As explained in your textbook, one of the defining traits of a small group is that

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13.1 Understanding Small Groups

Learning Objectives

Define little group interaction. Discuss the features of tiny teams. Exsimple the functions of tiny teams. Compare and also contrast various types of small groups. Discuss advantages and also disadvantages of tiny teams.

Most of the communication abilities questioned in this book are directed towards dyadic communication, interpretation that they are applied in two-perkid interactions. While many kind of of these skills can be transferred to and also provided in tiny group contexts, the more complicated nature of team interaction necessitates some adaptation and some added skills. Small team communicationInteractions among 3 or more world who are connected through a prevalent function, common affect, and a common identification. describes interactions among 3 or even more people who are connected with a widespread function, common influence, and a shared identification. In this area, we will certainly learn around the features, functions, and forms of tiny teams.

You watching: As explained in your textbook, one of the defining traits of a small group is that

Characteristics of Small Groups

Different groups have actually various attributes, serve different objectives, and can bring about positive, neutral, or negative experiences. While our interindividual relationships generally focus on relationship structure, tiny teams commonly emphasis on some sort of task completion or goal accomplishment. A college discovering community concentrated on math and also science, a project team for a state senator, and a team of neighborhood organic farmers are examples of small groups that would certainly all have actually a different dimension, framework, identification, and interactivity pattern.

Size of Small Groups

Tbelow is no set number of members for the ideal tiny group. A small group needs a minimum of 3 world (because two civilization would be a pair or dyad), yet the upper variety of group dimension is contingent on the objective of the group. When teams thrive past fifteen to twenty members, it becomes tough to consider them a small group based on the previous interpretation. An analysis of the variety of unique relations between members of little groups shows that they are deceptively complex. For example, within a six-perboy team, there are fifteenager sepaprice potential dyadic connections, and also a twelve-person team would have actually sixty-6 potential dyadic relations.Owen Hargie, Seliminated Interpersonal Interaction: Research, Theory, and Practice, 5th ed. (London: Routledge, 2011), 452–53. As you have the right to view, as soon as we double the number of group members, we more than double the number of connections, which reflects that network-related link points in tiny groups flourish exponentially as membership increases. So, while tbelow is no set upper limit on the number of team members, it makes feeling that the variety of group members must be limited to those essential to attain the goal or serve the function of the team. Small teams that include too many type of members increase the potential for team members to feel overwhelmed or disassociated.

Structure of Small Groups

Internal and also exterior impacts influence a group’s structure. In regards to inner influences, member attributes play a duty in initial group development. For instance, a perboy that is well indeveloped around the group’s task and/or very motivated as a group member might arise as a leader and also set right into motion internal decision-making processes, such as recruiting new members or assigning team roles, that affect the structure of a team.Donald G. Ellis and B. Aubrey Fisher, Small Group Decision Making: Communication and also the Group Process, 4th ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1994), 57. Different members will also gravitate towards different duties within the group and will certainly advocate for particular actions and also courses of action over others. External components such as team dimension, job, and sources additionally affect group framework. Some groups will certainly have more manage over these external components through decision making than others. For example, a commission that is put together by a legislative body to look into moral violations in athletic establishments will likely have actually less manage over its outside components than a self-developed weekly book club.


A self-developed research group most likely has a much more flexible framework than a city council committee.

Group structure is likewise developed through formal and also informal netoccupational connections. In regards to formal networks, groups might have plainly identified roles and also duties or a power structure that mirrors how members are associated. The team itself might additionally be a part of an business power structure that networks the team into a bigger business structure. This form of formal netjob-related is specifically essential in groups that need to report to outside stakeholders. These external stakeholders might affect the group’s formal netjob-related, leaving the group little or no control over its structure. Conversely, groups have even more control over their informal netfunctions, which are connections among people within the group and among group members and also civilization outside of the group that aren’t main. For example, a group member’s friend or family member may have the ability to secure a room to host a fundraiser at a discounted rate, which helps the team attain its task. Both types of networks are necessary because they might aid facilitate indevelopment exreadjust within a group and extfinish a group’s reach in order to access other sources.

