When girlfriend think of little groups, you most likely think the the much dreaded “group assignment” that you’ve withstood in high school and college. Girlfriend are less likely to think the the plenty of other groups to which girlfriend belong the bring an ext positive experiences, such together your family and also friendship groups or shared-interest groups. Group interaction scholars room so conscious of this common negative sentiment towards group communication that lock coined the ax grouphate to describe it.Susan M. Sorensen, “Group-Hate: A an adverse Reaction to team Work” (paper gift at the annual meeting of the International interaction Association, Minneapolis, MN, May, 1981). Little groups, however, aren’t simply entities meant to torture students; they have actually served a central purpose in human history and evolution. Groups make it easier for us to finish a wide range of tasks; aid us establish coherent social bonds; and help us create, maintain, and adjust our sense of self.Owen Hargie, Skilled Interpersonal Interaction: Research, Theory, and Practice, 5th ed. (London: Routledge, 2011), 433. An unfavorable group experiences are often exacerbated through a absence of knowledge around group communication processes. We are simply expected to know just how to job-related in teams without lot instruction or practice. This lack of knowledge about group communication can lead to an unfavorable group interactions, which creates a negative cycle the perpetuates further negative experiences. Fortunately, just like other locations of communication, accuse in group communication can boost people’s an abilities and increase people’s satisfaction v their team experiences.

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13.1 Understanding little Groups

Learning Objectives

Define tiny group communication. Talk about the features of tiny groups. Describe the functions of little groups. Compare and contrast different species of tiny groups. Discuss benefits and defect of small groups.

Most that the communication an abilities discussed in this publication are directed toward dyadic communication, an interpretation that castle are applied in two-person interactions. While plenty of of these skills can be moved to and used in small group contexts, the more complex nature of group interaction necessitates part adaptation and also some additional skills. Tiny group communicationInteractions amongst three or more people that are linked through a common purpose, shared influence, and a mutual identity. Refers to interactions among three or much more people that are associated through a usual purpose, mutual influence, and also a mutual identity. In this section, we will certainly learn about the characteristics, functions, and varieties of tiny groups.

Characteristics of small Groups

Different teams have various characteristics, serve different purposes, and also can bring about positive, neutral, or an unfavorable experiences. While our interpersonal relationship primarily focus on partnership building, little groups usually focus on some sort of job completion or goal accomplishment. A university learning community focused on math and science, a campaign team for a state senator, and also a team of regional organic farmer are examples of tiny groups that would certainly all have a different size, structure, identity, and also interaction pattern.

Size of small Groups

There is no set number of members for the ideal small group. A small group calls for a minimum of three human being (because two people would be a pair or dyad), but the upper selection of team size is arbitrarily on the objective of the group. When teams grow past fifteen come twenty members, the becomes complicated to think about them a small group based upon the previous definition. An analysis of the number of unique connections in between members of little groups mirrors that they space deceptively complex. For example, within a six-person group, there are fifteen different potential dyadic connections, and also a twelve-person team would have actually sixty-six potential dyadic connections.Owen Hargie, Skilled Interpersonal Interaction: Research, Theory, and Practice, fifth ed. (London: Routledge, 2011), 452–53. As you can see, as soon as we twin the number of group members, we more than twin the number of connections, which shows that network connection points in little groups grow exponentially as member increases. So, while there is no collection upper limit on the number of group members, it renders sense the the number of group members need to be limited to those vital to achieve the score or serve the function of the group. Tiny groups that add too many members boost the potential for group members to feeling overwhelmed or disconnected.

Structure of tiny Groups

Internal and external influences influence a group’s structure. In terms of inner influences, member attributes play a function in initial team formation. For instance, a human who is fine informed around the group’s job and/or highly encouraged as a team member may arise as a leader and collection into motion inner decision-making processes, such as recruiting brand-new members or assigning group roles, that impact the structure of a group.Donald G. Ellis and B. Aubrey Fisher, Small team Decision Making: Communication and also the team Process, 4th ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1994), 57. Various members will likewise gravitate toward different roles in ~ the group and will advocate for certain procedures and also courses of activity over others. External factors such as group size, task, and resources also influence group structure. Some groups will have more control over these external determinants through decision making 보다 others. For example, a commission the is placed together by a legislative human body to look into ethical violations in athletic institutions will likely have actually less manage over that external factors than a self-created weekly book club.


