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In sociology, norms are social expectations that guide behavior. Norms

explain why people do what they do in given situations. For example,
in the United States, it is a norm that people shake hands when they
are formally introduced. This expectation accounts for why a job
candidate extends a hand toward the interviewer upon meeting as
opposed, say, to giving the interviewer a hug. Some norms are
enforced by legal sanctions; for example, walking nude in public is
often a legal offence that could result in arrest. Mores are norms it is
considered very serious to violate, such as the norm not to murder.
Folkways are norms that are less strict. People typically feel strong
pressure to conform to norms.
Norms are sets of shared beliefs about how people should behave.
Teams and other types of groups develop norms to indicate acceptable
ways of interacting. Norms create expectations, set standards, and
reflect the collective value of the team members. Once formed, norms
are not easily changed.

How Norms Emerge

Teams can create norms through discussions among team members.
Often, during the forming phase of team development, members will
have conversations about standards of behavior for the group. By
doing so, teams can identify and develop norms that support their
collaboration and productivity.
Both establishing and maintaining norms are indicators of a team's
maturity, made possible only when members have developed working
relationships. Effective norms can develop on their own, especially if
team members have prior experience working on successful teams.
However, without explicit direction dysfunctional norms such as
aversion to new ideas or conflict avoidance may take hold.

Types of Norms
As one could expect there are several different types of generally
understood norms. They are:
Performance norms: Performance norms are centered on how hard a
person should work in a given group. They are informal cues, if you
will, that tells a person or helps a person understand how hard they
should work and what type of output they should have.
Appearance norms: This type of norm informs or guides us as to how
we should look or what our physical appearance should be - what
fashion we should wear or how we should style our hair or any number
of areas related to how we should look.
Social arrangement norms: When we talk about this type of norm
we generally do not equate it to a business setting. This norm is
centered on how we should act in social settings. Once again, there are
cues we need to pick up on when we are out with friends or at social
events that help us fit in and get a closer connection to the group.
Resource allocation norms: For this type of norm we're focusing on
the allocation of resources in a business environment. This can include
raw materials as well as overtime or any other resource found or
needed within an organization.

Norms vs. Rules

Norms are different from rules. Rules require or prohibit behavior and
are typically issued by someone with the authority to direct others to
comply and to impose sanctions if they do not. People might agree or
disagree with a rule, but they generally are not free to ignore them. In
contrast, norms are sets of expectations, not edicts. Team members
themselves agree upon and reinforce norms through how they behave
with each other. The clearer and more explicit the norms, especially if

they are written down, the more effective they are at influencing team
members' behavior.

Benefits of Norms
Through the process of developing shared norms of behavior, team
members begin to hold each other accountable for how they contribute
to the team. By pointing out when someone violates a norm, the team
helps keep its performance on track.
To the extent that team members can rely on norms to shape behavior,
the team may experience less uncertainty and more efficiency in how
work gets done. For example, a norm about what constitutes timely
completion of tasks may help focus individual efforts. Because people
act in accordance with norms, their behavior can become predictable
and provide stability to the team.

Norms are acceptable standards of behavior within a group that are
shared by the members of the group. It is a rule of conduct that has
been established by group members. They are standardized
generalizations concerning expected behaviour in matters that are of
some importance of the group.
Norms define the boundaries of acceptable and unacceptable
behavior. They are typically created in order to facilitate group survival,
make behavior more predictable, avoid embarrassing situations, and
express the values of the group. Each group will establish its own set of
norms that might determine anything from the appropriate dress to
how many comments to make in a meeting. Groups exert pressure on
members to force them to conform to the group's standards. The
norms often reflect the level of commitment, motivation, and
performance of the group.

Performance norms determine how quickly members should work

and how much they should produce. They are created in an effort to
determine levels of individual effort. They can be very frustrating to
managers because they are not always in line with the organization's
goals. Members of a group may have the skill and ability to perform at
higher levels but they don't because of the group's performance
norms. For example, workers may stop working a production machine
at 20 minutes before quitting time in order to wash up, even though
they produced fewer items that day than management intended.
Reward-allocation norms determine how rewards are bestowed upon
group members. For example, the norm of equality dictates equal
treatment of all members. Every member shares equally so rewards
are distributed equally to everyone. Equity norms suggest that rewards
are distributed according to the member's contribution. In other words,
members who contribute the most receive the largest share of the
rewards. Members may contribute through effort, skill, or ability. Social
responsibility norms reward on the basis of need. Members who have
special needs therefore receive the largest share of the reward.
The majority of the group must agree that the norms are appropriate in
order for the behavior to be accepted. There must also be a shared
understanding that the group supports the norms. It should be noted,
however, that members might violate group norms from time to time.
If the majority of members do not adhere to the norms, then they will
eventually change and will no longer serve as a standard for evaluating
behavior. Group members who do not conform to the norms will be
punished by being excluded, ignored, or asked to leave the group.