Size and structure additionally affect interaction within a group.Donald G. Ellis and B. Aubrey Fisher, Small Group Decision Making: Communication and also the Group Process, 4th ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1994), 66–74. In regards to dimension, the more civilization in a team, the even more problems through scheduling and coordicountry of communication. Remember that time is a vital resource in most team interactions and a resource that is commonly strained. Structure ca boost or decrease the circulation of interaction. Reachcapability describes the method in which one member is or isn’t associated to other team members. For example, the “Circle” team structure in Figure 13.1 "Small Group Structures" reflects that each team member is connected to two various other members. This deserve to make coordination straightforward as soon as only one or 2 human being need to be lugged in for a decision. In this instance, Erik and also Callie are very reachable by Winston, who might easily coordinate via them. However before, if Winston necessary to coordinate through Bill or Stephanie, he would certainly need to wait on Erik or Callie to reach that perchild, which might create delays. The circle deserve to be an excellent structure for teams who are passing alengthy a task and in which each member is intended to progressively construct on the others’ work-related. A team of scholars coauthoring a research paper may job-related in such a manner, via each perchild adding to the paper and also then passing it on to the next person in the circle. In this situation, they have the right to ask the previous perchild inquiries and compose through the following person’s area of specialization in mind. The “Wheel” team structure in Figure 13.1 "Small Group Structures" mirrors an alternative organization pattern. In this structure, Tara is very reachable by all members of the team. This have the right to be a valuable framework when Tara is the person through the a lot of field of expertise in the job or the leader who requirements to evaluation and provide work at each action prior to it is passed along to various other team members. But Phillip and also Shadow, for example, wouldn’t most likely job-related together without Tara being involved.

Figure 13.1 Small Group Structures


Looking at the team frameworks, we deserve to make some assumptions around the interaction that takes location in them. The wheel is an instance of a central structure, while the circle is decentralized. Research has actually presented that central teams are much better than decentral groups in regards to rate and performance.Donald G. Ellis and B. Aubrey Fisher, Small Group Decision Making: Communication and also the Group Process, fourth ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1994), 68. But decentralized groups are even more effective at fixing facility problems. In centralized teams like the wheel, the perkid through the a lot of relationships, perboy C, is likewise more likely to be the leader of the team or at leastern have actually even more standing among team members, greatly bereason that perboy has actually a large perspective of what’s going on in the team. The most central person have the right to also act as a gatekeeper. Due to the fact that this perboy has accessibility to the many information, which is commonly a authorize of leadership or status, he or she could consciously decide to limit the flow of information. But in complicated jobs, that perboy could end up being overwhelmed by the burden of processing and also sharing indevelopment with all the other group members. The circle structure is even more most likely to arise in groups where teamwork is the goal and also a certain task and course of activity isn’t required under time constraints. While the person who initiated the team or has the most specialization in regards to the task might arise as a leader in a decentral group, the equal accessibility to indevelopment lessens the power structure and also potential for gatekeeping that is current in the even more centralized teams.


Small teams exhilittle interdependenceA characteristic of tiny teams that describes a common function and also fate, interpretation that each group member’s actions influence eexceptionally various other group member., interpretation they share a common purpose and also a common fate. If the actions of one or two team members bring about a team deviating from or not achieving their objective, then all members of the group are impacted. Conversely, if the actions of only a few of the team members cause success, then all members of the team advantage. This is a major contributor to many college students’ dislike of team assignments, bereason they feel a loss of regulate and also self-reliance that they have as soon as they complete an assignment alone. This concern is valid in that their grades can endure because of the negative actions of someone else or their hard work might go to benefit the team member that just skated by. Group meeting attendance is a clear example of the interdependent nature of team interaction. Many type of of us have actually landed on a group meeting only to discover fifty percent of the members current. In some instances, the team members that display up have to leave and reschedule because they can’t accomplish their job without the other members current. Group members that attfinish meetings but withdraw or don’t participate can likewise derail team progress. Although it deserve to be frustrating to have your job, grade, or reputation partly dependent on the actions of others, the interdependent nature of groups deserve to additionally bring about higher-top quality performance and also output, particularly when team members are accountable for their actions.