A self-formed study group likely has actually a an ext flexible structure than a city the supervisory board committee.

Group structure is also formed v formal and also informal network connections. In terms of formal networks, groups may have plainly defined roles and also responsibilities or a pecking order that shows exactly how members space connected. The team itself may also be a component of an organizational power structure that networks the team into a bigger organizational structure. This kind of official network is especially important in groups that have to report to outside stakeholders. These external stakeholders may influence the group’s official network, leaving the group small or no manage over its structure. Conversely, teams have much more control over their informal networks, which room connections amongst individuals within the group and amongst group members and people outside of the team that aren’t official. For example, a group member’s girlfriend or loved one may have the ability to secure a an are to hold a fundraiser in ~ a discounted rate, which helps the group accomplish its task. Both types of networks space important due to the fact that they may assist facilitate details exchange in ~ a group and extend a group’s reach in order to access other resources.

Size and structure also influence communication in ~ a group.Donald G. Ellis and B. Aubrey Fisher, Small group Decision Making: Communication and the team Process, 4th ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1994), 66–74. In regards to size, the more people in a group, the much more issues v scheduling and also coordination of communication. Remember the time is vital resource in most group interactions and also a resource that is generally strained. Structure have the right to increase or diminish the circulation of communication. Reachability describes the method in i m sorry one member is or isn’t linked to other group members. For example, the “Circle” group structure in number 13.1 "Small team Structures" shows that each team member is linked to two other members. This can make coordination easy when only one or two people need to be carried in for a decision. In this case, Erik and also Callie are really reachable through Winston, who could easily coordinate v them. However, if Winston required to coordinate with Bill or Stephanie, that would have to wait on Erik or Callie come reach that person, which might create delays. The circle can be a good structure for groups who space passing along a task and also in which every member is supposed to progressively construct on the others’ work. A group of scholar coauthoring a research record may job-related in such a manner, with each person including to the paper and climate passing that on come the next person in the circle. In this case, they can ask the previous human being questions and write through the next person’s area of expertise in mind. The “Wheel” team structure in number 13.1 "Small group Structures" reflects an alternate organization pattern. In this structure, Tara is an extremely reachable by all members of the group. This have the right to be a valuable structure as soon as Tara is the person with the many expertise in the task or the leader who demands to review and approve job-related at every step prior to it is passed along to other team members. However Phillip and Shadow, for example, wouldn’t likely work together without Tara gift involved.

Figure 13.1 small Group Structures


Looking at the group structures, we deserve to make part assumptions about the communication that takes location in them. The wheel is an instance of a central structure, when the one is decentralized. Research has displayed that centralized groups are better than decentralized teams in terms of speed and efficiency.Donald G. Ellis and also B. Aubrey Fisher, Small team Decision Making: Communication and also the team Process, 4th ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1994), 68. However decentralized teams are more effective in ~ solving facility problems. In centralized groups prefer the wheel, the human being with the most connections, person C, is also an ext likely to be the leader of the group or at least have an ext status amongst group members, largely because that person has a wide perspective of those going on in the group. The most main person can also act as a gatekeeper. Because this human has accessibility to the many information, i m sorry is generally a sign of leadership or status, that or she could consciously decide to limit the flow of information. But in complicated tasks, that human being could come to be overwhelmed by the burden of processing and also sharing info with every the other team members. The circle framework is more likely to emerge in teams where collaboration is the goal and also a details task and course of activity isn’t compelled under time constraints. When the person who initiated the team or has the many expertise in regards come the task may emerge as a leader in a decentralized group, the equal access to info lessens the hierarchy and also potential for gatekeeping the is current in the more central groups.


