When girlfriend think of tiny groups, you more than likely think the the lot dreaded “group assignment” the you’ve withstood in high school and college. You are less likely come think of the numerous other teams to which girlfriend belong the bring an ext positive experiences, such as your family and also friendship groups or shared-interest groups. Group communication scholars space so aware of this common negative sentiment towards group interaction that they coined the ax grouphate to describe it.Susan M. Sorensen, “Group-Hate: A an adverse Reaction to group Work” (paper presented at the annual meeting the the International communication Association, Minneapolis, MN, May, 1981). Little groups, however, aren’t just entities meant to torture students; they have served a main purpose in human history and evolution. Teams make it easier for united state to finish a wide variety of tasks; help us establish meaningful social bonds; and help us create, maintain, and readjust our sense of self.Owen Hargie, Skilled Interpersonal Interaction: Research, Theory, and also Practice, 5th ed. (London: Routledge, 2011), 433. An adverse group experiences are regularly exacerbated by a absence of knowledge around group interaction processes. We are just expected to know how to work-related in teams without much instruction or practice. This absence of knowledge around group communication can lead to an adverse group interactions, which creates a an unfavorable cycle the perpetuates further an unfavorable experiences. Fortunately, similar to other areas of communication, indict in group interaction can enhance people’s skills and rise people’s satisfaction v their group experiences.

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13.1 Understanding tiny Groups

Learning Objectives

Define small group communication. Comment on the attributes of small groups. Describe the attributes of tiny groups. Compare and contrast different types of small groups. Discuss advantages and disadvantages of small groups.

Most the the communication an abilities discussed in this publication are directed towards dyadic communication, definition that lock are used in two-person interactions. While countless of these an abilities can be transferred to and used in tiny group contexts, the more complicated nature of team interaction necessitates some adaptation and also some added skills. Tiny group communicationInteractions among three or an ext people who are linked through a common purpose, common influence, and a shared identity. Refers to interactions amongst three or more people that are connected through a common purpose, shared influence, and also a common identity. In this section, we will certainly learn around the characteristics, functions, and types of small groups.

Characteristics of little Groups

Different teams have different characteristics, serve different purposes, and can result in positive, neutral, or negative experiences. While our interpersonal relationships primarily emphasis on relationship building, small groups usually focus on some type of job completion or score accomplishment. A university learning neighborhood focused top top math and science, a project team because that a state senator, and a group of regional organic farmers are instances of little groups that would all have actually a different size, structure, identity, and also interaction pattern.

Size of tiny Groups

There is no set variety of members because that the ideal little group. A little group needs a minimum the three world (because two civilization would be a pair or dyad), however the upper range of group size is contingent on the function of the group. When teams grow beyond fifteen to twenty members, the becomes an overwhelming to think about them a small group based on the ahead definition. An analysis of the number of unique connections in between members of little groups mirrors that they are deceptively complex. For example, within a six-person group, there room fifteen separate potential dyadic connections, and a twelve-person group would have sixty-six potential dyadic connections.Owen Hargie, Skilled Interpersonal Interaction: Research, Theory, and Practice, 5th ed. (London: Routledge, 2011), 452–53. As you have the right to see, once we twin the variety of group members, we much more than double the variety of connections, which reflects that network connection points in little groups grow tremendously as membership increases. So, while there is no collection upper border on the number of group members, it renders sense the the number of group members should be restricted to those necessary to achieve the score or serve the function of the group. Little groups that add too plenty of members rise the potential for team members to feel overwhelmed or disconnected.

Structure of little Groups

Internal and external influences impact a group’s structure. In terms of inner influences, member qualities play a duty in initial group formation. Because that instance, a person who is fine informed around the group’s job and/or highly encouraged as a group member may emerge as a leader and set into motion internal decision-making processes, such as recruiting brand-new members or assigning team roles, that impact the framework of a group.Donald G. Ellis and B. Aubrey Fisher, Small group Decision Making: Communication and also the team Process, 4th ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1994), 57. Various members will likewise gravitate toward various roles in ~ the group and also will support for certain procedures and courses of action over others. External determinants such as group size, task, and resources also affect group structure. Some groups will have more control over these external components through decision making 보다 others. Because that example, a commission that is placed together through a legislative human body to look into moral violations in athletic establishments will likely have actually less manage over that external determinants than a self-created weekly publication club.