Group Norms Influence Us

In the movie Wizard of Oz , the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the
Cowardly Lion learn about themselves as individuals, but they also
learn about how they act in a group once they're faced with a task that
requires all of them to contribute. Individually, they have their own
separate traits, but once they have to work in a group, they exhibit
different behaviors based on the group norms. For example, on his

own, the Cowardly Lion is a self-proclaimed coward. But, when these

three characters go to rescue Dorothy from the Wicked Witch, the
Cowardly Lion overcomes his fears and (as we will talk about in a few
minutes) learns to work within the performance norms present in the
So why do I make this point? You see, when individuals are in groups
there are forces at work that shape how they behave while in that
group. These forces - very much like how our characters in the movie
found a heart, courage and a brain - influence how we act as
individuals when we are in a group without us knowing if there are
'things going on behind the curtain' that consciously or subconsciously
impact how we act.
Those things, if you will, are norms, and there are several types that do
impact how we behave in a group. Thus, let us take a look at some of
the norms that are present so we can understand how they impact our
actions and behavior when in a group.

Group Norm Influence on Behavior

To understand how these sets of norms influence how we act, we must
first understand what is meant by a reference group. A reference
group is a group that individuals use as a comparison when looking at
other groups. Think of a major league baseball team and a minor
league one. If you used the major league team as your reference
group, that would impact how you view, accept or understand the
minor league team. You could compare and contrast the players, their
accomplishments and how they function as an organization.

Implicit Norms
Whether a group is new or not, its norms arent always expressed or
discussed. People may simply assume that certain norms exist and
accept them by unspoken consent in which case they are implicit

Consider same seat syndrome, for example. How often have you
found that people in a college classroom seem to gravitate every day
to exactly the same chairs theyve always sat in? Nobody says, Hey,
Ive decided that this will be my chair forever or I see that thats your
territory, so Ill never sit there, do they?
Often norms are difficult for group members to express in words. What
topics are okay or not okay to talk about during informal chit-chat
may be a matter of unstated intuition rather than something that
people can readily describe. Nevertheless, implicit norms may be
extremely powerful, and even large groups are apt to have at least
some implicit norms.
The cultural background each member brings to a group may lie
beneath conscious awareness, yet it may exert a powerful influence on
both that persons and the groups behavior and expectations. Just as a
fish is unaware that it lives in water, a person may easily go through
life and participate in group interactions without perceiving that he or
she is the product of a culture.

Explicit Norms
Sometimes group norms are stated outright, either orally or in writing;
then they are explicit norms. Such explicit rules may be imposed by an
authority figure such as an executive or designated team leader. They
may be part of formal policies or regulations. Wearing a uniform or
answering the telephone in a certain way, for instance, may be written
requirements in a workplace group.
Manuals, and even books, have been composed to provide members of
groups with norms of how to behave. A manager in one organization
we know wrote a policy in response to almost every problem or
difficulty his division experienced. Because the manager served for
more than 15 years in his position, the collection of these incidentbased policies eventually filled a large tabbed binder. The bigger the
group, the more likely it is that its norms will be rigid and explicit.

Table - Implicit, Explicit, Individual, and Whole-Group Norms.




Each new member receives The group keeps minutes of all

a copy of the groups bylaws its meetings


A person should raise his/her Someone brings doughnuts or

hand to signal a desire to other treats every time the
group meets

Group norms are the informal rules that groups adopt to regulate
members' behavior. Norms are characterized by their evaluative
nature; that is, they refer to what should be done. Norms represent
value judgments about appropriate behavior in social situations.
Although they are infrequently written down or even discussed, norms
have powerful influence on group behavior. If each individual in a group
decided how to behave in each interaction, no one would be able to
predict the behavior of any group member; chaos would reign. Norms
Groups do not establish norms about every conceivable situation but
only with respect to things that are significant to the group. Norms
might apply to every member of the group or to only some members.
Norms that apply to particular group members usually specify the role
of those individuals. Norms vary in the degree to which they are
accepted by all members of the group: some are accepted by almost
everyone, others by some members and not others. For example,
university faculty and students accept the faculty norm of teaching,
but students infrequently accept the norm of faculty research. Finally,
norms vary in terms of the range of permissible deviation; sanctions,
either mild or extreme, are usually applied to people for breaking
norms. Norms also differ with respect to the amount of deviation that is

Understanding how group norms develop and why they are enforced is
important to managers. Group norms are important determinants of
whether a group will be productive. A work group with the norm that its
proper role is to help management will be far more productive than one
whose norm is to be antagonistic to management. Managers can play a
part in setting and changing norms by helping to set norms that
facilitate tasks, assessing whether a group's norms are functional, and
addressing counterproductive norms with subordinates.
Norms usually develop slowly as groups learn those behaviors that will
facilitate their activities. However, this slow development can be shortcircuited by critical events or by a group's decision to change norms.
Most norms develop in one or more of four ways:
(1) Explicit statements by supervisors or coworkers;
(2) Critical events in the group's history;
(3) Primacy, or by virtue of their introduction early in the group's
history; and
(4) Carryover behaviors from past situations.

