When you think of tiny groups, you more than likely think of the much dreaded “group assignment” that you’ve withstood in high school and college. You are much less likely to think of the countless other groups to which you belengthy that lug even more positive experiences, such as your family and also friendship teams or shared-interest groups. Group interaction scholars are so mindful of this widespread negative sentiment toward group communication that they coined the term grouphate to define it.Susan M. Sorensen, “Group-Hate: A Negative Reactivity to Group Work” (paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association, Minneapolis, MN, May, 1981). Small groups, yet, aren’t simply entities expected to torture students; they have served a central objective in huguy background and advancement. Groups make it easier for us to complete a wide array of tasks; aid us establish coherent social bonds; and also help us create, keep, and readjust our sense of self.Owen Hargie, Skilled Interindividual Interaction: Research, Theory, and Practice, 5th ed. (London: Routledge, 2011), 433. Negative team experiences are regularly exacerbated by a absence of knowledge around team communication processes. We are just supposed to recognize exactly how to work-related in groups without a lot instruction or practice. This absence of knowledge around group communication deserve to lead to negative group interactions, which creates an unfavorable cycle that perpetuates better negative experiences. Fortunately, as via various other locations of interaction, instruction in team communication can improve people’s skills and rise people’s satisfaction through their group experiences.

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13.1 Understanding Small Groups

Learning Objectives

Define little group communication. Discuss the qualities of little groups. Explain the attributes of tiny groups. Compare and also contrast various forms of tiny teams. Discuss advantages and disadvantages of small teams.

Most of the interaction abilities discussed in this book are directed towards dyadic communication, definition that they are applied in two-person interactions. While many type of of these abilities can be transferred to and supplied in little team conmessages, the more facility nature of group interactivity necessitates some adaptation and some additional skills. Small group communicationInteractions among three or even more people that are associated through a prevalent function, common influence, and also a common identity. describes interactions among 3 or more world that are associated through a widespread objective, shared influence, and also a shared identity. In this area, we will learn around the characteristics, attributes, and types of small teams.

Characteristics of Small Groups

Different teams have actually various attributes, serve different purposes, and also have the right to result in positive, neutral, or negative experiences. While our interindividual relationships generally emphasis on partnership structure, tiny teams generally focus on some kind of job completion or goal accomplishment. A college discovering area concentrated on math and science, a campaign team for a state senator, and also a team of local organic farmers are examples of tiny groups that would all have a different dimension, framework, identification, and also interactivity pattern.

Size of Small Groups

There is no collection variety of members for the ideal little team. A small team requires a minimum of three world (because 2 civilization would certainly be a pair or dyad), however the top variety of team dimension is contingent on the objective of the team. When teams flourish beyond fifteenager to twenty members, it becomes tough to think about them a small team based on the previous meaning. An evaluation of the number of unique relationships between members of small teams shows that they are deceptively complex. For instance, within a six-perkid group, there are fifteen separate potential dyadic relations, and a twelve-perboy group would certainly have actually sixty-6 potential dyadic connections.Owen Hargie, Skilled Interindividual Interaction: Research, Theory, and Practice, fifth ed. (London: Routledge, 2011), 452–53. As you have the right to check out, when we double the number of group members, we even more than double the number of relationships, which mirrors that netjob-related link points in tiny groups grow greatly as membership rises. So, while tbelow is no set upper limit on the number of team members, it renders sense that the variety of group members need to be restricted to those important to achieve the goal or serve the objective of the group. Small groups that include also many type of members increase the potential for group members to feel overwhelmed or disconnected.

Structure of Small Groups

Internal and external impacts impact a group’s structure. In terms of inner influences, member characteristics play a role in initial team development. For circumstances, a perboy that is well informed about the group’s task and/or highly encouraged as a group member might emerge as a leader and collection right into activity internal decision-making processes, such as recruiting brand-new members or assigning team roles, that impact the structure of a group.Donald G. Ellis and also B. Aubrey Fisher, Small Group Decision Making: Communication and the Group Process, 4th ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1994), 57. Different members will certainly additionally gravitate towards different roles within the group and will certainly advocate for particular measures and also courses of action over others. External components such as group dimension, job, and resources additionally affect team framework. Some groups will have actually even more regulate over these external factors via decision making than others. For example, a commission that is put together by a legislative body to look right into honest violations in athletic organizations will most likely have actually much less regulate over its exterior components than a self-developed weekly book club.