Shared Identity

The common identification of a team manifests in several methods. Groups might have main charters or mission and also vision statements that lay out the identity of a group. For instance, the Girl Scout mission claims that “Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence, and also character, that make the human being a far better place.”Girl Scouts, “Facts,” accessed July 15, 2012, The mission for this huge organization impacts the identities of the countless small groups dubbed troops. Group identity is regularly formed roughly a common goal and/or previous accomplishments, which adds dynamism to the team as it looks toward the future and also back on the past to indevelop its existing. Shared identity deserve to also be exhibited via team names, slogans, songs, handshakes, clothes, or other symbols. At a family reunion, for instance, equivalent t-shirts specially created the occasion, dishes made from recipes passed dvery own from generation to generation, and also mutual stories of family members that have passed away assist develop a mutual identification and social fact.

A vital facet of the development of a common identification within a group is the establishment of the in-team as opposed to the out-team. The degree to which members share in the in-team identification varies from perchild to perkid and team to group. Even within a family members, some members may not attfinish a reunion or get as excited around the equivalent t-shirts as others. Shared identification also emerges as groups end up being cohesive, interpretation they identify through and prefer the group’s job and other group members. The presence of cohesion and a mutual identity leads to a structure of trust, which have the right to additionally positively affect efficiency and also members’ satisfactivity.

Functions of Small Groups

Why perform we join groups? Even through the difficulties of team membership that we have actually all faced, we still look for out and also desire to be a component of numerous teams. In some situations, we sign up with a team bereason we need a service or accessibility to information. We might also be attracted to a group because we admire the team or its members. Whether we are aware of it or not, our identities and also self-ideas are constructed on the groups through which we identify. So, to answer the previously question, we sign up with teams because they function to assist us satisfy important, interpersonal, and identification needs.

Groups Meet Instrupsychological Needs

Groups have long offered the important needs of people, helping through the many fundamental aspects of survival considering that ancient human beings initially evolved. Groups helped people endure by offering security and also security with enhanced numbers and access to resources. Today, groups are rarely such a issue of life and death, yet they still serve crucial crucial features. Labor unions, for instance, pool initiatives and sources to attain material defense in the develop of pay boosts and wellness benefits for their members, which protects them by giving a steady and reliable livelihood. Individual group members should likewise job-related to secure the crucial demands of the group, developing a reciprocal connection. Members of labor unions pay dues that assist support the group’s efforts. Some groups additionally accomplish our informational demands. Although they might not administer material resources, they enwealthy our expertise or administer information that we deserve to usage to then satisfy our own crucial requirements. Many type of teams carry out referrals to resources or market advice. For instance, several consumer security and advocacy groups have actually been developed to offer referrals for world that have actually been the victim of fraudulent company methods. Whether a team develops to carry out services to members that they couldn’t get otherwise, advocate for changes that will certainly affect members’ lives, or provide information, many kind of teams fulfill some form of instrumental require.

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Groups Meet Interpersonal Needs

Group membership meets interpersonal requirements by providing us access to inclusion, regulate, and assistance. In regards to inclusion, civilization have actually a fundamental drive to be a component of a team and also to develop and keep social bonds. As we’ve learned, human beings have always lived and also worked in tiny groups. Family and friendship teams, shared-interemainder groups, and activity teams all provide us through a feeling of belonging and being consisted of in an in-team. People additionally join groups bereason they want to have actually some manage over a decision-making procedure or to influence the outcome of a team. Being a part of a team permits people to share opinions and influence others. Conversely, some world join a team to be regulated, bereason they don’t desire to be the sole decision maker or leader and rather want to be provided a role to follow.

