Learning Objectives

Define little group communication.Discuss the characteristics of little groups.Explain the features of small groups.Compare and also contrast different species of little groups.Discuss benefits and flaw of little groups.

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Most that the communication skills discussed in this book are directed toward dyadic communication, an interpretation that castle are used in two-person interactions. While plenty of of these skills can be moved to and used in little group contexts, the more complex nature of team interaction necessitates part adaptation and also some added skills. Small group interaction refers come interactions among three or much more people who are linked through a usual purpose, mutual influence, and also a common identity. In this section, we will learn about the characteristics, functions, and varieties of tiny groups.

Characteristics of small Groups

Different teams have different characteristics, serve different purposes, and can result in positive, neutral, or negative experiences. While our interpersonal relationships primarily emphasis on connection building, little groups usually focus on some type of task completion or score accomplishment. A college learning ar focused ~ above math and science, a project team because that a state senator, and also a team of local organic farmers are instances of little groups that would all have a different size, structure, identity, and interaction pattern.

Size of little Groups

There is no set number of members because that the ideal little group. A little group needs a minimum the three human being (because two people would be a pair or dyad), but the upper variety of group size is random on the objective of the group. When teams grow beyond fifteen to twenty members, that becomes difficult to consider them a little group based on the vault definition. An evaluation of the variety of unique connections between members of small groups mirrors that they room deceptively complex. Because that example, in ~ a six-person group, there room fifteen separate potential dyadic connections, and a twelve-person team would have actually sixty-six potential dyadic relations (Hargie, 2011). As you can see, as soon as we dual the variety of group members, we much more than twin the variety of connections, which reflects that network link points in small groups grow greatly as membership increases. So, while over there is no collection upper border on the number of group members, it renders sense the the number of group members have to be limited to those necessary to attain the score or serve the purpose of the group. Little groups that include too many members boost the potential for group members to feeling overwhelmed or disconnected.

Structure of small Groups

Internal and external influences influence a group’s structure. In state of inner influences, member characteristics play a function in initial team formation. For instance, a human who is well informed about the group’s task and/or highly motivated as a team member may arise as a leader and collection into motion interior decision-making processes, such together recruiting new members or assigning group roles, that impact the structure of a group (Ellis & Fisher, 1994). Different members will likewise gravitate toward different roles within the group and will advocate for certain procedures and also naipublishers.com of activity over others. External components such as team size, task, and also resources also affect group structure. Some groups will have an ext control over these external determinants through decision making 보다 others. Because that example, a commission the is put together by a legislative body to look at into honest violations in athletic establishments will likely have less regulate over the external determinants than a self-created weekly publication club.

A self-formed study group likely has a an ext flexible structure than a city council committee.

William Rotza – group – CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Group structure is likewise formed through formal and also informal network connections. In regards to formal networks, groups may have plainly defined roles and responsibilities or a hierarchy that shows exactly how members are connected. The group itself may likewise be a part of one organizational pecking order that networks the team into a larger organizational structure. This form of formal network is specifically important in groups that have to report to exterior stakeholders. These outside stakeholders may influence the group’s formal network, leaving the group small or no control over that structure. Conversely, groups have much more control over their informal networks, which are connections amongst individuals within the group and amongst group members and also people exterior of the group that no official. Because that example, a group member’s friend or family member may have the ability to secure a room to organize a fundraiser at a discounted rate, which helps the group accomplish its task. Both varieties of networks space important since they may assist facilitate information exchange within a group and extend a group’s reach in stimulate to accessibility other resources.

Size and also structure also affect communication in ~ a group (Ellis & Fisher, 1994). In regards to size, the an ext people in a group, the more issues v scheduling and also coordination of communication. Remember that time is crucial resource in most team interactions and also a resource that is typically strained. Structure deserve to increase or decrease the flow of communication. Reachability describes the means in i m sorry one member is or isn’t linked to other group members. For example, the “Circle” team structure in figure 13.1 “Small team Structures” shows that each group member is linked to two other members. This have the right to make coordination easy when only one or two civilization need to be brought in for a decision. In this case, Erik and also Callie are really reachable by Winston, who could easily coordinate v them. However, if Winston required to coordinate through Bill or Stephanie, that would need to wait on Erik or Callie to reach that person, which can create delays. The circle can be a great structure for teams who room passing follow me a task and in which each member is supposed to progressively develop on the others’ work. A group of scholars coauthoring a research record may job-related in together a manner, with each person adding to the paper and then passing that on to the next human being in the circle. In this case, they have the right to ask the previous person questions and write v the next person’s area of expertise in mind. The “Wheel” team structure in number 13.1 “Small group Structures” shows an alternative organization pattern. In this structure, Tara is very reachable by all members the the group. This can be a valuable structure as soon as Tara is the human with the most expertise in the job or the leader who requirements to review and also approve work at every step prior to it is passed along to other group members. However Phillip and Shadow, because that example, wouldn’t most likely work together without Tara gift involved.