A self-created research team most likely has a much more functional structure than a city council committee.

Group framework is additionally developed with formal and informal network-related relationships. In regards to formal networks, groups might have actually plainly identified functions and duties or a hierarchy that reflects exactly how members are associated. The team itself may likewise be a part of an organizational hierarchy that networks the team into a larger organizational framework. This type of formal netjob-related is especially crucial in groups that have to report to exterior stakeholders. These outside stakeholders might affect the group’s formal netoccupational, leaving the group little bit or no manage over its framework. Conversely, teams have actually more manage over their informal netfunctions, which are connections among people within the team and among group members and also people exterior of the team that aren’t main. For instance, a team member’s frifinish or loved one might be able to secure an area to host a fundraiser at a discounted price, which helps the group achieve its task. Both forms of networks are crucial bereason they might assist facilitate information exchange within a team and also extfinish a group’s reach in order to access other resources.

Size and also structure likewise affect communication within a group.Donald G. Ellis and B. Aubrey Fisher, Small Group Decision Making: Communication and the Group Process, fourth ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1994), 66–74. In terms of size, the even more people in a team, the more concerns via scheduling and also coordination of interaction. Remember that time is a critical reresource in a lot of team interactions and a source that is typically strained. Structure can increase or decrease the circulation of interaction. Reachcapability refers to the method in which one member is or isn’t connected to other group members. For example, the “Circle” team structure in Figure 13.1 "Small Group Structures" mirrors that each group member is linked to 2 other members. This have the right to make coordination straightforward as soon as just one or 2 world need to be lugged in for a decision. In this case, Erik and Callie are very reachable by Winston, that might quickly coordinate with them. However before, if Winston needed to coordinate with Bill or Stephanie, he would have to wait on Erik or Callie to reach that perkid, which can produce delays. The circle have the right to be a good framework for groups that are passing alengthy a task and also in which each member is intended to progressively construct on the others’ work-related. A group of scholars coauthoring a study paper may work-related in such a manner, via each perchild adding to the paper and then passing it on to the next perchild in the circle. In this situation, they deserve to ask the previous perboy concerns and also create through the following person’s location of field of expertise in mind. The “Wheel” team structure in Figure 13.1 "Small Group Structures" shows an different organization pattern. In this framework, Tara is very reachable by all members of the group. This deserve to be a valuable structure when Tara is the perchild via the a lot of specialization in the task or the leader who demands to testimonial and also grant work at each step before it is passed alengthy to other team members. But Phillip and Shadow, for example, wouldn’t most likely work-related together without Tara being involved.

Figure 13.1 Small Group Structures


Looking at the group frameworks, we can make some presumptions about the interaction that takes area in them. The wheel is an example of a central structure, while the circle is decentralized. Research has actually shown that central groups are much better than decentral groups in regards to rate and also performance.Donald G. Ellis and B. Aubrey Fisher, Small Group Decision Making: Communication and the Group Process, 4th ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1994), 68. But decentralized teams are more efficient at fixing facility troubles. In central groups like the wheel, the perboy with the a lot of relationships, perchild C, is likewise even more most likely to be the leader of the group or at least have even more status among team members, largely bereason that perkid has actually a large perspective of what’s going on in the group. The most main person can also act as a gatekeeper. Since this person has actually accessibility to the a lot of indevelopment, which is normally a sign of management or status, he or she can consciously decide to limit the flow of information. But in complicated tasks, that person could come to be overwhelmed by the burden of processing and also sharing indevelopment with all the various other group members. The circle framework is more likely to arise in groups where cooperation is the goal and a particular task and course of activity isn’t required under time constraints. While the person that initiated the group or has actually the a lot of expertise in regards to the job might emerge as a leader in a decentralized group, the equal accessibility to indevelopment lessens the hierarchy and also potential for gatemaintaining that is current in the even more central teams.