A self-formed study group likely has actually a an ext flexible structure than a city board of directors committee.

Group structure is additionally formed with formal and also informal network connections. In regards to formal networks, groups may have plainly defined roles and responsibilities or a power structure that shows exactly how members are connected. The team itself may likewise be a component of an organizational pecking order that networks the group into a bigger organizational structure. This type of official network is particularly important in groups that need to report to outside stakeholders. These outside stakeholders may affect the group’s formal network, leaving the group little or no control over that structure. Conversely, teams have an ext control over their informal networks, which space connections amongst individuals within the group and amongst group members and people exterior of the team that no official. For example, a team member’s friend or family member may be able to secure a space to host a fundraiser at a discounted rate, which helps the group achieve its task. Both species of networks are important due to the fact that they may help facilitate information exchange within a group and also extend a group’s with in stimulate to access other resources.

Size and also structure also impact communication in ~ a group.Donald G. Ellis and B. Aubrey Fisher, Small team Decision Making: Communication and also the team Process, fourth ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1994), 66–74. In regards to size, the an ext people in a group, the much more issues with scheduling and also coordination of communication. Remember that time is an essential resource in most team interactions and also a resource that is generally strained. Structure deserve to increase or diminish the circulation of communication. Reachability describes the method in which one member is or isn’t linked to other team members. Because that example, the “Circle” team structure in number 13.1 "Small group Structures" mirrors that each group member is associated to two other members. This have the right to make coordination easy once only one or two human being need to be lugged in because that a decision. In this case, Erik and also Callie are very reachable by Winston, who could easily coordinate v them. However, if Winston needed to coordinate with Bill or Stephanie, he would need to wait ~ above Erik or Callie come reach that person, which might create delays. The circle have the right to be a an excellent structure for groups who room passing follow me a task and in which every member is supposed to progressively construct on the others’ work. A group of scholar coauthoring a research paper may work in together a manner, through each person adding to the paper and climate passing that on to the next person in the circle. In this case, they can ask the previous person questions and also write through the following person’s area of expertise in mind. The “Wheel” group structure in number 13.1 "Small team Structures" reflects an alternative organization pattern. In this structure, Tara is very reachable by every members that the group. This deserve to be a helpful structure when Tara is the human with the many expertise in the task or the leader who requirements to review and approve job-related at every step prior to it is passed follow me to other team members. But Phillip and also Shadow, for example, wouldn’t likely work together without Tara being involved.

Figure 13.1 tiny Group Structures


Looking at the group structures, we deserve to make some assumptions about the communication that takes location in them. The wheel is an instance of a centralized structure, when the circle is decentralized. Study has presented that centralized groups are better than decentralized teams in regards to speed and also efficiency.Donald G. Ellis and also B. Aubrey Fisher, Small team Decision Making: Communication and also the team Process, 4th ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1994), 68. But decentralized teams are more effective at solving complicated problems. In centralized groups favor the wheel, the person with the most connections, human being C, is also much more likely to it is in the leader the the team or at the very least have much more status amongst group members, largely due to the fact that that person has actually a large perspective of those going ~ above in the group. The most main person can also act as a gatekeeper. Since this person has access to the many information, which is commonly a authorize of leadership or status, the or she might consciously decide to limit the circulation of information. But in complex tasks, that person could become overwhelmed through the burden of processing and also sharing details with every the other team members. The circle framework is more likely to arise in groups where teamwork is the goal and a particular task and course of action isn’t required under time constraints. While the human who initiated the team or has the many expertise in regards come the task may arise as a leader in a decentralized group, the equal accessibility to info lessens the hierarchy and potential for gatekeeping that is current in the more centralized groups.