Why are group norms enforced

The most important reason is to ensure group survival. They are also
enforced to simplify or make predictable the expected behavior of
group members. That is, they are enforced to help groups avoid
embarrassing interpersonal problems, to express the central values of
the group, and to clarify what is distinctive about it.

Facilitate group survival

Increase predictability of groups members behavior
Help group avoid embarassing interpersonal problems
Express central values of group

Functions or importance of Norms are discussed below:

1. Norm less Organization is Impossibility:

Norms are important part of society. Norms and Society go together.
Man depends upon society for his existence. Norms make living
together in society possible. Without normative order society is not
2. Norms Regulate and Guide Behaviour:
Norms are controls. It is through them that society regulates behaviour
of its members in such ways that they perform activities fulfilling
societal needs.
3. Norms maintain Social Order:
Norms are part of social order. They are controls. The social order is
maintained by norms. That is why it is said that human social order is a
normative order.
4. Norms Gives Cohesion to Organization:
Society achieves coherent structure through the norms. The collective
and cooperative life of people is made possible because of norms. The
normative system gives to society an internal cohesion.
5. Norms Helps to have Self-control:
Norms helps individuals to have self-control. Because of the constraints
imposed by norms individuals conform to the norms and exercise
discipline by themselves over their behaviour.


A rule dictates what must be done by another whereas norm refers to
what should be done. Group norm is a standard of behaviour. In other
words, group norm is a rule that tells the individual how to behave in a
particular group. Thus, group norms identify the standards against
which behaviour of group members will be evaluated and help the
group members know what they should not do. Norms could be formal
or could be informal.
According to Edgar Henry Schein (born in 1928) there are pivotal and
relevant group norms. While the pivotal norms are confirmed by every
member of the group, the relevant norms are desirable to be confirmed
by the members. With increase in the size of the group, the
acceptability of norms tends to lessen. Small deviation of norms is
allowable. However, in case of extreme deviation, the deviator gets
punished. For example, when the union is on strike, its members
attending to work punished by being boycotted by the group.
Thus, the group norms have following characteristics:
1. As personality reveals an individual, so group norms do for groups.
2. Norms serve as the basis for behaviour of group members.
3. They predict and control the behaviour of members in groups.

Groups are composed of individuals. Hence, the group behaviour
means behaviour of its members. In practice, each member of the
group affects the behaviour of other members and, in turn, is also
affected by them. The nature and patterns of reinforcement the
members receive through their interaction with one another is also
determined by the group itself. This is because the behaviour of
individual members in a group becomes different than their behaviour
outside the group situation. Therefore, while studying group behaviour,

the factors that should be understood are group norms, group

cohesion, group role, group conflict and group decision-making.
Examples of Group Behavior Norms
1. Engage mentally and emotionally and remain engaged
2. Speak honestly and with consideration and respect of others and
their efforts
3. Accept ambiguity (for a reasonable period of time) before expecting
decision-making or action.
4. Maintain confidentiality
5. Place cell phones on silent
6. Speak up, dont keep it to yourself if it contributes to our
Examples of Group Norms
Start on time and end on time
Express genuine feelings
Productively address conflict during meetings
Keep individual comments confidential
Each person will have opportunity to be heard
Listen to and hear one anothers viewpoints
Address issues not personalities
Publicly support decisions made by the group
Arrive prepared
Turn off cell phones
No outside business during sessions

Make decisions by consensus

Limit air time
Celebrate accomplishments
Share promising practices

Advantages of Group Norms:

1. Motivation: A person to joins or is part of the group because of
norms and thisbrings in motivation as he knows that norms are
followed and his work will be done without any issues.
2. Better cooperation: If it is a group of members who have the
same group norms they can definitely know work better. Therefore,
because of group norms behavior the group can embrace better
cooperation with their rest of the team members.

3. Time saving: A work or a task can definitely be done faster and

quicker with layed down norms and can bring a positive side of the
work. For instance, when it comes to an individual person, then the
person might take a little longer time to solve the issues if work is not
formatted and have many views within the group but when it comes to
group of people, then the solution can be better and quicker as
compared to the individual doing the work.

4. Improves communication: As it is a task of a group or a team,

then the team leader might be aware of all the norms. And because of
the group norms the whole team can experience some sort of change
in their communication levels. These communication levels create a
difference in their personal and professional life as usual. Moreover, it
also provides good confidence to all the members of the team.

Disadvantages Of Group Norms:

1. Low level of productivity: Most of the time, working in a group

with too many norms can be bad, and that is because all the teams
members have own their own thinking. And in this case of production a
group brings it down to a low level. Moreover, it is a fast moving
generation and that is why its necessary to understand the, low level
of productivity among the team members.

2. Lack of creativity: As most of the norms are listed one cannot go

out and think of anything other way of doing a particular job.
Therefore, because of group norms behavior the company can lack
behind with their creative elements.

3. Domination: The domination can be experienced because of the

team leaders of each and every group. Most of the these type of group
leader domination can never benefit the company, moreover, it can
damage the unity of the group. Therefore, all the team leaders need to
understand that if they need and want their team members work
according to their direction, then they need to treat as equals in the