Figure 13.1 little Group Structures


Looking in ~ the group structures, we deserve to make part assumptions around the interaction that takes place in them. The wheel is an instance of a centralized structure, when the one is decentralized. Study has presented that central groups are far better than decentralized groups in terms of speed and efficiency (Ellis & Fisher, 1994). Yet decentralized teams are an ext effective at solving complex problems. In centralized groups favor the wheel, the human with the many connections, person C, is also more likely to be the leader of the team or at least have an ext status among group members, largely because that person has a broad perspective of what’s going ~ above in the group. The most main person can also act as a gatekeeper. Due to the fact that this person has accessibility to the many information, i beg your pardon is usually a authorize of management or status, he or she might consciously decision to limit the flow of information. But in facility tasks, that human being could come to be overwhelmed by the load of processing and also sharing information with every the other group members. The circle structure is much more likely to emerge in teams where collaboration is the goal and a particular task and also course of activity isn’t compelled under time constraints. When the human who initiated the group or has actually the most expertise in regards come the job may emerge as a leader in a decentralized group, the equal access to details lessens the hierarchy and potential for gatekeeping that is current in the more central groups.


Small groups exhibit interdependence, definition they re-superstructure a common purpose and a common fate. If the action of one or two team members bring about a group deviating from or no achieving their purpose, then all members of the team are affected. Conversely, if the action of only a couple of of the group members cause success, then every members that the team benefit. This is a significant contributor to many college students’ dislike of team assignments, since they feeling a ns of control and also independence the they have when they complete an assignment alone. This worry is valid in the their grades can suffer since of the an adverse actions the someone else or their difficult work might go to advantage the team member who simply skated by. Team meeting attendance is a clear example of the interdependent nature of team interaction. Numerous of us have actually arrived at a group meeting only to find half of the members present. In some cases, the group members who display up have to leave and reschedule since they can’t attain their job without the various other members present. Team members that attend meetings but withdraw or don’t participate can likewise derail team progress. Although it have the right to be frustrating to have actually your job, grade, or reputation partially dependent ~ above the plot of others, the interdependent nature of teams can additionally lead come higher-quality performance and output, specifically when team members are accountable for your actions.

Shared Identity

The shared identity of a group manifests in number of ways. Groups may have actually official charters or mission and also vision statements that lay out the identity of a group. For example, the Girl reconnaissance mission states that “Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence, and character, that make the people a better place” (Girl Scouts, 2012). The mission for this large organization impacts the identities of the thousands of little groups referred to as troops. Team identity is often formed around a common goal and/or ahead accomplishments, which add to dynamism come the group as it looks toward the future and ago on the previous to inform its present. Shared identity can additionally be displayed through team names, slogans, songs, handshakes, clothing, or other symbols. At a family members reunion, for example, corresponding t-shirts specially produced the occasion, dishes made from recipes passed under from generation to generation, and shared story of family members that have actually passed away help establish a common identity and social reality.

A an essential element the the development of a shared identification within a group is the facility of the in-group together opposed to the out-group. The level to i m sorry members re-superstructure in the in-group identity varies from human to person and also group come group. Even within a family, part members might not to visit a reunion or acquire as excited about the equivalent t-shirts together others. Mutual identity also emerges as groups come to be cohesive, meaning they identify with and also like the group’s task and other group members. The existence of cohesion and also a shared identity leads come a structure of trust, i beg your pardon can additionally positively affect productivity and members’ satisfaction.

Functions of little Groups

Why do we join groups? also with the difficulties of group membership that we have actually all faced, we still look for out and also desire to be a part of many groups. In part cases, we sign up with a group since we need a service or access to information. We may additionally be attracted to a group because we admire the group or that is members. Whether we are conscious of that or not, ours identities and self-concepts are constructed on the teams with which us identify. So, come answer the earlier question, we join groups since they role to aid us meet instrumental, interpersonal, and identity needs.