Small groups exhibit interdependenceA characteristic of little groups that describes a common purpose and fate, an interpretation that each group member’s actions impact every other group member., meaning they share a typical purpose and a typical fate. If the action of one or two group members result in a team deviating from or no achieving their purpose, then all members that the team are affected. Whereas if the actions of only a couple of of the team members bring about success, then every members that the group benefit. This is a major contributor to many college students’ dislike of team assignments, because they feeling a lose of control and also independence that they have actually when they finish an assignment alone. This problem is valid in the their grades can suffer since of the negative actions that someone else or their tough work may go to benefit the team member who simply skated by. Team meeting attendance is a clear instance of the interdependent nature of group interaction. Numerous of us have arrived at a group meeting only to find fifty percent of the members present. In some cases, the team members who show up need to leave and reschedule since they can’t achieve their job without the various other members present. Team members that attend meetings but withdraw or don’t take part can additionally derail group progress. Although it can be frustrating to have actually your job, grade, or reputation partly dependent top top the action of others, the interdependent nature of groups can also lead to higher-quality performance and output, particularly when team members are accountable for your actions.

Shared Identity

The shared identification of a team manifests in number of ways. Teams may have official charters or mission and vision statements that lay out the identification of a group. Because that example, the Girl reconnaissance mission claims that “Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence, and character, that make the human being a far better place.”Girl Scouts, “Facts,” accessed July 15, 2012, http://www.girlscouts.org/who_we_are/facts. The mission for this big organization impacts the identities of the thousands of tiny groups dubbed troops. Team identity is often formed around a common goal and/or previous accomplishments, which to add dynamism to the team as that looks towards the future and earlier on the past to inform its present. Shared identity can also be exhibited through group names, slogans, songs, handshakes, clothing, or various other symbols. At a family reunion, because that example, corresponding t-shirts specially produced the occasion, dishes made from recipes passed down from generation to generation, and also shared story of household members that have passed away help establish a shared identity and also social reality.

A key element that the formation of a shared identity within a group is the establishment of the in-group as opposed come the out-group. The degree to which members share in the in-group identification varies from human being to person and group to group. Also within a family, part members may not to visit a reunion or obtain as excited about the corresponding t-shirts together others. Common identity also emerges as groups come to be cohesive, meaning they determine with and like the group’s task and also other team members. The existence of cohesion and a shared identity leads to a structure of trust, i beg your pardon can also positively influence productivity and also members’ satisfaction.

Functions of tiny Groups

Why execute we join groups? also with the difficulties of group membership that we have all faced, we still look for out and desire to it is in a part of many groups. In part cases, we join a group since we need a company or accessibility to information. Us may likewise be attracted to a group since we admire the group or the members. Whether we are conscious of that or not, ours identities and also self-concepts are built on the groups with which we identify. So, to answer the earlier question, we join groups because they duty to assist us satisfy instrumental, interpersonal, and also identity needs.

Groups fulfill Instrumental Needs

Groups have actually long offered the instrumental needs the humans, helping through the most straightforward elements of survive since ancient humans an initial evolved. Teams helped people survive by giving security and protection through increased numbers and accessibility to resources. Today, teams are seldom such a issue of life and also death, but they still serve necessary instrumental functions. Job unions, for example, pool efforts and also resources to obtain material security in the kind of pay increases and health services for your members, which protects lock by offering a stable and dependable livelihood. Individual group members must additionally work to secure the important needs that the group, producing a mutual relationship. Members of job unions salary dues that help support the group’s efforts. Part groups also meet ours informational needs. Return they might not administer material resources, castle enrich our expertise or provide information the we have the right to use come then meet our own critical needs. Plenty of groups provide referrals to resources or market advice. Because that example, several customer protection and also advocacy groups have been developed to offer referrals for people who have been the victim that fraudulent company practices. Even if it is a group forms to provide services to members that they couldn’t gain otherwise, advocate for alters that will affect members’ lives, or provide information, many groups accomplish some form of crucial need.

Groups satisfy Interpersonal Needs

Group member meets interpersonal demands by giving us accessibility to inclusion, control, and support. In terms of inclusion, world have a basic drive to be a component of a group and also to create and also maintain society bonds. Together we’ve learned, people have constantly lived and also worked in tiny groups. Family and friendship groups, shared-interest groups, and activity groups all carry out us v a feeling of belonging and being contained in an in-group. People also join groups due to the fact that they want to have some control over a decision-making procedure or to affect the outcome of a group. Being a part of a group enables people to share opinions and also influence others. Vice versa, some world join a group to it is in controlled, because they don’t desire to be the sole decision an equipment or leader and instead want to be given a role to follow.

