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Difference Between Formal Groups and Informal Groups 

What is a Formal Group?

A formal group is formed when  people come together to accomplish specific goals and objectives. An official group has particular structures and roles where responsibilities of members of the group are defined.

Activities carried by a formal group have specific guidelines, which members of the group are supposed to adhere to and follow to ensure good coordination.

Some of the common formal groups that exist within the organization or community include schools, church, hospitals, government, and civic organizations.

What is an Informal Group?

An informal group is formed when two or more people come together to accomplish a specific task which is mainly socially geared. The main idea behind the establishment of the informal group is the satisfaction of both personal and psychological needs.

Informal groups are not subjected to any rules and regulations in the company, and the members of this group willingly belong to this group. There are no explicit guidelines that govern the operations of an informal group.


Difference Between Formal Groups and Informal Groups

Formation of Formal and Informal Groups

One of the main difference between the formal and informal group is the process through which some groups are formed.

The management of the company to achieve specific tasks deliberately forms formal groups. This means that some rules and regulations guide the formation of a formal group. One cannot leave the group without the authority of the management.

On the other hand, an informal group is voluntarily formed by members coming together to satisfy their personal and psychological needs. One can join and leave the group when he or she decides.

Structure of Formal and Informal Groups

Structures of a formal group are defined where the hierarchy and flow of information from one member of the group to the other member is communicated. This means that there is a chain of command through which instructions are administered.

Most of the time an informal group does not have structures, but when it does exist it is mostly not defined. This means that there is no chain of command and the flow of information from one member to the other.

Additionally, communication in a formal group flows from top to bottom while conversation in an informal group moves sideways without a defined path.

Relationship of Formal and Informal Groups

In a formal group, the relationship between members is professional because the group is created to achieve a specific task or goal that is controlled by the management of the organization. Moreover, professional relationship between members is brought about by the fact that some members are senior in the organization.

In an informal group, the relationship between members is personal. Members of an informal group know each other at a personal level thus making their relationship to be guided by personal aspects. Additionally, there is no seniority in the group, which means that any member can assume a leadership position.

Size of Formal and Informal Groups

Formal groups are usually large because they are formed with the purpose of ensuring that they can achieve goals that measure the success of the company. Members of a formal group have skills and competencies to handle official activities on behalf of the company.

Informal groups are comparatively small because close friends or people who know one another on a personal level form them. This makes it challenging to assemble many members since not all persons in an organization know one another at a personal level.

Nature/Life of Formal and Informal Groups

Formal groups are usually stable and are likely to exist for a lengthy period. Additionally, the task allocated to a formal group may last for a long duration hence making the formal group exist until the task allocated is completed.

Informal groups are not stable because they are governed by the feelings between the members. In case the sentiments between members become volatile, the group is likely to be dissolved.

Unlike formal groups, which existence is determined by the nature of the activity, the length of life of an informal group is dependent on the members.

Behavior and Leadership of Formal and Informal Groups

The practice of members of a formal group is governed by specific rules and regulations, which are usually formulated at the inception of the group. All members of the group are supposed to adhere to the rules and guidelines that define the group.

Moreover, formal groups have a defined leadership structure where there is an official leader who ensures that the group is in line to achieve its goals while at the same time enforcing rules among members.

The behavior of an informal group is governed by the expression of members, norms, beliefs, and the values that members hold dear. There is no official leader of the group to enforce nonexistence rules and regulations as members do what is necessary to them instead what is imposed.

Difference Between Formal and Informal Groups

Formal Groups VERSUS Informal Groups

Summary of Formal vs. Informal Groups

  • Formal groups are formulated when two or more members of an organization are assembled by the management with the purpose of achieving a specific goal.
  • Informal groups are formed by two or more members with the purpose of satisfying their personal and psychological needs.
  • There exist rules and regulations within a formal group with an official leader who is supposed to enforce the laws and regulations while at the same time offering direction and guidance to the group.
  • An informal group does not follow a defined pattern, rules, or guidelines and no official leader controls the group. Any person can assume leadership at any given time.
  • Other differences between formal and informal groups include some members, behavior, relationship between members, and structure among others.

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References :

[0]Goodman, Paul S., Elizabeth C. Ravlin, and Marshall Schminke. "Understanding groups in organizations." (1987).

[1]Greenberg, Jerald, and Robert Folger. "Procedural justice, participation, and the fair process effect in groups and organizations." Basic group processes. Springer, New York, NY, 1983. 235-256.

[2]Harsanyi, John C. "A bargaining model for social status in informal groups and formal organizations." Systems Research and Behavioral Science 11.5 (1966): 357-369. 

[3]Image credit: https://pixabay.com/en/feedback-confirming-businessmen-2990424/

[4]Image credit: https://pixabay.com/en/businessmen-men-people-office-42691/

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