You are on page 1of 10 Social Groups A. Primary and Secondary Groups B. Group Leadership 1. Two Leadership Roles 2.

Three Leadership Styles C. Group Conformity 1. Asch's Research 2. Milgram's Research 3. Janis's "Groupthink" D. Reference Groups 1. Stouffer's Research E. In-groups and Out-groups F. Group Size 1. The Dyad 2. The Triad G. Social Diversity: Race, Class, and Gender H. Networks II. Formal Organizations A. Types of Formal Organizations 1. Utilitarian Organizations 2. Normative Organizations 3. Coercive Organizations B. Origins of Formal Organizations C. Characteristics of Bureaucracy D. Organizational Environment E. The Informal Side of Bureaucracy F. Problems of Bureaucracy 1. Bureaucratic Alienation 2. Bureaucratic Inefficiency and Ritualism 3. Bureaucratic Inertia G. Oligarchy III. The Evolution of Formal Organizations 1. Scientific Management 2. The First Challenge: Race and Gender 1. Patterns of Privilege and Exclusion 2. The "Female Advantage" 3. The Second Challenge: The Japanese Work Organization 4. The Third Challenge: The Changing Nature of Work 5. The "McDonaldization" of Society 1. McDonaldization: Three Principles 2. Can Rationality be Irrational? The Future of Organizations: Opposing Trends Making the Grade Key Points Key Concepts Applications and Exercises MySocLab

To explain the differences among categories, crowds, primary groups, and

secondary groups

To identify the various types of leaders associated with social groups To compare and contrast the research of Asch, Milgram, and Janis on

group conformity
To explain the importance of reference groups to group dynamics by

understanding Stouffer's research on soldiers

To distinguish between in-groups and out-groups To explain the relevance of group size to the dynamics of social groups To discover what characteristics predict which people will join particular

groups or network with each other

To identify the types of formal organizations To identify the primary characteristics of bureaucracy To compare and contrast the small group and the formal organization on

the basis of their respective activities, hierarchies, norms, criteria for membership, relationships, communications, and focuses functioning of an organization

To understand the influence of the external environment on the

To identify the outcomes of the informal side of bureaucracy To explain the limitations of bureaucracy To understand oligarchy, the rule of many by the few To understand the evolution of formal organizations from "scientific

management" to "flexible organization"

To comprehend the various challenges to unbridled scientific management,

namely race and gender, competition primarily from the Japanese, and the changing nature of work
To understand what is meant by the McDonaldization of society

The introduction to this chapter illustrates how the principles of "fast food" preparation, started by McDonalds, are linked to the changing nature of social groups and formal organizational structures of society. This chapter provides

insight into the extent to which social groups, from families to large-scale bureaucratic structures, have meaning in our lives.

A social group is defined as two or more people who identify and interact with one another. While we each have our own individuality, the "us" feeling that can only be achieved in social groups is central to our existence as human beings. Not all collections of individuals are social groups. People who share a status in common are defined as a category, but the vast majority never interact with one another. A crowd is a temporary cluster of individuals who may or may not interact. Ordinarily they are too transitory to qualify as a social group, although occasionally they may become group-like.

Primary and Secondary Groups

Charles Horton Cooley studied the extent to which people have personal concern for each other in social interaction settings. He distinguished between primary and secondary groups. Primary groups are defined as a typically small social group in which relationships are both personal and lasting. They are characterized as ends in and of themselves, they are critical in the socialization process, and members are considered unique and not interchangeable. Secondary groups are defined as large and impersonal social groups usually based on a specific interest or activity. They are typically short term with narrowly defined relationships and are seen as a means to an end. The distinction in real life is not always as clear as these definitions might suggest. The Summing Up Table (p. 156) provides a summary of the key differences between primary and secondary groups.

