Back to: Business Management
What are the Types of Groups?
Groups can be classified based on how they form, size, function, composition, and authority. Some of the primary classifications include:
Formal and Informal Groups
A formal workgroup is generally formed pursuant to the directive of superiors or part of an organizational hierarchy. A formal group has a defined purpose that is understood by the group. In an organization, the objectives of a group are to further the organizational objectives. Formal groups may have any of the following purposes:
- Accomplishing a predefined task
- Creating synergy among the activities of individuals.
- Facilitating the decision-making process – either by ideating, conducting research, providing input, or making the decision.
- Expanding knowledge or acquiring new information, skills, or ability.
- Creating social affiliation or acceptance.
Common types of formal group are:
- Boards of Directors – A group made up of senior leaders in the organization.
- Committees – There are generally formal groups designed to research and address on-going organizational needs.
- Task Forces – These are generally formal groups designed to address specific situational or organizational issues.
Primary and Secondary Groups
A Primary Group is a small group made up of closely-related individuals who share a strong personal relationship characterized by high levels of interaction and cooperation. These might include family members, friends, and certain social groups (such as a close-knit religious group).
A Secondary Group is a formal group whose relationship is related to the completion of a specific task. These types of groups generally are not emotionally connected. That is, they do not have a vested interest is the emotional stability of others. Business groups, political associations, community service groups are examples of secondary groups.
Membership and Reference Groups
A Membership Group is one that an individual joins or there is a formal process for belonging to the group – such as signing up or paying dues.
A Reference Group is a group where membership is a result of personal identification as a member of that group. For example, being a member of a religious or political group is often a result of nominal affiliation. There is no requirement for active involvement or a formal process for being a member.
Command and Task Groups
A Command Group is a group in which there is a formalized structure with superiors and subordinates. Superiors issue commands or orders that are to be followed by the subordinates.
A Task Group is not characterized by a hierarchical structure. It generally involves a group of mostly co-equals who come together for the purpose of addressing a situation or task. While there may be a leader or superior in the group, the primary function is not one of command and control.
In-groups and Out-groups
An In-group is a collection of individuals who hold a higher social status than those who are excluded from the group. For example, this can be the most populous demographic group in a society (the racial, ethnic, or religious majority).
An Out-Group refers to a collection of individuals who have common social characteristics or who are a common social status. They tend to be marginalized or less valued within the relevant society as compared to the in-group.