Small groups exhilittle interdependenceA characteristic of small teams that describes a mutual function and also fate, definition that each team member’s actions affect eincredibly other group member., meaning they share a prevalent purpose and a common fate. If the actions of one or 2 group members cause a team deviating from or not achieving their objective, then all members of the team are impacted. Conversely, if the actions of only a few of the team members result in success, then all members of the team benefit. This is a major contributor to many type of college students’ dislike of group assignments, because they feel a loss of manage and also freedom that they have as soon as they complete an assignment alone. This issue is valid in that their qualities can experience bereason of the negative actions of someone else or their hard occupational may go to advantage the group member that simply skated by. Group meeting attendance is a clear example of the interdependent nature of group interactivity. Many kind of of us have actually came down on a team meeting just to discover fifty percent of the members present. In some situations, the group members who show up have to leave and also reschedule bereason they can’t achieve their job without the other members current. Group members who attend meetings yet withdraw or don’t participate can likewise derail group development. Although it have the right to be frustrating to have actually your job, grade, or reputation partially dependent on the actions of others, the interdependent nature of teams have the right to also result in higher-top quality performance and output, especially as soon as team members are accountable for their actions.

Shared Identity

The common identification of a group manifests in a number of ways. Groups may have official charters or mission and also vision statements that lay out the identity of a group. For instance, the Girl Scout mission states that “Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence, and character, that make the human being a much better area.”Girl Scouts, “Facts,” accessed July 15, 2012, http://www.girlscouts.org/who_we_are/facts. The mission for this big company impacts the identities of the hundreds of small teams dubbed troops. Group identity is often formed approximately a shared goal and/or previous achievements, which adds dynamism to the group as it looks towards the future and earlier on the past to increate its present. Shared identification deserve to additionally be exhibited with group names, slogans, songs, handshakes, apparel, or other symbols. At a family reunion, for instance, corresponding t-shirts specially made for the occasion, dishes made from recipes passed dvery own from generation to generation, and also mutual stories of family members that have actually passed ameans assist develop a mutual identification and also social fact.

A essential aspect of the formation of a mutual identity within a team is the facility of the in-team as opposed to the out-team. The level to which members share in the in-team identity varies from perchild to perboy and also group to group. Even within a household, some members may not attend a reunion or acquire as excited around the equivalent t-shirts as others. Shared identification likewise emerges as groups become cohesive, meaning they identify via and favor the group’s job and also other group members. The visibility of cohesion and a mutual identity leads to a structure of trust, which have the right to additionally positively affect productivity and members’ satisfaction.

Functions of Small Groups

Why perform we join groups? Even via the difficulties of team membership that we have all confronted, we still seek out and also desire to be a part of countless teams. In some instances, we sign up with a group bereason we need a organization or access to information. We may likewise be drawn to a group bereason we admire the group or its members. Whether we are aware of it or not, our identities and self-concepts are constructed on the groups with which we recognize. So, to answer the previously question, we join groups because they feature to help us meet critical, interindividual, and identity needs.

Groups Meet Instrupsychological Needs

Groups have actually long offered the critical requirements of people, helping through the the majority of basic facets of survival since primitive humans initially progressed. Groups helped humans make it through by offering security and also defense with boosted numbers and access to sources. Today, teams are seldom such a issue of life and fatality, yet they still serve essential instrumental attributes. Labor unions, for instance, pool efforts and also resources to achieve product defense in the create of pay rises and also health benefits for their members, which protects them by providing a stable and also trusted livelihood. Individual team members need to likewise occupational to secure the important requirements of the team, producing a reciprocal connection. Members of labor unions pay dues that aid assistance the group’s efforts. Some groups also fulfill our informational demands. Although they might not carry out product resources, they enrich our knowledge or carry out indevelopment that we have the right to usage to then fulfill our very own important requirements. Many teams carry out referrals to resources or sell advice. For example, numerous consumer defense and advocacy groups have been created to offer referrals for people that have actually been the victim of fraudulent company methods. Whether a team develops to carry out solutions to members that they couldn’t acquire otherwise, advocate for alters that will affect members’ resides, or administer indevelopment, many kind of groups meet some form of important need.

Groups Meet Interpersonal Needs

Group membership meets interindividual requirements by providing us accessibility to inclusion, regulate, and support. In regards to inclusion, human being have actually a basic drive to be a component of a group and also to produce and keep social bonds. As we’ve learned, people have always lived and also functioned in little groups. Family and friendship groups, shared-interemainder groups, and activity groups all administer us through a sense of belonging and being included in an in-team. People likewise join groups because they desire to have actually some manage over a decision-making procedure or to affect the outcome of a group. Being a component of a team permits people to share opinions and affect others. Conversely, some civilization join a team to be regulated, bereason they don’t want to be the single decision maker or leader and instead desire to be given a function to follow.