Group Leadership
Leadership plays a critical role in group dynamics. Secondary groups are more likely to identify formal leaders.
Two Leadership Roles

Research reveals that there are usually two types of leaders in social groups. Instrumental leadership refers to group leadership that emphasizes the completion of tasks. Expressive leadership emphasizes collective well-being. This differentiation is also linked to gender, with men typically taking the instrumental role and women taking the expressive role in leadership positions especially in the family, although increased equality has blurred this distinction.
Three Leadership Styles

Three decision-making styles are identified. One is authoritarian leadership, which focuses on instrumental concerns. This type of leader makes decisions on his or her own, demanding strict compliance from subordinates. Another type is the democratic leader who takes a more expressive approach, seeking to include all members in the decisionmaking process. A third type is labelled laissez-faire. Leaders using this approach tend to downplay their power, allowing the group to function on its own. Look at the Applying Sociology Box (p. 157) to estimate the type of leadership style most likely to develop in the DJ subculture.

Group Conformity
Group conformity is a dimension of group dynamics where members seek the satisfaction of being like other members. The Reena Virk murder is used to illustrate that members of groups will exhibit extreme violence in order to fit in with group expectations. Three research projects illustrate the importance of group conformity to the sociological understanding of group processes.
Asch's Research

Solomon Asch conducted an experiment in which "nave" subjects were asked to answer questions concerning the length of lines. Accomplices of the experimenter comprised the rest of the group, who purposely gave incorrect answers. Often the naive subject would give a "wrong" answer in order to conform. Figure 7-1 (p. 158) illustrates an example of the cards used in this experiment. The experiment found that one-third of the subjects would compromise their judgment to agree with the group.
Milgram's Research

Stanley Milgram conducted an experiment that naive subjects believed was about learning and memory. The naive subject played the role of a "teacher" and the accomplice played the role of a "learner." If learners failed to correctly remember word pairs given by the teacher, the teacher was instructed by Milgram (a legitimate authority figure) to electrically shock the learner. His research suggests that people comply with almost blind obedience to authority figures. Further, if encouraged by others in a group situation, subjects were likely to administer even higher voltage shocks, indicating that even "ordinary" individuals can elicit conformity behaviour.
Janis's "Groupthink"

Irving Janis researched the actions of high government officials by examining historical documents. He theorized that even experts in groups can be led to engage in behaviour that violates common sense. Janis discusses three factors htat affect decision-making processes and create groupthink, an adoption of a narrow consensus view caused by group conformity. The lack of acceptance that Quebec might vote to secede in the 1995 referendum is a recent Canadian example of "groupthink."

Reference Groups
The term reference group signifies a social group that serves as a point of reference for people making evaluations and decisions. These groups can be primary or secondary. They are a major factor involved in anticipatory socialization processes.
Stouffer's Research

Samuel Stouffer conducted research on the morale and attitudes of soldiers in World War II in order to investigate the dynamics of reference groups. Stouffer found what appeared to be a paradox: Soldiers in branches with higher promotion rates were more pessimistic about their own chances of being promoted than soldiers in branches with lower rates of promotion. This is explained, however, by the identification of the groups against which the soldiers measured their progress. In relative terms, those soldiers in branches with higher rates felt deprived.

In-groups and Out-groups

Two other kinds of groups provide us with standards against which we evaluate ourselves. An in-group is a social group commanding a member's respect and loyalty. This group exists in relation to out-groups, or social groups toward which one feels competition or opposition. This dichotomy allows us to sharpen boundaries between groups and to highlight their distinctive identities. The operation of the group dynamics created by these distinctions affects broader social patterns in society, such as social inequality between whites and visible minorities.

Group Size
Group size significantly influences how members socially interact. As a group's membership is added to arithmetically, the number of possible relationships expands rapidly. Figure 7-2 (p. 160) provides an illustration.
The Dyad

The dyad has two members and is characterized by intensity and instability. Marriages in Canada are a good example.
The Triad

The triad is composed of three members and often has more stability although the "third wheel" phenomenon is always a possibility. As groups grow larger they become more stable because the loss of a member does not threaten the group. Larger groups, however, have less emotional intensity and greater formality.