Groups satisfy Instrumental Needs

Groups have long served the critical needs of humans, helping v the most an easy elements of survival since ancient humans very first evolved. Groups helped humans survive by giving security and protection through increased numbers and access to resources. Today, groups are hardly ever such a issue of life and death, however they tho serve essential instrumental functions. Labor unions, because that example, swimming pool efforts and also resources to attain material defense in the type of salary increases and also health services for their members, i beg your pardon protects them by offering a stable and also dependable livelihood. Individual team members must likewise work to secure the important needs that the group, creating a reciprocal relationship. Members of labor unions salary dues that aid support the group’s efforts. Some groups also meet our informational needs. Although they might not provide material resources, castle enrich our understanding or administer information that we deserve to use come then meet our own instrumental needs. Plenty of groups carry out referrals to sources or market advice. Because that example, several customer protection and also advocacy teams have been developed to offer referrals for people who have been the victim the fraudulent service practices. Even if it is a group creates to carry out services come members that they couldn’t gain otherwise, advocate for changes that will influence members’ lives, or carry out information, many groups accomplish some type of instrumental need.

Groups meet Interpersonal Needs

Group member meets interpersonal requirements by providing us accessibility to inclusion, control, and also support. In terms of inclusion, people have a an essential drive to be a part of a group and to create and maintain social bonds. As we’ve learned, people have constantly lived and also worked in tiny groups. Family and also friendship groups, shared-interest groups, and activity groups all provide us with a feeling of belonging and being contained in one in-group. People additionally join groups due to the fact that they want to have some regulate over a decision-making process or to affect the outcome of a group. Being a part of a group enables people come share opinions and also influence others. Conversely, some human being join a team to it is in controlled, since they don’t want to it is in the single decision an equipment or leader and instead desire to be provided a duty to follow.

Just together we get in into interpersonal relationships due to the fact that we favor someone, us are drawn toward a group when we space attracted come it and/or that members. Teams also administer support because that others in methods that supplement the support that we obtain from far-reaching others in interpersonal relationships. Part groups, like therapy groups for survivors of sexual attack or support teams for civilization with cancer, exist mainly to administer emotional support. If these teams may additionally meet important needs through connections and also referrals to resources, they accomplish the interpersonal need for belonging that is a central human need.

Groups satisfy Identity Needs

Our affiliations are building blocks because that our identities, because group membership permits us to use reference teams for social comparison—in short, identify us with some groups and characteristics and also separating united state from others. Some civilization join teams to it is in affiliated with human being who share comparable or desirable features in regards to beliefs, attitudes, values, or social identities. Because that example, people may sign up with the nationwide Organization because that Women because they want to affiliate with others who assistance women’s rights or a regional chapter of the national Association because that the development of Colored human being (NAACP) since they desire to affiliate v African Americans, people pertained to with civil rights, or a combination of the two. Group memberships vary in state of just how much they impact our identity, as part are more prominent 보다 others at assorted times in our lives. While religious groups together a entirety are too large to be considered small groups, the occupational that civilization do as a part of a spiritual community—as a place leader, deacon, member the a prayer group, or committee—may have deep ties to a who identity.

Group membership helps accomplish our interpersonal needs by offering an opportunity for affection and also inclusion.

Lostintheredwoods – Spiral of hands – CC BY-ND 2.0.

The reputation of a team can initially attract us due to the fact that we want that group’s identification to “rub off” on our very own identity. Likewise, the achievements we make as a group member deserve to enhance our self-esteem, add to our reputation, and permit us to develop or project certain identity attributes to connect in impression management. For example, a human being may take numerous tests to come to be a part of Mensa, i m sorry is an organization for world with high IQs, for no material gain but for the recognition or sense of accomplishment that the affiliation may bring. Likewise, people may join sports teams, skilled organizations, and also honor societies for the sense of success and affiliation. Such groups allow us avenues to much better ourselves by encouraging further breakthrough of an abilities or knowledge. Because that example, a human being who used to pat the oboe in high institution may sign up with the neighborhood band to continue to boost on his or her ability.

