Difference Between Formal and Informal Groups

Formal vs Informal Groups

Man is a social animal and cannot live in isolation. Being gregarious and compassionate, he needs the company of others to share his feelings and emotions. He prefers to live in a society, and even the family he lives in is a sub group within this large group. A group can be defined as a unit, whether formal or informal, where the chief characteristic is that all members have a sense of belonging and feel proud of being a part of the group. Members of a group interact through mutually agreed norms and aware of each other as members. Formal and informal groups have structuring as the main difference though there are also many more differences that will be talked about in this article.

Formal Groups

Schools, church, hospitals, government, civic organizations etc are all examples of formal groups. In these groups, there are clearly defined hierarchical structures and roles and responsibilities of the members. Inside these groups, there are formal groups that are made by the management and entrusted with tasks that are completed according to set procedure and guidelines by the members of the group. The members are bound to the group in relationships of boss and subordinates. Formals groupings are mostly made to achieve organizational goals and better coordination while doing work related activities is the primary motive of formal groups.

In formal groups, roles and responsibilities are defined, and so are the norms governing the nature of interaction between the members of the group. The duration of formal groups is predetermined though there are formal groups that continue for very long. Of all the work inside an organization, majority is completed through formal groups.

Informal Groups

Informal groups are not made by the management but get made on their own inside an organization because of constant interaction between members. Personal relationships rather than work related requirements dominate the formation and working of informal groups inside organizations. Personal and psychological needs of the members are satisfied by such formations, but the overall effectiveness of work inside an organization is greatly affected by informal groups. Let us see this effect through an example.

Though an employee from the sales team and another person working in production may not be members of a formal group, they may have a great friendship. This relationship enables the sales person to be aware of the delivery schedule greatly enhancing his sales efforts. On the contrary, because of the friendship, the production employee may prefer items sold by the sales employee affecting the overall production schedule thus affecting the performance of the production team.

What is the difference between Formal and Informal Groups?

• Membership in formal groups is determined by the management of the organization, and the roles and responsibilities of the members are also predefined

• Membership in informal groups is voluntary and dependent upon the whims and likings of people

• Formal groups are made to further the interests of the organization while informal groups are made to satisfy the personal and psychological needs of the individuals

• It is the endeavor of the management to make judicious use of both formal and informal groups to best serve the interests of an organization

• Better coordination of work related activities is the primary concern of any formal group