Groups and Organization

Humans are social creatures who interact together in groups including family, friends, social, business, and religious associations. Different social groups will impact our behavior be it the informal groups or the formal groups such as large bureaucracies. Understanding the characteristics and dynamics of these groups are important. (Murray, Linden, Kendal 2012, 102)

What constitutes a group? Can people waiting at the bus stop or persons waiting to be interviewed for a job be considered groups? In everyday language we would say group are a collection of people however Sociologist says that those are not considered groups but can be classified as aggregates or categories.

“A Social Group is a collection of two or more people who interact frequently with one another, share a sense of belonging, and have a feeling of interdependence.” (Murray etal, 2012, 102). This should not be confused with Aggregates and Categories.

An aggregate is a collection of people who happen to be in the same place at the same time but have little else in common for example people standing at the bus stop. A Category consists of a number of people who may never have met one another but who share a similar characteristic, for example Male and Female.

Categories are not social groups because the people in them usually do not create a social structure or have anything in common other than a particular trait. Persons in aggregates and categories can form social groups, with frequent interaction and development of mutual interests and concerns, which develop a sense of belonging to the group.

Social groups can also change over time into formal organizations with a specific structure and clear goals (pg. 103)

Types of Groups

Primary and Secondary Groups

Charles Cooley (1962/1909), a sociologist, described the term primary groups as a small, less specialized group in which members engage in face-to-face emotion-based interactions over an extended time. Primary groups include close personal relationships such as our significant other, friends and family.(pg 103)

“Secondary groups are larger and more specialized groups in which members engage in more impersonal, goal-oriented relationships for a limited time.” (Murray etal, 2012, 103) Formal organizations such as Universities, Factories and corporations are considered secondary groups. The size of a secondary group may vary and can evolve from a secondary group to a primary group over time with the interaction of the individuals. (pg 103) group) groups) (people at work secondary group)

Ingroups and Outgroups

Within groups are boundaries that determines who are members and who are not asWilliam Graham Summer (1959/1906) coined the terms ingroup and outgroup to describe people’s feelings toward members of their own and other groups.

“An Ingroup is a group to which a person belongs and with which the person feels a sense of identity.”(Murray etal, 103)

“An Outgroup is a group to which a person does not belong and toward whichthe person may feel a sense of competiveness or hostility.”(Murray etal, 103)×225.jpg( out groups)

Understanding Ingroups and Outgroups helps us to better understand who we are as individuals. All groups have boundaries that may be formal or informal. Formal boundaries could include specific criteria for membership, for example, in country clubs you may need to be a university graduate, required to pay a membership fees or need recommendation for membership.

Informal boundaries for friendship groups usually do not have clear guidelines for membership instead boundaries tend to be very informal and vaguely defined. For example, being friends with persons who share similar values, dress in a particular way or even speaks a different language.

“Ingroups and Outgroups distinctions may encourage social cohesion among members, but they also may promote racism, classism, sexism and ageism. Ingroup members typically view themselves positively and may view members of Outgroups negatively. These feelings of group superiority or ethnocentrism can be very detrimental to groups and individuals who are not part of the Ingroup. Sexual harassment and racial discrimination are two of the negative consequences of ethnocentrism.” (Murray etal, 103-104)

Reference Groups

“Reference group is a group that strongly influences a person’s behavior and social attitudes, regardless of whether that individual is an actual member.” (Murray etal, 104) When we attempt to set our goals and path in life we all tend to make reference to the standards of some group to help us in our choices be it the family, friends, groups we may want to join in the future such as a social club or a profession, for example wanting to be a doctor or the Prime Minister or President of a country. reference groups) (reference groups) (reference Groups)


“A network is a web of social relationships that links one person with other people and, through them, additional people.” (Murray etal, 104) Networks connect people who share common interest but who otherwise might not interact with one another. Examples include looking for a job and a friend or family member recommends you for that vacancy, it also includes social networks for job searching such as Linked in, Face book, church groups or clubs.

The power of network was described in an experiment performed over 30 years ago by a social scientist, Stanley Milgram (1976). He sent packages of letters to people in the Midwestern United States. The goal was to get the letters to one of two target recipients in Boston using personal contacts. Persons were given the name of the person and that they were a Boston stockbroker or the wife of a Harvard divinity student. They were told to mail the letter to an acquaintance who they think would be able to pass it on to the intended target. It took an average of five contacts to get the letter to the intended recipient.