Types of Groups

Cite this article as:"Types of Groups," in The Business Professor, updated April 13, 2020, last accessed June 4, 2020, https://thebusinessprofessor.com/lesson/types-of-groups/.

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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.

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