Social Diversity: Race, Class, and Gender

This section focuses on the research by Peter Blau, who identifies three ways in which the structure of social groups regulates intergroup association. The three factors include group size, heterogeneity of group members, and physical boundaries.

The term network refers to a web of weak social ties that links people who identify and interact little with one another. Little sense of membership is felt by individuals in the network and only occasionally do they come into contact. Demographic characteristics, such as age, education, gender, and residence patterns influence the likelihood of a person's involvement in networks. New information technology has generated a global network of immense size. Global Map 7-1 (p. 162) shows the extent of the internet and the Thinking It Through Box (p. 164) examines the origins and possible future of cyberspace, which offers immense networking capabilities unencumbered by formal usage rules. There is some evidence to support the notion that "who you know" in your network is just as important as "what you know."

Today our lives seem focused around formal organizations, large, secondary groups that are organized to achieve their goals efficiently. In a society like Canada, these are vast organizations whose cultures remain unchanged as members come and go.

Types of Formal Organizations

Amitai Etzioni uses the variable of how members relate to the organization as a criterion for distinguishing three types of formal organizations.
Utilitarian Organizations

Utilitarian organizations provide material benefits for members in exchange for labour. Most people must join at least one organization in order to "make a living""
Normative Organizations

People join normative organizations to pursue some goal they consider morally worthwhile. Voluntary associations like the PTA and the Lions Club would be examples. Canadian students are increasingly involved in volunteer activities.
Coercive Organizations

Coercive organizations serve as a form of punishment (prisons) or treatment (psychiatric hospitals). People are separated from the rest of society within distinct physical boundaries and are labelled as inmates or patients.

Origins of Formal Organizations

Formal organizations date back thousands of years. The type of formal organization called bureaucracy, however, emerged as a result of changes occurring in societies in Europe and North America during the industrial revolution.

Characteristics of Bureaucracy
A bureaucracy is an organizational model rationally designed to perform complex tasks efficiently. Our telephone system is an example of the scope and capacity of bureaucratic organizations. Max Weber identified six basic characteristics or elements of the ideal bureaucracy. These include specialization, hierarchy of offices, rules and regulations, technical competence, impersonality, and formal, written communications. In contrast to small groups, like families, that have a personal character, the organizational model of bureaucracy limits unpredictability and promotes efficiency. The Summing Up Table (p. 167) differentiates between the qualities of bureaucracies and small groups. The internet is in some ways like a formal organization, but it escapes many elements of bureaucracy. See the Media Perspectives Box (p. 168).

Organizational Environment
Organizational environment refers to a range of factors outside an organization that affect its operation. These include technology, politics, the economy, current events (September 11, 2001), population patterns, and other organizations.

The Informal Side of Bureaucracy

While in principle bureaucracy has a highly formal structure, in reality not all behaviour in bureaucracies fits precisely the organizational rules. While it is the position or office that is supposed to carry the power, the personalities of the occupants are also important factors. Sometimes leaders also seek to benefit personally, as in the Enron situation. In addition, employees often establish informal networks, aided by the use of e-mail.

Problems of Bureaucracy
Although bureaucratic structures are widespread in today's society, there are concerns about dehumanization, alienation, and threats to democracy and personal freedom.
Bureaucratic Alienation

The efficiency goals of the organization reduce human beings to small pieces of a large machine, leaving both worker and client feeling alienated.
Bureaucratic Inefficiency and Ritualism

The image of red tape is closely tied to bureaucracies. Bureaucratic ritualism signifies a preoccupation with rules and regulations as ends in themselves rather than as means to organizational goals. This process, often referred to as "red tape," tends to reduce performance and stifle the creativity of members.
Bureaucratic Inertia

Bureaucracies seem to have lives of their own. Bureaucratic inertia refers to the tendency of bureaucratic organizations to persist over time whether there is any reason for their existence beyond the jobs of its members.

