Formal Group Vs. Informal Group: 12 Key Differences [Explained]

Formal Group Vs. Informal Group

In organizational settings, the creation of the formal group and the informal group is common. Where, if formal groups are created to fulfill the organizational goals with the consent of the top management.

Whereas, informal groups are naturally formed by the employees themselves to fulfill their social needs. The basic difference between formal and informal groups is that formal groups are created for official works and informal is for unofficial works.

Formation of various groups in the workplace is common. As you know, no one likes to work in isolation. As such, people show a willingness to join groups to know each other, to feel included, to work collectively, to feel the power of groups, to share information openly, etc.

Every employee becomes a part of a group whether it is formal or informal. Everyone has a different purpose to join the group. Let’s understand clearly what the formal group is, what the informal group is, and the differences between them.

What is a Formal Group?

When a top-level management or manager forms a group in the organization to accomplish some specific objectives such a group is called a formal group. Formal groups are always created with the consent of top executives of the organization and they always tend to fulfill certain official requirements.

In formal groups, employees have to work under outlined organization’s rules and procedures. Usually, members of formal groups are tied to organizational goals and such groups can be permanent as well as temporary.

The objective of a formal group is to accomplish the specific target of the firm. Formal groups are common two types, they are:

  • Command Groups – In a command group, subordinates work under a manager and they have to report to the same manager in the scalar chain.
  • Task Groups – These groups are formed to conduct the particular task of the company.

What is an Informal Group?

The opposite of a formal group is the informal group.

In an organization, an informal group is formed by the employees themselves without the consent of the manager. Such groups are formed through the consent of the employee, they usually create such groups to fulfill their social needs on the job.

It is believed that the creation of informal groups in the workplace is natural. Employees love to interact with their associates, share opinions, and get & share information, during their job. Based on their interest, ethnicity, culture, nationality, attitudes, etc. employees form different informal groups.

Usually, informal groups are of two types – interest and friendship groups. In an interest group, employees form a group based on their common interests like work schedules, leisure time, etc. Similarly, in a friendship group, employees form a group because of their likeness to each other.

Difference Between Formal and Informal Group

The following are the points that are worth notable to differentiate between formal and informal groups.

Definition

Groups created by the organization, for the purpose of accomplishing a specific target are called formal groups. Whereas, groups created by the employees themselves, for their own interests or purpose are called informal groups.

Formation

Formal groups are formed deliberately i.e. intentionally by the organization. And, whoever employee is placed in a group has to work under the group. On the other hand, informal groups are formed voluntarily. It is optional for employees to participate in such groups.

Size

Usually, a formal group is of large size or as per the need of the organization. And, an informal group is comparatively small because of interest or friendship.

Life Span

The life span of formal groups depends upon the objectives of the group formation. Whereas, the life span of informal groups depends upon the interest, bonding, and mutual trust of members.

Structure

Formal groups have well-defined structures i.e. defined by the organizational structure. And, it can only be changed by the top officials. Whereas, informal groups have ill-defined structures i.e. not specific, and may change according to time, purpose, and change in-group members.

Importance

Importance is given to the formal position in the organization and group. And, in the case of informal groups, importance is given to the person i.e. member of the group based on the idea and other individual characteristics.

Relationship

In formal groups, there is a professional relationship among group members based on the formal chain of command. On the other hand, in informal groups, there are personal relationships among members based on personal interests, influencing capability, and friendship.

Communication

In formal groups, the direction of communication is clearly defined and every member has to communicate by following the same direction. Conversely, in informal groups, members follow informally all directions to communicate. No specific mode of communication is there.

Authority

Formal group members exercise the formal authority specified by the chain of command. Whereas, under informal groups, authority is given to the peer group. Informal groups do not possess formal authority.

The Behavior of Members

In formal groups, members have to behave in ways management has set rules and procedures. Whereas, in informal groups, the behavior of members depends upon the individual and group interests.

Supervision

Supervisors use formal supervision of people and work as prescribed by the management. Whereas, under informal groups, there is almost no supervision of people. Members of the group should be self-supervised.

Example

For a formal group, suppose a manager formed a group of five employees and set the target to increase sales by 5% within five months. Similarly, for an informal group, suppose four employees of the organization having a common interest in soccer formed a group.

Conclusion

Both formal and informal groups are important in the organization. Where, if formal groups help the organization to achieve its goals formally. On the other way, informal groups help the organization achieve its goals informally.

And, the main difference between formal and informal groups is – an informal group is not official whereas a formal group is official in nature.

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