986) who argued that “as long as individuals see themselves as more important than the group the group cannot function effectively”. However, It is believed that individuals have different needs or reasons for joining or been in a group and it can be the need to fulfill social needs, achieve group goals or to derive greater economic benefits or for social security reasons, which is believed that groups can serve as a medium of meeting these needs of the individual (Ivancevich et al 2008) and in other to remain a member of the group and to meet these needs the individual must set aside their personal goal to achieve the group's goal ( Newstrom 2007).


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There are different types of ways of explaining the behavior of the individual in a group; they are Perception, Attribution, Orientation, Role and branded rationality (Armstrong 2009).

Perception is one way of explaining the behavior of an individual in a group. Perception according to Maund (2001: pg 444) is “the process by which individuals interpret sensory impression so that they can assign meaning to it”. Perception is when an individual gives meaning or interprets the things happening around them and people tend to perceive situation that satisfies needs, emotions, attitudes or their self concept (Ivancevich et al 2008). Members of a group can see the same thing or be in the same situation but their interpretation of the situation will be different from each other based on how they see it (Mullins 2007).

Attribution according to Luthans (2002:197) refers to “how people explains the cause of another's or their behavior”. Attribution can be the way people interpret the situation they are in (Armstrong 2009). Attribution can lead to conflict in a group because the way one person see things (perception) may not be the same way another sees the same thing (Armstrong 2009). While Orientation can be said to be an individuals attempt to make sense of life which can be different from that of the group (Armstrong 2009).

Role is the part played by the individual in caring out their duties (Armstrong 2009). There is a particular role expected from the members of the group once they have lived to the expectation of the role then it is believed they have performed their role successfully and it is believed that this role shapes the individuals behavior (Armstrong 2009). While branded rationality can be said to be the ways individuals understands how complicated the situation they are in is and their reaction to the situation limits the way they behave rationally (Armstrong 2009).

Huczynski and Buchanan (2005:279) discuss the work of Marion Hampton (1999)who argues that “groups are seen as taking over the individuals mind, depressing intelligence, eliminating moral responsibility and forcing conformity, they can cause their members a great deal of suffering and despair and can perpetuate acts of cruelty”. There are various factors affecting the individual in the group, But before explaining that we are going to analyze a theory that explains what effect a group has on the individual.

HAWTHORNE'S THEORY (Human relations approach)

The theory that explains the effect of groups on the individual's behavior and performance is the Hawthorne experiment of the human relations theory written by Elton Moyo (Mullins 2002). The experiment is called the bank wiring observation room experiment; the experiment was carried out on 14 men who were organized into three subgroups which contained three wires, a supervisor and an inspector that moved around the group (Moorhead and Griffin 1995). After the study there were two major findings;

1) The level of interaction that was observed among the men showed the existence of informal groups within the three groups and,

2) It was also revealed that these groups develop norms or rules that guides behavior and also set structures to enforce the rules (Moorhead and Griffin 1995)

The hawthorns researcher found that the group established a level of output for its members (Mullins 2002). They found out that the group did not produce up to what they are capable of producing; they produced below their capability which had effect on their earning because their output was low(Moor head and Griffin 1995). The group produced a specific level of output for its members which are the only accepted level of production, in other to be accepted the individual has to slow down production when getting close to the accepted level of production in other not to over produce (Moorhead and Griffin 1995).

Moorhead and Griffin (1995) discuss the work of Roethlisberger and Dickson (1939) who points out that “The social organization of the bank wiremen performed a twofold function which is to protect the group from internal indiscretions and to protect the group from outside interference”. Moorhead and Griffin (1995) also points out that almost all the activities carried out by the group can be said to be a means of controlling the behavior of its members. The research shows that peer pressure has more effect on the individual than things that may encourage the individual and forces of control or orders from management, individuals would rather do things required by the group than doing things that would encourage or reward their actions (Mullins 2002). This theory shows how working in a group can be both challenging an rewarding for the individuals which leads us to the factors affecting the performance and behavior of the individual in the group.


Group norms

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Norms according to Greenberg and Baron (2008) can be defined as “the generally agreed upon informal rules that guides the behavior of the members in a group”. Norms influence group behavior and refer to what should be done and also represents value judgment and appropriate behavior in social situations (Psyblog 2010). Norms are of great importance to groups in controlling behavior and in measuring performance (Hanh 2007). Groups have norms that are set to guide member's behavior (Greenberg and Baron 2008) and also to reduce ambiguity in terms of behavior that are of importance to the group (Rollinson 2005). Norms are set up in groups which the individual must conform with and groups have ways of making the individual conform to such norms (Rollinson 2005). Norms keeps the group functioning as a system instead of as a collection of individuals and members of the group come together to achieve a common goal instead of pursing individual groups (Hanh 2007). Groups do not set rules or norm for every situation but only set rules for situations that are of importance to the members of the group which could be in relation to their job or how they communicate with each other or with others outside the group (Hanh 2007).