Just as we go into into interpersonal relationships because we like someone, we are drawn toward a team when we are attracted come it and/or the members. Teams also carry out support for others in means that complement the support that we get from far-ranging others in interpersonal relationships. Part groups, favor therapy teams for survivors that sexual assault or support groups for human being with cancer, exist primarily to provide emotional support. When these groups may likewise meet instrumental needs through connections and referrals to resources, they fulfill the interpersonal require for belonging that is a main human need.

Groups satisfy Identity Needs

Our affiliations are building blocks for our identities, due to the fact that group membership allows us to use reference teams for social comparison—in short, identify us through some groups and characteristics and also separating united state from others. Some people join teams to be affiliated with world who share comparable or desirable attributes in terms of beliefs, attitudes, values, or social identities. For example, world may join the national Organization for Women due to the fact that they desire to affiliate through others who assistance women’s legal rights or a regional chapter the the nationwide Association for the breakthrough of Colored people (NAACP) since they desire to affiliate with African Americans, people concerned with civil rights, or a mix of the two. Team memberships vary in state of how much they influence our identity, as part are more prominent 보다 others at various times in our lives. While religious groups together a whole are too big to be considered small groups, the work-related that human being do together a component of a spiritual community—as a put leader, deacon, member the a prayer group, or committee—may have deep ties come a person’s identity.


Group membership helps meet our interpersonal needs by providing an possibility for affection and also inclusion.

The call of a group can initially tempt us since we desire that group’s identity to “rub off” ~ above our own identity. Likewise, the achievements we make together a group member deserve to enhance ours self-esteem, include to our reputation, and allow us to create or project particular identity qualities to interact in impression management. For example, a human being may take plenty of tests to come to be a component of Mensa, which is an company for people with high IQs, for no material gain yet for the acknowledgment or feeling of accomplishment that the affiliation may bring. Likewise, people may sign up with sports teams, expert organizations, and honor cultures for the sense of success and affiliation. Such groups allow us avenues to far better ourselves by encouraging further development of skills or knowledge. Because that example, a person who offered to play the oboe in high college may sign up with the neighborhood band to continue to boost on his or her ability.

Types of little Groups

There are many varieties of small groups, yet the many common distinction made between varieties of tiny groups is that of task-oriented and also relational-oriented groups.Owen Hargie, Skilled Interpersonal Interaction: Research, Theory, and Practice, 5th ed. (London: Routledge, 2011), 434. Task-oriented groupsGroups formed to solve a problem, promote a cause, or generate principles or information. Are developed to settle a problem, encourage a cause, or generate principles or information.Matthew McKay, Martha Davis, and Patrick Fanning, Messages: Communication an abilities Book, second ed. (Oakland, CA: new Harbinger Publications, 1995), 254. In such groups, favor a committee or study group, interactions and also decisions are mostly evaluated based upon the high quality of the final product or output. The three main species of work are production, discussion, and problem-solving tasks.Donald G. Ellis and B. Aubrey Fisher, Small group Decision Making: Communication and also the group Process, 4th ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1994), 44. Groups challenged with production work are asked to develop something tangible from their team interactions such as a report, style for a playground, music performance, or fundraiser event. Groups confronted with conversation tasks room asked to talk v something without trying to come up through a best or dorn answer. Examples of this type of group encompass a support group for human being with HIV/AIDS, a book club, or a team for brand-new fathers. Groups challenged with problem-solving tasks have to devise a course of activity to meet a certain need. These groups likewise usually include a production and also discussion component, but the finish goal no necessarily a tangible product or a common social reality through discussion. Instead, the finish goal is a well-thought-out idea. Task-oriented teams require honed problem-solving an abilities to accomplish goals, and the structure of these groups is more rigid 보다 that of relational-oriented groups.