Types of tiny Groups

There are many types of little groups, but the many common distinction made between types of small groups is that of task-oriented and also relational-oriented teams (Hargie, 2011). Task-oriented teams are created to deal with a problem, promote a cause, or generate principles or details (McKay, Davis, & Fanning, 1995). In together groups, favor a committee or examine group, interactions and also decisions are mainly evaluated based on the top quality of the final product or output. The 3 main types of work are production, discussion, and problem-solving jobs (Ellis & Fisher, 1994). Groups challenged with production work are asked to produce something tangible from their team interactions such as a report, style for a playground, musical performance, or fundraiser event. Groups confronted with discussion tasks are asked come talk with something without trying to come up through a right or dorn answer. Examples of this form of group incorporate a support team for world with HIV/AIDS, a book club, or a group for brand-new fathers. Groups faced with problem-solving tasks need to devise a course of activity to meet a specific need. These groups additionally usually encompass a production and discussion component, yet the end goal isn’t necessarily a tangible product or a mutual social reality through discussion. Instead, the end goal is a well-thought-out idea. Task-oriented teams require honed problem-solving skills to attain goals, and the framework of these teams is much more rigid 보다 that the relational-oriented groups.

Relational-oriented groups are formed to promote interpersonal connections and also are much more focused on quality interactions that add to the well-being of team members. Decision make is directed at increase or repairing relationships quite than completing discrete tasks or debating specific ideas or naipublishers.com of action. Every groups include task and also relational elements, therefore it’s finest to think of this orientations as two ends that a continuum quite than together mutually exclusive. Because that example, although a family unit functions together everyday to attain tasks like acquiring the kids ready for school and also friendship groups may setup a surprised party for one of the members, your primary and most coherent interactions are still relational. Because other chapters in this publication focus specifically on interpersonal relationships, this chapter focuses more on task-oriented groups and the dynamics that run within these groups.

To an ext specifically look in ~ the species of small groups the exist, we can examine why groups form. Some groups are formed based on interpersonal relationships. Ours family and friends are considered primary groups, or long-lasting teams that space formed based upon relationships and include far-ranging others. These room the small groups in i m sorry we connect most frequently. They type the communication of our society and our individual social realities. Kinship networks provide important support at an early stage in life and also meet physiological and also safety needs, i beg your pardon are important for survival. They also meet higher-order needs such as social and also self-esteem needs. When people do not interact with their organic family, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, they can develop fictive kinship networks, which room composed of people who room not biologically related yet fulfill household roles and also help carry out the very same support.

We also interact in many second groups, i beg your pardon are defined by less constant face-to-face interactions, less emotional and relational communication, and more task-related interaction than primary groups (Barker, 1991). While us are an ext likely to get involved in second groups based on self-interest, ours primary-group interactions room often an ext reciprocal or various other oriented. For example, us may join groups because of a shared interest or need.

Groups formed based on shared interest encompass social teams and recreation groups such together a group of independent movie buffs, science fiction fans, or bird watchers. Part groups type to accomplish the needs of people or the a certain group of people. Instances of teams that accomplish the needs of individuals incorporate study teams or support teams like a weight loss group. These teams are concentrated on separation, personal, instance needs, also though they satisfy as a group, and also they are additionally often conversation oriented. Organization groups, top top the other hand, work to fulfill the demands of individuals but are task oriented. Company groups include Habitat because that Humanity and Rotary society chapters, amongst others. Still various other groups kind around a common need, and also their primary task is advocacy. For example, the gay Men’s Health situation is a team that was developed by a tiny group the eight world in the early on 1980s to advocate for resources and also support because that the still relatively unknown an illness that would later be recognized as AIDS. Similar groups form to advocate for every little thing from a stop sign in ~ a community intersection to the finish of human being trafficking.

As we currently learned, other groups are created primarily to attain a task. Teams room task-oriented groups in i m sorry members are specifically loyal and committed to the task and other group members (Larson & LaFasto, 1989). In professional and also civic contexts, words team has come to be popularized together a way of drawing on the hopeful connotations that the term—connotations such together “high-spirited,” “cooperative,” and also “hardworking.” scholar who have spent years examining highly effective teams have established several typical factors related to their success. Effective teams have (Adler & Elmhorst, 2005)

clear and inspiring mutual goals,a results-driven structure,competent team members,a collaborative climate,high requirements for performance,external support and recognition, andethical and accountable leadership.

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Increasingly, little groups and also teams space engaging in more virtual interaction. Virtual groups take advantage of brand-new technologies and also meet exclusively or primarily online to achieve their function or goal. Some virtual groups may finish their task without ever being physically face-to-face. Digital groups carry with lock distinct advantages and disadvantages that you can read more about in the “Getting Plugged In” feature next.