Group norms makes life predictable, individuals know what is expected of them, know their roles and how much time to spend in the execution of their job, know the values and beliefs and the image of the group, and subscribe to the norms of the group (Rollinson 2005). Norms are usually assessed to know if group members are interacting with each other which can be rewarding and which gives the individuals a sense of belonging (Heathfield 2010). Group members come together to develop the group norms which gives the individual a feeling of belonging, sense of identity and feelings of security because they were part of the making of the rules (Brooks 2005). Norms are believed to be of importance because some members may harm the project or the success of the group with their behavior or action unintentionally but if there is agreed upon framework of interaction, misunderstandings and negative conflicts in the group can be prevented (Heathfield 2010).

However, group norms can have negative effect on the individual (Armstrong 2009). According to Psyblog (2010) who argues that “groups rarely come up with great ideas because the individual in them are powerfully shaped by group norms and the rules of what people are and how they must behave” it is believed that changes are hard to spot unless they are carefully measured, individuals deny their own beliefs, ideas and senses just to conform with the groups even if they are wrong (Psyblog 2010).it is believed that, Norms serves as a form of constraint to the individuals, it hinders them from thinking freely because they would not want to think outside the group norms or the group's way of doing things, individuals can not pursue their personal goal, can not see things from their point of view because it might clash with the goals of the group (Psyblog 2010).

Social Support

Social support according to Dalgard (2009) is “receiving help from other people when in need of help”. An individual can receive support among groups of people who have a similar problem to what they have and in their relationship with others be it their family or friends (Curtis 2009). Curtis (2009) argues that” if you have a support network you will not feel as alone; you will learn new ways to deal with your problem and may try harder to overcome it”. Group members can serve as as a source of support, advice and encouragement to an individual facing any difficulty and also the individual can be a source of support to the group (Curtis 2009).

Individuals in a group can benefit from the members of the group while members who are not part of the group cannot enjoy such benefits, having friends to talk with, to gain insight from, to listen to during times of need or borrow money from, all this are forms of support (Scott 2007). Social support makes the individual safe and gives them a feeling of being loved and cared for (Rollinson 2005). In one of my experience when I was writing my final dissertation for my bachelor degree, I wrote on the societal support for the elderly people in my community and I had the privilege working with the elderly people in that community and I found out that most of them lack social support from their family and friends, in other to feel loved, feel secure or have a feeling that they belong they had to join a group with the believe that the group would be able to meet their needs.

Peer Pressure

Peer pressure is another factor that has effect on the behavior of the individual in the group. Peer pressure is when other people impose pressure on a person (Nemours 2010). Peers have influence over others, by listening to other people a person learns from them and they also learn from the individual (Nemours 2010). Some individuals usually join groups in other to fit in, so in other to fit in the individual goes along with the idea of the group and sets aside their idea and go along with the group's idea to avoid being bullied by the other members of the group (Nemours 2010). However, peer pressure can have a positive impact on the individual because it can push the individual into doing the things they have no courage of doing or talking the individual out of doing things that's not in their best interest (Wilmer 2010).

Individual Accountability

Individual accountability can be defined as “an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for ones action” (McDaniel 2007). Individual accountability is a foundational component as it evaluates an individual core competence, strength and weaknesses (McDaniel 2007). It's the individual taking responsibility for their action in carrying out their duty or them being accountable for their duties (McDaniel 2007). The individual must be accountable for achieving its goal and for its contribution to the group, individual accountability occurs when performance is assessed and the result are given back to the group and the individual in other to ascertain who needs more support, encouragement and assistance (Cooperate learning center 2009). Accountability is not to punish mistake or to generate immediate result but to ensure the individual gives all their best in the achievement of goals and behaving responsible to one another (Luthans 2002). By empowering them over job performance and then holding them accountable for the outcomes (Newstrom 2007).


Rollinson (2005:401) defines conflict as “the behavior of an individual or a group when purposely sets to block or inhibit another group or individual from achieving its goals”. Competition is one of the main causes of conflict in a group, when the members of a group are in competition against each other it can lead to conflicting interest (Rollonson 2005). Some groups encourage competition because they believe that when members of the group compete against each other it will result to successful performance or quick performance but mostly it might lead to conflict (Rollinson 2005). However, Vodosek (2007) argues that “Researchers have noted that high level of task conflict can lead to reduced member satisfaction and commitment to the group”

Individual have different interest, skills, personality and attributes which may act as cohesion or a clash in the group (Brooks 2009). Some individuals tend to work towards achieving personal goals by doing so they tend to ignore the goals of the group and focus more on achieving their personal goals which might lead to conflict in the group (Newstrom 2007).


It can be assumed that, groups have both positive and negative effect on the individual, and for the individual, being a member of a group can be rewarding as well as challenging as working alone. Working alone as an individual might lead to a quick decision making but working in a group can lead to a more effective decision making, because it is a group of people with different ideas, perception, attributes and behavior coming together to form the group (Rollinson 2001), also the individual can also learn from the other members of the group. However, it is believed that there is no ideal individual for a particular job, that no individual can have all the necessary qualities needed for a job but a group of individuals can, and when they come together with their different qualities it can lead to a successful decision making (Antony Jay, cited by Mullins 2002).


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