Small groups exhibit interdependenceA properties of little groups that refers to a shared purpose and also fate, meaning that each team member’s actions affect every other team member., definition they share a common purpose and also a common fate. If the action of one or two group members lead to a team deviating indigenous or not achieving their purpose, then every members of the team are affected. Conversely, if the action of just a couple of of the group members bring about success, then all members the the team benefit. This is a major contributor to plenty of college students’ dislike of group assignments, since they feeling a ns of control and independence the they have actually when they complete an assignment alone. This issue is valid in that their grades can suffer since of the an adverse actions the someone rather or their tough work may go to benefit the group member who simply skated by. Group meeting attendance is a clear instance of the interdependent nature of team interaction. Many of us have arrived in ~ a team meeting just to find fifty percent of the members present. In some cases, the group members who show up have to leave and reschedule because they can’t attain their job without the other members present. Team members who attend meetings yet withdraw or don’t participate can additionally derail team progress. Back it can be frustrating to have your job, grade, or reputation partly dependent top top the action of others, the interdependent nature of teams can also lead come higher-quality performance and also output, specifically when team members are accountable for their actions.

Shared Identity

The shared identity of a group manifests in several ways. Groups may have official charters or mission and vision statements that lay the end the identification of a group. For example, the Girl scout mission claims that “Girl Scouting builds girl of courage, confidence, and also character, who make the people a much better place.”Girl Scouts, “Facts,” accessed July 15, 2012, http://www.girlscouts.org/who_we_are/facts. The mission for this large organization impacts the identities that the thousands of small groups referred to as troops. Group identity is regularly formed about a mutual goal and/or vault accomplishments, which adds dynamism come the group as the looks toward the future and ago on the previous to educate its present. Shared identity can also be displayed through team names, slogans, songs, handshakes, clothing, or other symbols. In ~ a household reunion, because that example, equivalent t-shirts specially made for the occasion, dishes made from recipes passed down from generation to generation, and also shared story of family members members that have passed away aid establish a mutual identity and also social reality.

A vital element that the development of a shared identification within a team is the facility of the in-group together opposed to the out-group. The level to i beg your pardon members re-publishing in the in-group identity varies from human being to person and group come group. Also within a family, some members may not attend a reunion or gain as excited around the equivalent t-shirts as others. Shared identity likewise emerges together groups become cohesive, definition they determine with and like the group’s task and also other team members. The existence of cohesion and also a shared identification leads come a building of trust, i m sorry can additionally positively influence productivity and members’ satisfaction.

Functions of little Groups

Why execute we join groups? also with the challenges of group membership that we have actually all faced, we still seek out and also desire to be a part of countless groups. In some cases, we sign up with a group because we require a service or access to information. We may likewise be attracted to a group since we admire the group or that members. Whether we are mindful of it or not, our identities and also self-concepts are built on the groups with which us identify. So, come answer the previously question, we join groups due to the fact that they role to help us satisfy instrumental, interpersonal, and also identity needs.

Groups meet Instrumental Needs

Groups have long served the instrumental needs the humans, helping through the most straightforward elements of survival since old humans an initial evolved. Groups helped humans survive by giving security and also protection through raised numbers and access to resources. Today, teams are seldom such a issue of life and death, but they quiet serve vital instrumental functions. Job unions, for example, swimming pool efforts and also resources to acquire material security in the form of pay increases and also health benefits for their members, i m sorry protects castle by offering a stable and also dependable livelihood. Individual group members must likewise work to secure the critical needs of the group, producing a mutual relationship. Members of labor unions salary dues that help support the group’s efforts. Some groups likewise meet our informational needs. Return they might not provide material resources, castle enrich our expertise or provide information the we deserve to use come then accomplish our own critical needs. Countless groups provide referrals to sources or offer advice. Because that example, several consumer protection and advocacy groups have been developed to sell referrals for civilization who have been the victim that fraudulent business practices. Whether a group forms to provide services come members that they couldn’t obtain otherwise, advocate for transforms that will impact members’ lives, or provide information, countless groups accomplish some form of important need.

Groups fulfill Interpersonal Needs

Group membership meets interpersonal requirements by offering us accessibility to inclusion, control, and also support. In regards to inclusion, human being have a fundamental drive to be a part of a group and to create and also maintain social bonds. Together we’ve learned, humans have always lived and also worked in tiny groups. Family and also friendship groups, shared-interest groups, and task groups all carry out us v a feeling of belonging and being contained in one in-group. People likewise join groups due to the fact that they want to have actually some control over a decision-making process or to influence the result of a group. Being a component of a group enables people to share opinions and also influence others. Conversely, some people join a group to it is in controlled, since they don’t desire to be the sole decision machine or leader and also instead want to be given a role to follow.