Just as we enter into interindividual relationships bereason we favor someone, we are drawn towards a team when we are attracted to it and/or its members. Groups also provide assistance for others in means that supplement the assistance that we acquire from significant others in interindividual relationships. Some teams, choose therapy teams for survivors of sexual attack or assistance teams for civilization through cancer, exist generally to provide emotional assistance. While these groups might likewise satisfy instrumental demands with connections and also referrals to resources, they accomplish the interpersonal need for belonging that is a central humale need.

Groups Meet Identity Needs

Our affiliations are building blocks for our identities, because team membership permits us to usage recommendation teams for social comparison—in brief, identifying us with some groups and also qualities and also separating us from others. Some people join groups to be affiliated with world who share equivalent or preferable characteristics in regards to ideas, attitudes, worths, or cultural identities. For instance, human being might sign up with the National Organization for Woguys because they want to affiliate with others who assistance women’s civil liberties or a local chapter of the National Association for the Development of Colored People (NAACP) bereason they want to affiliate via African Americans, civilization came to through civil legal rights, or a mix of the two. Group memberships differ in regards to exactly how much they influence our identification, as some are more significant than others at assorted times in our resides. While spiritual teams in its entirety are as well big to be taken into consideration little teams, the work that human being execute as a part of a spiritual community—as a lay leader, deacon, member of a prayer group, or committee—may have deep ties to a person’s identity.


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

The prestige of a group can initially entice us bereason we desire that group’s identity to “rub off” on our very own identity. Likewise, the accomplishments we make as a team member can boost our self-esteem, add to our reputation, and also allow us to develop or task specific identification characteristics to engage in impression administration. For example, a perkid may take numerous tests to come to be a part of Mensa, which is an company for civilization with high IQs, for no product acquire but for the recognition or sense of accomplishment that the affiliation might lug. Likewise, civilization might sign up with sports groups, expert organizations, and honor societies for the sense of accomplishment and also affiliation. Such teams permit us opportunities to much better ourselves by encouraging better development of skills or understanding. For example, a person that used to play the oboe in high school may join the area band to continue to improve on his or her capability.

Types of Small Groups

Tbelow are many kind of forms of small groups, but the a lot of prevalent distinction made between types of tiny teams is that of task-oriented and also relational-oriented teams.Owen Hargie, Skilled Interindividual Interaction: Research, Theory, and Practice, 5th ed. (London: Routledge, 2011), 434. Task-oriented groupsGroups developed to fix a difficulty, promote a cause, or generate principles or information. are developed to solve a trouble, promote a reason, or geneprice ideas or information.Matthew McKay, Martha Davis, and also Patrick Fanning, Messages: Communication Skills Book, second ed. (Oakland also, CA: New Harbinger Publications, 1995), 254. In such groups, like a committee or study team, interactions and also decisions are mostly evaluated based on the quality of the final product or output. The 3 primary forms of work are manufacturing, conversation, and problem-addressing work.Donald G. Ellis and also B. Aubrey Fisher, Small Group Decision Making: Communication and also the Group Process, fourth ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1994), 44. Groups confronted with manufacturing work are asked to produce somepoint tangible from their group interactions such as a report, design for a playground, musical performance, or fundraiser occasion. Groups confronted through conversation jobs are asked to talk via somepoint without trying to come up through a best or wrong answer. Instances of this kind of team include a support team for world through HIV/AIDS, a book club, or a team for new fathers. Groups faced with problem-fixing jobs need to devise a course of action to satisfy a details need. These teams additionally usually include a manufacturing and also discussion component, however the end goal isn’t necessarily a tangible product or a mutual social fact through discussion. Instead, the finish goal is a well-thought-out concept. Task-oriented teams require honed problem-fixing abilities to attain goals, and the framework of these groups is even more rigid than that of relational-oriented teams.

