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Social Groups and Formal Organizations


The chapter titled “The Power of a Society” presents a discussion on the issue of social class and its impact on groups and organization. A society consists of individuals that are categorized into different strata including the upper, middle, working, and lower classes. People are likely to form social groups and work in organizations based on their status in society. Individuals categorized under the upper and middle classes are more likely to work in professional institutions, while the chances of the middle and lower classes getting in such organizations are minimal. As discussed in “The Power of a Society,” association to any group or organizations within the community is a direct reflection of the social class exhibited by an individual.

Types of Social Groups

Individuals sharing common life goals, ideas, and interest are likely to form a social group. These associations can either be primary or secondary depending on the nature of the relationship observed between the members as well as the orientation of the gathering. Additionally, the duration and the goals of the formation of the group distinguish it as primary or secondary. A primary social group is characterized by a personal orientation of the members and the formation of long-term relationships, mostly with family or close friends. On the other hand, a secondary social group is goal-oriented and focused on the formation of short-term relationships, mostly with many people from different backgrounds. The reason for the formation of secondary social groups is to accomplish certain goals that are not taken into consideration in primary social groups. In-group and out-groups are other forms of social collectives that are formed based on the perceived interpersonal experience. Individuals in an in-group feel respected and content within the gathering. Conversely, the members of the out-group lack a sense of belonging and always feel they are in some competition. Regardless of the type of group that an individual joins, most group members are likely to share the same goals and experiences.


            The size of social groups varies depending on the number of individuals involved. A dyad consists of two people who share a common goal and interests and come into the group with the goal of having a long-term relationship. A typical example of such an association is a marriage where two individuals share a common goal. In such a relationship, the parties strive to keep their secrets and work towards having a mutual agreement for the group to survive. A triad form of a social group consists of three people who share similar goals, attitudes, and experiences. Losing one member does not lead to the end of the group since the remaining two members can still continue the association. The difference between the two groups introduces one to network analysis. A network refers to a weak social tie that interlinks many people through the formation of relationships. The network developed by a group of individuals can result in information and knowledge sharing that helps in the attainment of certain goals within the group. Even though individuals in a network might not have a personal relationship, they can work to accomplish common objectives.

Leadership in Social Groups

Different leadership styles can be employed in the management of social groups. Expressive and instrumental approaches can be broadly adopted in the management of the issues and decisions of the collective. Expressive leaders are more focused on the creation and building of relationships while instrumental leaders only emphasize the attainment of goals. Expressive leaders are acknowledged for their ability to develop personal relationships and affection among group members. On the contrary, instrumental leaders do not focus on having personal interactions but are respected for their work towards the attainment of organizational goals. Authoritarian, democratic, and laissez-faire leadership are other forms of leadership styles that can be implemented in the management of social groups. Authoritarian leadership style is more focused on giving orders and exerting control to ensure the orders are obeyed. On the other hand, the democratic form of leadership allows group members to take part in the decision-making process. While the former may build tension and conflicts within the social group, it is likely to be useful in the management of a crisis. Contrarily, the democratic form of leadership cannot be useful in the management of crises, but is advantageous in devising strategies for solving problems. The last leadership style, laissez-faire leadership, does not execute any form of control or rules to govern the activities of the group. Rather, the group is left to function independently. The possibility of accomplishing any goal with the adoption of the laisse-freezer approach is minimal. The type of leadership style to adopt should be dependent on the type of the social group and the goals that it seeks to accomplish.


            Conformity refers to the pressures to adjust to the practices, ideas, and actions of a group. A number of experiments have been conducted to establish the possibility of an individual following the values and norms of a group. The Stanley Milgram experiments and the Stanford Prison experiment give insights on the reasons why people would conform and whether conformity is likely to be achieved in the social groups. Their findings affirmed that group members will always strive to adopt the practices of the collective. The reasons for conformity as presented by the researchers were the belief that other group members are more informed or and the fear of being rejected. Experiments presented in the article show that people are likely to bow to the pressures of conformity for fear of ostracism.

Formal Organizations

            Society consists of both large and small organizations. A formal organization refers to a secondary group created for accomplishing certain goals and objectives. It can be categorized as a coercive, normative, and utilitarian entity. A coercive organization refers to an institution where people are forced to join, such as prisons and rehabilitation centers. In such circumstance, adherence to the law is achieved through force. A normative organization focuses on shared interest and encourages people to voluntarily take part in activities. Compliance to the rules of such an entity is achieved through moral control of the members. Lastly, utilitarian form of organization is formulated for the attainment of a specified goal. The people joining such organizations do so with the goal of accomplishing a specific objective or acquiring some material gain. In a utilitarian organization, adherence to the rules and regulations is based on the provision of salaries and rewards based on tasks executed. At times, an members of an organization have to operate within both rules of their entity and laws of the locality where their operate. For instance, the “Code of Conduct for Board Officials” maintained by World Bank states, “Board Officials shall observe the laws of each jurisdiction in which they are present pursuant to their duties as Board Officials so as not to be perceived as abusing the privileges and immunities conferred upon the Organizations and upon them as Board Officials.” As such, while World Bank might be considered a utilitarian institution, they likewise belong to entities with both normative and coercive structures.

            Bureaucracy is considered an ideal approach in the management of activities in a formal organization. Hierarchy of authority, a clear division of labor and the presence of explicit rules are aspects of bureaucracy that makes it supreme in the management of activities within the entity. The hierarchy structure dictates a form of management where every individual responds to and receives orders from a manager who has a higher role in the rank. Division of labor and specialization occur when each employee is assigned a specific role to undertake, preferably in their areas of experience and expertise. The explicit rules evident in a bureaucratic system entail clearly written and outlined rules focused on achieving standardization in the activities conducted within the organization. Impersonality is also evident in a bureaucratic system that is focused on eliminating personal feeling from work and emphasizing professionalism. Every department within the organization is operated independently, and similar treatment is accorded to the staff. A bureaucratic system ensures that nepotism and favoritism are avoided in the organization setting. For instance, World Bank’s “Code of Conduct for Board Officials” states, “ [Board Officials] shall act in accordance with the Organizations’ core values of impact, integrity, respect, teamwork and innovation and observe principles of good governance.” The documents further details different ethical conundrums employees might encounter and the actions they should take on such matters. The identified features of a bureaucratic system are focused on offering equal chances, increasing efficiency, and ensuring the attainment of a successful outcome.

            However, the bureaucratic system is also marred with certain disadvantages that can affect the performance of the company. The irrationality and rigidity that accompany the adoption of the bureaucratic system deprive the workers of achieving some knowledge and experience from their repetitive and standardized work. Weber (1946) asserts that bureaucracy limits the performance of an individual to the tasks that they are assigned. Moreover, the system of management can lead to inefficiency due to its emphasis on rules and regulation that may undermine the overall performance of the organization. Warner (2001) also argues that a bureaucratic system is characterized by some form of oligarchy that only gives management power to the selected few in the organization. With the current changes in the business environment, overreliance on the rigid rules and division of labor may be detrimental to the organization. There is a need to adopt a flexible approach in the management of an organization to increase its productivity.


The chapter “The Power of a Society” discusses the role of groups or organizations within the community. The text presents social units as a direct reflection of the social class. Furthermore, passage discuss the general types of groups, leadership styles, as well as the roles conformity and networking play in the social interactions of individuals. Lastly, the authors present their opinions on formal organizations and the role of bureaucracy therein.

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