Just together we enter into interpersonal relationships since we like someone, us are drawn toward a group when we are attracted to it and/or that is members. Teams also provide support for others in means that complement the assistance that we obtain from significant others in interpersonal relationships. Some groups, prefer therapy teams for survivors the sexual attack or support teams for people with cancer, exist primarily to administer emotional support. While these groups may likewise meet crucial needs through connections and referrals come resources, they fulfill the interpersonal need for belonging the is a central human need.

Groups satisfy Identity Needs

Our affiliations are structure blocks for our identities, since group membership allows us to usage reference groups for social comparison—in short, identifying us with some groups and characteristics and also separating united state from others. Some human being join teams to it is in affiliated with people who share similar or desirable features in terms of beliefs, attitudes, values, or cultural identities. For example, people may sign up with the nationwide Organization for Women because they desire to affiliate through others who support women’s rights or a local chapter the the nationwide Association because that the advancement of Colored civilization (NAACP) due to the fact that they want to affiliate with African Americans, people concerned with civil rights, or a combination of the two. Team memberships vary in state of how much they influence our identity, as part are much more prominent 보다 others at assorted times in our lives. While religious groups together a totality are too large to be considered tiny groups, the work that world do as a component of a religious community—as a lay leader, deacon, member of a prayer group, or committee—may have actually deep ties to a person’s identity.


Group membership helps satisfy our interpersonal requirements by providing an opportunity for affection and inclusion.

The prestige of a team can initially tempt us because we want that group’s identity to “rub off” top top our very own identity. Likewise, the success we make as a group member can enhance our self-esteem, add to ours reputation, and allow us to produce or project particular identity qualities to connect in impression management. For example, a person may take countless tests to come to be a part of Mensa, which is an organization for world with high IQs, for no material gain yet for the recognition or sense of achievement that the affiliation may bring. Likewise, civilization may sign up with sports teams, experienced organizations, and honor cultures for the feeling of accomplishment and affiliation. Together groups permit us methods to far better ourselves by encouraging further development of an abilities or knowledge. For example, a human who provided to pat the oboe in high college may sign up with the neighborhood band to proceed to improve on his or she ability.

Types of small Groups

There are many species of small groups, yet the most common distinction made between species of little groups is that of task-oriented and relational-oriented groups.Owen Hargie, Skilled Interpersonal Interaction: Research, Theory, and Practice, 5th ed. (London: Routledge, 2011), 434. Task-oriented groupsGroups created to deal with a problem, encourage a cause, or generate concepts or information. Are developed to resolve a problem, promote a cause, or generate principles or information.Matthew McKay, Martha Davis, and also Patrick Fanning, Messages: Communication skills Book, 2nd ed. (Oakland, CA: brand-new Harbinger Publications, 1995), 254. In such groups, like a committee or examine group, interactions and decisions are mainly evaluated based on the quality of the last product or output. The three main types of tasks are production, discussion, and problem-solving tasks.Donald G. Ellis and also B. Aubrey Fisher, Small group Decision Making: Communication and also the team Process, 4th ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1994), 44. Groups confronted with production jobs are request to create something tangible indigenous their team interactions such as a report, design for a playground, music performance, or fundraiser event. Groups challenged with conversation tasks are asked come talk v something there is no trying come come up v a best or dorn answer. Instances of this kind of group include a support team for people with HIV/AIDS, a book club, or a team for brand-new fathers. Groups confronted with problem-solving tasks need to devise a course of action to fulfill a particular need. This groups additionally usually encompass a production and also discussion component, however the finish goal isn’t necessarily a tangible product or a shared social reality through discussion. Instead, the end goal is a well-thought-out idea. Task-oriented teams require honed problem-solving skills to accomplish goals, and the structure of these groups is more rigid than that that relational-oriented groups.