Just as we enter right into interpersonal relationships because we choose someone, we are drawn toward a group once we are attracted to it and/or its members. Groups likewise administer assistance for others in methods that supplement the assistance that we obtain from considerable others in interindividual relationships. Some teams, choose therapy teams for survivors of sexual assault or support teams for human being with cancer, exist mostly to administer emotional assistance. While these teams may likewise accomplish important requirements through relations and also referrals to sources, they accomplish the interpersonal require for belonging that is a central humale require.

Groups Meet Identity Needs

Our affiliations are structure blocks for our identities, because group membership enables us to usage reference groups for social comparison—in short, identifying us via some teams and also qualities and separating us from others. Some world sign up with teams to be affiliated with people who share equivalent or desirable attributes in regards to beliefs, perspectives, worths, or social identities. For instance, civilization might join the National Organization for Woguys because they want to affiliate through others that support women’s rights or a neighborhood chapter of the National Association for the Growth of Colored People (NAACP) because they desire to affiliate through Afrihave the right to Americans, world pertained to with civil civil liberties, or a combination of the two. Group memberships differ in regards to how a lot they impact our identity, as some are more influential than others at assorted times in our stays. While spiritual teams in its entirety are as well large to be taken into consideration little groups, the job-related that people execute as a part of a religious community—as a lay leader, deacon, member of a prayer team, or committee—might have deep ties to a person’s identity.


Group membership helps satisfy our interindividual needs by offering an chance for affection and inclusion.

The prestige of a team have the right to initially tempt us bereason we want that group’s identity to “rub off” on our very own identification. Likewise, the success we make as a group member have the right to improve our self-esteem, add to our reputation, and permit us to develop or task particular identity features to communicate in impression monitoring. For example, a person may take numerous tests to end up being a part of Mensa, which is an company for human being via high IQs, for no material acquire yet for the recognition or sense of achievement that the affiliation may lug. Likewise, human being may sign up with sports teams, experienced organizations, and also honor societies for the sense of success and affiliation. Such groups permit us methods to better ourselves by encouraging even more advance of skills or understanding. For instance, a perboy who used to play the oboe in high institution might join the neighborhood band also to continue to enhance on his or her capacity.

Types of Small Groups

Tright here are many type of forms of little teams, yet the the majority of widespread difference made in between types of little 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 formed to fix a difficulty, promote a cause, or generate ideas or information. are created to solve a difficulty, promote a reason, or generate principles or indevelopment.Matthew McKay, Martha Davis, and Patrick Fanning, Messages: Communication Skills Book, second ed. (Oakland also, CA: New Harbinger Publications, 1995), 254. In such groups, prefer a committee or study team, interactions and also decisions are generally evaluated based upon the top quality of the last product or output. The 3 major types of jobs are production, discussion, and problem-addressing tasks.Donald G. Ellis and also B. Aubrey Fisher, Small Group Decision Making: Communication and the Group Process, fourth ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1994), 44. Groups faced with manufacturing work are asked to develop something tangible from their team interactions such as a report, design for a playground, musical performance, or fundraiser event. Groups confronted through conversation tasks are asked to talk via something without trying to come up through a ideal or wrong answer. Examples of this form of team incorporate a support group for civilization with HIV/AIDS, a book club, or a team for brand-new fathers. Groups faced via problem-addressing tasks need to devise a course of activity to accomplish a specific need. These teams also typically incorporate a manufacturing and conversation component, however the finish goal isn’t necessarily a tangible product or a common social reality via conversation. Instead, the finish goal is a well-thought-out idea. Task-oriented teams call for honed problem-addressing abilities to attain goals, and also the structure of these groups is more rigid than that of relational-oriented teams.

Relational-oriented groupsGroups created to promote interindividual relationships and also that are even more concentrated on high quality interactions that add to the well-being of team members. are formed to promote interindividual connections and also are more concentrated on quality interactions that contribute to the wellness of team members. Decision making is directed at strengthening or repairing relationships fairly than completing discrete work or debating specific concepts or courses of activity. All teams encompass task and relational aspects, so it’s ideal to think of these orientations as two ends of a continuum rather than as mutually exclusive. For instance, although a household unit functions together day-to-day to accomplish jobs like gaining the youngsters prepared for school and also friendship teams might arrangement a surpincrease party for one of the members, their main and a lot of systematic interactions are still relational. Because various other chapters in this book emphasis specifically on interpersonal relationships, this chapter concentrates even more on task-oriented groups and the dynamics that operate within these teams.