Relational-oriented groupsGroups developed to promote interpersonal relations and that are even more concentrated on top quality interactions that add to the health of group members. are developed to promote interindividual relations and are more concentrated on top quality interactions that add to the health of group members. Decision making is directed at strengthening or repairing relationships rather than completing discrete jobs or debating certain concepts or courses of action. All teams include task and also relational facets, so it’s best to think of these orientations as 2 ends of a continuum fairly than as mutually exclusive. For example, although a family unit works together daily to achieve tasks choose gaining the kids prepared for school and also friendship groups might setup a surprise party for among the members, their main and most systematic interactions are still relational. Since various other chapters in this book focus especially on interindividual relationships, this chapter focuses more on task-oriented teams and also the dynamics that run within these teams.

To more especially look at the types of small groups that exist, we have the right to examine why groups form. Some teams are formed based on interpersonal relationships. Our family and also friends are considered main groupsLong-lasting groups that are created based upon relationships and encompass substantial others., or long-lasting teams that are created based on relationships and also incorporate considerable others. These are the little groups in which we interact a lot of generally. They develop the basis of our society and also our individual social realities. Kinship networks administer essential assistance at an early stage in life and also satisfy physiological and also safety demands, which are vital for survival. They additionally accomplish higher-order needs such as social and self-esteem demands. When people do not communicate with their biological household, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, they deserve to create fictive kinship networks, which are created of civilization that are not biologically related however satisfy household duties and also assist carry out the very same support.

We likewise communicate in many additional groupsGroups characterized by much less constant face-to-challenge interactions, much less emotional and also relational communication, and also more task-related communication than major groups., which are characterized by less regular face-to-confront interactions, much less emotional and relational communication, and even more task-related interaction than main groups.David B. Barker, “The Behavidental Analysis of Interindividual Intimacy in Group Advancement,” Small Group Research 22, no. 1 (1991): 79. While we are even more most likely to participate in secondary groups based upon self-interemainder, our primary-team interactions are frequently more reciprocal or various other oriented. For instance, we may sign up with groups because of a common interemainder or require.

Groups formed based upon common interest encompass social teams and also leicertain groups such as a group of independent film buffs, scientific research fiction fans, or bird watchers. Some groups form to meet the requirements of individuals or of a specific group of people. Examples of groups that accomplish the requirements of people include study teams or assistance groups like a weight loss team. These groups are concentrated on individual requirements, even though they accomplish as a group, and also they are also frequently discussion oriented. Service teams, on the other hand also, occupational to accomplish the demands of people yet are job oriented. Service groups encompass Habitat for Humanity and also Rotary Club chapters, among others. Still other groups develop around a shared require, and also their main job is advocacy. For example, the Gay Men’s Health Dilemma is a team that was created by a small team of eight civilization in the early on 1980s to advocate for sources and also support for the still relatively unwell-known illness that would certainly later on be recognized as AIDS. Comparable teams form to advocate for every little thing from a soptimal sign at a neighborhood interarea to the finish of humale trafficking.

As we already learned, other groups are created generally to accomplish a task. TeamsTask-oriented groups in which members are especially loyal and also dedicated to the task and other group members. are task-oriented groups in which members are specifically loyal and dedicated to the task and various other group members.Carl E. Larboy and Frank M. J. LaFasto, TeamWork: What Must Go Right/What Must Go Wrong (Newbury Park, CA: Sage, 1989), 73. In skilled and also public conmessages, the word team has actually end up being popularized as a means of illustration on the positive connotations of the term—connotations such as “high-spirited,” “cooperative,” and also “hardworking.” Scholars that have actually spent years researching extremely effective groups have figured out numerous prevalent components regarded their success. Successful groups haveRobert B. Adler and also Jeanne Marquardt Elmhorst, Communicating at Work: Principles and Practices for Businesses and the Professions, 8th ed. (Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill, 2005), 248–50.

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clear and inspiring mutual goals, a results-driven framework, skilled team members, a collaborative climate, high standards for performance, outside support and also recognition, and honest and also accountable management.

Increasingly, little groups and also groups are engaging in even more virtual interactivity. Virtual groupsGroups that take advantage of new technologies and satisfy exclusively or primarily virtual to accomplish their function or goal. take benefit of brand-new innovations and meet solely or mostly virtual to achieve their function or goal. Some online groups might complete their task without ever before being physically face-to-face. Virtual teams bring via them distinct benefits and disbenefits that you can read even more about in the “Getting Plugged In” attribute following.