Robert Michels observed the fact that oligarchy, or the rule of the many by the few, was a typical outgrowth of bureaucracy. He suggested that individuals in high levels within a bureaucratic hierarchy tend to accumulate power and use it to promote their own objectives thereby endangering democratic principles. Canada Map 7-1 (p. 171) illustrates the size of government bureaucracy in Canada.


The rigid top-down organizational system identified by Weber led to the adoption of an organizational model called scientific management. Various challenges to this model led to a new model called the flexible organization.

Scientific Management
Early in the twentieth century, Frederick Taylor suggested that scientific management, the application of scientific principles to the operation of organizations, was the answer to inefficiency. Analysis of task, application of methods to more efficiently manage the task, and incentives to workers for higher productivity were the way to lower prices and higher wages. The capacity to make these decisions rested with the managers alone. As decades passed, formal organizations faced several challenges including race and gender, rising competition, and the changing nature of work.

The First Challenge: Race and Gender

Organizations were excluding women and minorities in their hiring practices, resulting in less competence and less efficiency.

Patterns of Privilege and Exclusion

Excluding women and minorities shuts out over half the population and even if they are represented in small numbers, they feel excluded from advancement, thereby reducing their contribution to the organization. With open opportunities the organization's leaders value the contributions of all.
The "Female Advantage"

Much research has shown that women try to understand issues more than men and are better at communication and sharing information. They are more flexible leaders who welcome contributions from workers and focus on interconnectedness in the organization. Overall, they make organizations more flexible and open.

The Second Challenge: The Japanese Work Organization

By the 1980s, most products made in Japan were better than those made in the United States, notably the automobile. William Ouchi found that Japanese organizations emphasized collectivity more than the individualism found in North America. The Japanese hired in groups giving all workers equal responsibilities. They also hired for life, training workers in all aspects of the organization. They also involved their workers in the corporate decisions through quality circles and helped organize their social lives. These factors contributed to loyalty and quality products. The Thinking Globally Box (p. 174) looks at Canadian efforts to adopt the Japanese organizational model.

The Third Challenge: The Changing Nature of Work

The repetitive tasks of the industrial world that made things have moved to the post-industrial world where we process information. Many large-scale organizations now need workers who are given the opportunity to be creative, often in competitive work teams. Organizations are flatter rather than pyramidal (See Figure 7-3, p. 175) and there is less rigidity and more flexibility. But, the post-industrial society also creates low-skill service jobs, as well as high-skill creative jobs. So many organizations are still characterized by a rigid chain of command. Large organizations have grown in power and intrusiveness. Look at the Thinking Critically Box (pp. 176-77) for the potential impact on personal privacy.

The "McDonaldization" of Society

McDonald's has become pervasive with over 31 000 restaurants worldwide (1300 in Canada) and the Canadian branch in Pushkin Square in Moscow is the busiest McDonald's in the world. The principles of the model infuse other organizations such as Tim Hortons and Canadian Tire.

McDonaldization: Three Principles

What is McDonald's? It is fast therefore efficient. It is consistent, therefore it has uniformity. It is the same everywhere in the world, therefore it has predictability and it is rigidly controlled through automation. It can be a comforting break from the "real world." Automatic teller machines, automatic hatcheries, and laser scanners in grocery stores are the latest examples of these principles applied elsewhere.
Can Rationality Be Irrational?

Does such rationality lead to dehumanization and loss of creativity and ultimately to a system that controls people rather than the reverse?


The top-down bureaucratic organization identified by Weber has given way to the flatter, more flexible model that prizes communication and creativity. These organizations value creative freedom and they are more productive. There is as well, however, the large-scale service organization that creates routine "McJobs" that look much like the jobs Taylor described a century ago. Organizations facing global competition "downsize" to contain costs such that some people are much better off in the new organizational environment, while others struggle to hold their jobs and survive.