To more especially look at the forms of little teams that exist, we deserve to research why groups create. Some groups are developed based on interpersonal relationships. Our family and also friends are thought about primary groupsLong-lasting groups that are formed based upon relationships and include significant others., or long-lasting groups that are formed based upon relationships and encompass considerable others. These are the little teams in which we interact a lot of frequently. They form the basis of our culture and our individual social realities. Kinship netfunctions carry out essential support at an early stage in life and fulfill physiological and safety and security demands, which are necessary for survival. They additionally meet higher-order needs such as social and also self-esteem demands. When civilization carry out not communicate through their biological family members, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, they have the right to develop fictive kinship networks, which are composed of human being that are not biologically associated but accomplish household duties and assist administer the exact same assistance.

We likewise communicate in many kind of additional groupsGroups defined by much less regular face-to-challenge interactions, much less emotional and relational communication, and more task-related communication than major teams., which are defined by less frequent face-to-face interactions, less emotional and also relational interaction, and even more task-associated interaction than primary teams.David B. Barker, “The Behavidental Analysis of Interpersonal Intimacy in Group Advancement,” Small Group Research 22, no. 1 (1991): 79. While we are more most likely to participate in additional teams based on self-interest, our primary-group interactions are regularly more reciprocal or various other oriented. For example, we may sign up with groups because of a shared interest or require.

Groups developed based on shared interemainder encompass social teams and leisure groups such as a team of independent film buffs, science fiction fans, or bird watchers. Some groups create to satisfy the demands of people or of a details group of people. Instances of groups that meet the demands of individuals encompass examine groups or support groups prefer a weight loss group. These teams are concentrated on individual demands, also though they meet as a team, and they are likewise often discussion oriented. Service teams, on the various other hand also, occupational to satisfy the requirements of people yet are task oriented. Service teams incorporate Habitat for Humanity and also Rotary Club chapters, among others. Still various other teams create around a common require, and also their main job is advocacy. For example, the Gay Men’s Health Situation is a group that was created by a little group of eight world in the early on 1980s to advocate for resources and also support for the still reasonably unrecognized disease that would certainly later on be well-known as AIDS. Similar groups form to advocate for everything from a speak sign at a neighborhood intersection to the finish of huguy trafficking.

As we already learned, other groups are created primarily to achieve a task. TeamsTask-oriented groups in which members are particularly loyal and dedicated to the task and other group members. are task-oriented groups in which members are specifically loyal and dedicated to the task and also other group members.Carl E. Larkid and Frank M. J. LaFasto, TeamWork: What Must Go Right/What Must Go Wrong (Newbury Park, CA: Sage, 1989), 73. In expert and also public conmessages, the word team has come to be popularized as a method of illustration on the positive connotations of the term—connotations such as “high-spirited,” “cooperative,” and also “hardworking.” Scholars that have spent years researching very effective groups have actually established a number of common factors regarded their success. Successful teams haveRobert B. Adler and also Jeanne Marquardt Elmhorst, Communicating at Work: Principles and also Practices for Businesses and the Professions, 8th ed. (Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill, 2005), 248–50.

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clear and also motivating shared goals, a results-propelled structure, proficient team members, a collaborative climate, high criteria for performance, external support and also acknowledgment, and also honest and also accountable management.

Increasingly, small teams and also groups are engaging in even more virtual interaction. Virtual groupsGroups that take advantage of new modern technologies and accomplish exclusively or primarily online to accomplish their objective or goal. take advantage of brand-new innovations and also satisfy specifically or primarily virtual to attain their purpose or goal. Some digital groups might complete their job without ever before being physically face-to-challenge. Virtual groups lug with them unique advantages and disbenefits that you have the right to check out even more about in the “Getting Plugged In” attribute following.