How do group norms and statuses affect individual behavior?

Group norms and statues affect individual behavior because group members tend to suppress their individual preferences and conform to group expectations and values in both social and performance situations.

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Let's examine this question through the lens of an example. A group forms in your company to work on a particular project that must be accomplished in a month. The group meets for the first time and decides that it is necessary to set a few rules to make sure...

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Let's examine this question through the lens of an example. A group forms in your company to work on a particular project that must be accomplished in a month. The group meets for the first time and decides that it is necessary to set a few rules to make sure that meetings move along smoothly and to assign individual tasks and deadlines to each person so the project can be finished on time. The group also selects one member to act as leader and another to lead in event of the first member's absence. The group has now developed a set of social norms to govern interactions between members and a set of performance norms to keep its work progressing smoothly. It has also created a system of status where some members are leaders and some are not.

Think about how these norms affect your behavior. You want to perform well in your job, and that means performing well in this group, so you strive to meet the deadlines and complete your assigned tasks to the best of your ability. Other group members will critique your work, and you know that since everyone has a vested interest in this project, they will set a high standard. You want to meet it. On your own, you may not have been quite so motivated to perform at this level. The group encourages you and enforces its expectations of you.

You also find yourself acting in a certain way during group meetings so that you conform to the group's social norms. You wait your turn to speak, for instance, rather than interrupting, for that is what the group has agreed to do in order to keep meetings orderly. You defer to the leader's requests and questions, and you address the leader with respect and courtesy. You also behave courteously toward your fellow group members, knowing that you all have to work together to accomplish this project. When conflicts arise, you discuss the matter calmly and agree to the leader's judgments.

From this example, then, we can see that group norms and statuses significantly affect individual behavior in both social and performance aspects as group members seek to conform to group expectations.

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In organization behavior, groups are formed based on some standards and rules. These standards and rules form part of the group’s norms and will affect individual behavior because each person is expected to conform to the set of standards and/ or rules. These norms will determine how an individual works within the organization or group. The norms may be presented through different aspects of the working group and include the following:

  • Social norms determine how an individual acts or behaves when in the company of colleagues. The individual will likely reflect the social values and traits of the group.
  • Performance norms determine an individual’s input and output within the working group. The individual will likely perform a set of roles and duties as expected by members of the group to ensure his or her overall task is accomplished.

Status determines the rank and file of an individual within an organization or a group. For instance, a team leader is expected to perform certain duties that will show and confirm their level of authority within the group. Thus, the team leader’s position will require assertiveness, which would affect the individual's behavior.

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In the field of organizational behavior it is actually the effect on individual behavior that is under study. The field intends to correlate the manner in which rules and expectations influence the decision making choices of each member within the organization.

Group norms are specific parameters, or limitations, within which each member of a group is expected behave personally and towards others. This is done to set the tone of the group; if the group is going to be serious and goal-oriented, discipline and rules are a must. If the tone of the group is casual and lively, then the norms are more lenient. In this manner, group norms affect by setting up the boundaries and the tone of the role of each individual within the group.

Statuses constitute the chain of command that enforces group norms and that sets and maintains the group tone. The upper ranking members of an organization evaluate performance, and confirm whether the organizational mission is being carried out or not. They also should serve as supporters and models to their peers and as examples to those below their own status in the group. In this way, statuses affect individual behavior because statuses represent leverage within the organization; the more leverage someone has, the more influential their control. Therefore, more evident boundaries are created from person to person once a role becomes delineated. These boundaries ultimately affect the dynamics and interaction within the group.

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