Management Science recognized the existence of informal groups in any organization a long time back. Since the inception of human behaviour studies into the management science the managers and management think tanks has realized that informal grroupings in the organizations are as important as the formal ones. The management involves the management of not only the formal well structured groups but also informal groups.
Difference? The formal and informal groups differ from each other in many ways. The most prominent is while the formal groups are created by the planners/designers of the organization keeping in view some specific aims/objectives of the organization, the informal groups come to exist by themselves with passage of time. Both formal and informal groups are man-made (they are created by humans) but the formal is created with some difinite aims/objectives (production, profit, market share etc.)in mind the later are created by the members of the formal groups themselves usually without any spedific aims/objectives (at least in the initial stages of development). People come together and perform some specific tasks/duties in an formal organization. During the course of action they interact with each other and gradually create informal groups.
Formal groups have a well defined structure and they are controlled by a well organized body of control (management). The actions, activities and roles of the constituent members are well defined and boundaries are also well marked. They are ealsily controllable. The collective effort of the individuals can be easily streamlined towards the achievement of objectives of the organization.
Informal groups are quite unorganized. They have no structure and no controlling body. Factors like personality, influence, power and individual idiosyncracies determine the structure of such organizations. Also they are too dynamic.
This is what management science has to say about the formal and informal organizations. Now there is no doubt about the existence of such informal groups in any organization. They exist and can effect the functioning of any organization negatively or positively. If streamlined they can be incorporated into the formal structure of the organization and this way can act as an great positive energy and benefit the organization in the long run. The manager who can recognize these groups in his/her organization and can utilize them to the advantage of the organization is the real manager. But the major problem with them is recognition. There can one or more than one such group and it is hard to find them and even harder to control them.
In a country like India such groups are more predominant. The reason being we Indians tend to be more social than most other races of the world. We Indians seem to believe more in collective action rather than act individually. Also here (India) such groups hold a strong sway on its members and others near about. Willingly or unwillingly one has to participate in one or more of such groups at one point of time or the other. Especially if such groups are encouraged by the organization itself for objective gains they become irrestible.
But practically in most of the cases the individuals are controlled by these groups rather then they control them. Many boses (even in MNCs) succumb to the control of such groups. There are two reasons. The unsuspecting boses can’t recognize these groups and take them as something temporary. They can’t understand how fast and close these groups grow. Eventually such persons are absorbed into such groups and are left with no or very little authority to control them. 2nd the boses too are human beings and believe that they can’t exist individually. They too believe in collective action and are afraid of individual actions. They give in for momentary due to some pesonal weaknesses and are cought for ever.
In public sector the situation is different. Most of our organizational structures came into existence about 60 years back. Since then they have seen very little change. So whoever joins new is supposed to follow the already laid down norms of the formal and informal groups. New recruits are unable to resist them for long. They have to be part of the system and can’t redefine the system.
One thing that has no or very little mention about informal groups is the role of women. It is a fact that women are better creators of such groups. In India they enjoy a special positions. Sometime they lead such groups. They interact easily among themselves and it is easy for them to convince the male collegues/boses. So they are great builders of informer groups. Though the management science literature may be somewhat silent on the subject you may have observed it somewhere or the other. Women socialize more and knowingly or unknowingly tend to use the informal groupings to go up the ladder of success.
Also there are some persons (who should be called shrewd) who are very aware of the power of such groups and very willingly utilize them for their personal gains (personal and not organizational). They are usually not very intelligent and lack the appropriate knowledge and experience to do their job and depend heavily on such groupings to retain their job and ensure that they get regular promotions/perks no matter if at the cost of others.
In a nutshell the informal groups are an indispensable part of any organization. They can’t be eliminated by any organization no matter how strong it may be. Such grouping can benefit both the organization and the individuals provided they are recognized and utilized judiciously.