Relational-oriented groupsGroups created to promote interpersonal connections and that are much more focused on top quality interactions that add to the health of team members. Are developed to promote interpersonal connections and are more focused on top quality interactions that add to the wellness of team members. Decision do is command at increase or repairing relationships rather than completing discrete work or debating specific ideas or courses of action. Every groups encompass task and relational elements, therefore it’s best to think of these orientations as two ends the a continuum quite than as mutually exclusive. For example, return a household unit works together day-to-day to accomplish tasks like acquiring the kids ready because that school and friendship teams may plan a surprise party for one of the members, their primary and also most systematic interactions room still relational. Due to the fact that other chapters in this publication focus particularly on interpersonal relationships, this thing focuses more on task-oriented groups and the dynamics that operate within this groups.

To much more specifically look in ~ the varieties of small groups the exist, we have the right to examine why groups form. Some teams are formed based upon interpersonal relationships. Our family and friends are considered primary groupsLong-lasting groups that are formed based upon relationships and include significant others., or long-lasting groups that space formed based on relationships and include far-ranging others. These room the small groups in which we connect most frequently. They kind the communication of our society and our individual social realities. Kinship networks administer important support at an early stage in life and meet physiological and safety needs, i beg your pardon are vital for survival. They additionally meet higher-order needs such together social and self-esteem needs. When world do not communicate with their biological family, even if it is voluntarily or involuntarily, lock can establish fictive kinship networks, which room composed of human being who are not biologically related however fulfill family members roles and help carry out the same support.

We additionally interact in many second groupsGroups defined by less regular face-to-face interactions, much less emotional and also relational communication, and an ext task-related communication than primary groups., i beg your pardon are defined by less constant face-to-face interactions, less emotional and also relational communication, and an ext task-related communication than major groups.David B. Barker, “The Behavioral evaluation of Interpersonal Intimacy in group Development,” Small group Research 22, no. 1 (1991): 79. While us are an ext likely to get involved in an additional groups based upon self-interest, our primary-group interactions are often an ext reciprocal or various other oriented. Because that example, us may join groups because of a common interest or need.

Groups formed based on shared interest incorporate social teams and leisure groups such together a team of independent film buffs, scientific research fiction fans, or bird watchers. Some groups type to meet the demands of individuals or the a particular group that people. Instances of teams that satisfy the needs of individuals include study teams or support groups like a weight loss group. These groups are focused on individual needs, even though they meet as a group, and also they are likewise often conversation oriented. Business groups, top top the various other hand, job-related to accomplish the needs of individuals yet are task oriented. Business groups include Habitat because that Humanity and Rotary club chapters, among others. Still various other groups kind around a common need, and their major task is advocacy. For example, the happy Men’s Health dilemm is a team that was created by a tiny group the eight civilization in the early on 1980s to advocate for resources and also support for the still reasonably unknown an illness that would later on be recognized as AIDS. Similar groups form to support for whatever from a protect against sign in ~ a ar intersection come the finish of human trafficking.

As we already learned, other groups are formed primarily to achieve a task. TeamsTask-oriented groups in i beg your pardon members are specifically loyal and specialized to the task and also other team members. Room task-oriented groups in which members are specifically loyal and dedicated to the task and other group members.Carl E. Larson and Frank M. J. LaFasto, TeamWork: What must Go Right/What must Go Wrong (Newbury Park, CA: Sage, 1989), 73. In professional and civic contexts, the word team has come to be popularized as a way of illustration on the hopeful connotations the the term—connotations such as “high-spirited,” “cooperative,” and “hardworking.” scholars who have actually spent years researching highly effective teams have identified several typical factors related to their success. Effective teams haveRobert B. Adler and also Jeanne Marquardt Elmhorst, Communicating at Work: Principles and Practices because that Businesses and the Professions, 8th ed. (Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill, 2005), 248–50.

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clear and also inspiring mutual goals, a results-driven structure, proficient team members, a collaborative climate, high criter for performance, exterior support and also recognition, and ethical and also accountable leadership.

Increasingly, tiny groups and teams room engaging in more virtual interaction. Virtual groupsGroups that take advantage of brand-new technologies and also meet solely or mainly online to achieve their purpose or goal. Take benefit of new technologies and also meet solely or primarily online to achieve their objective or goal. Part virtual groups may complete their job without ever being physically face-to-face. Virtual groups lug with lock distinct benefits and disadvantages that you can read much more about in the “Getting Plugged In” feature next.