Relational-oriented groupsGroups created to encourage interpersonal connections and also that are much more focused on top quality interactions that add to the well-being of group members. Are formed to encourage interpersonal connections and are more focused on top quality interactions that add to the health of team members. Decision do is command at increase or repairing relationships fairly than completing discrete work or debating particular ideas or courses of action. All groups include task and also relational elements, for this reason it’s finest to think of this orientations as 2 ends of a continuum fairly than as mutually exclusive. For example, although a household unit functions together everyday to accomplish tasks like gaining the children ready because that school and also friendship groups may arrangement a surprised party for one of the members, your primary and also most meaningful interactions space still relational. Because other chapters in this book focus specifically on interpersonal relationships, this thing focuses much more on task-oriented groups and also the dynamics that run within these groups.

To more specifically look in ~ the varieties of tiny groups that exist, we can examine why teams form. Some groups are formed based on interpersonal relationships. Our family and also friends are considered primary groupsLong-lasting groups that room formed based on relationships and include significant others., or long-lasting groups that room formed based on relationships and also include significant others. These room the tiny groups in i m sorry we communicate most frequently. They form the communication of our society and our individual society realities. Kinship networks carry out important support at an early stage in life and also meet physiological and safety needs, i beg your pardon are crucial for survival. They likewise meet higher-order demands such together social and self-esteem needs. When people do not connect with their organic family, even if it is voluntarily or involuntarily, lock can create fictive kinship networks, which space composed of world who are not biologically related yet fulfill family members roles and help carry out the very same support.

We likewise interact in many second groupsGroups defined by less regular face-to-face interactions, less emotional and relational communication, and more task-related interaction than primary groups., i m sorry are characterized by less frequent face-to-face interactions, less emotional and also relational communication, and much more task-related communication than main groups.David B. Barker, “The Behavioral evaluation of Interpersonal Intimacy in group Development,” Small group Research 22, no. 1 (1991): 79. While we are much more likely to participate in second groups based on self-interest, our primary-group interactions are often much more reciprocal or various other oriented. Because that example, we may join groups since of a mutual interest or need.

Groups formed based on shared interest include social teams and leisure groups such as a group of independent movie buffs, science fiction fans, or bird watchers. Part groups form to satisfy the needs of people or that a specific group of people. Examples of groups that meet the needs of individuals incorporate study groups or support groups like a load loss group. These groups are concentrated on individual needs, even though they accomplish as a group, and they are also often conversation oriented. Company groups, on the various other hand, work to satisfy the needs of individuals however are task oriented. Business groups incorporate Habitat for Humanity and also Rotary society chapters, among others. Still other groups kind around a common need, and also their primary task is advocacy. Because that example, the gay Men’s Health crisis is a team that was created by a tiny group that eight world in the early on 1980s to advocate for resources and support for the still fairly unknown disease that would later be well-known as AIDS. Comparable groups type to support for everything from a avoid sign in ~ a ar intersection to the end of human trafficking.

As we currently learned, other groups are developed primarily to attain a task. TeamsTask-oriented groups in i beg your pardon members are especially loyal and specialized to the task and also other group members. Are task-oriented groups in i beg your pardon members are specifically loyal and dedicated to the task and other team members.Carl E. Larson and Frank M. J. LaFasto, TeamWork: What need to Go Right/What should Go Wrong (Newbury Park, CA: Sage, 1989), 73. In professional and civic contexts, words team has become popularized together a way of drawing on the optimistic connotations of the term—connotations such as “high-spirited,” “cooperative,” and also “hardworking.” scholars who have actually spent years examining highly reliable teams have established several usual factors concerned their success. Successful teams haveRobert B. Adler and Jeanne Marquardt Elmhorst, Communicating in ~ Work: Principles and Practices for Businesses and the Professions, 8 hours ed. (Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill, 2005), 248–50.

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clear and also inspiring common goals, a results-driven structure, skilled team members, a cooperation climate, high requirements for performance, exterior support and also recognition, and ethical and accountable leadership.

Increasingly, small groups and teams space engaging in an ext virtual interaction. Online groupsGroups the take advantage of new technologies and also meet solely or primarily online to attain their function or goal. Take advantage of brand-new technologies and also meet exclusively or mainly online to accomplish their function or goal. Part virtual teams may complete their task without ever being physical face-to-face. Virtual groups lug with them distinct benefits and disadvantages that you have the right to read more about in the “Getting Plugged In” feature next.