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Man is a Social Animal Essay

‘Man is a social animal’, said Aristotle years ago, human races proved and realized the importance of his statement by the passage of time. Individuals live in groups and can not separate themselves from being part of a group. Individuals have their own importance, their behaviours and performance can not be ignored as these influence the behaviours and production of groups they belong to.

Groups exist every where, and we are a part of it whether we realize this or not. This does not mean that individuals do not give better results when performing alone, they do, but man is dependent on others to fulfil different kinds of need. Working in groups is beneficial for an individual as he gets more exposure and leaning takes place in many ways, and he also learns to survive in group which is the basic necessity for an individual.

In order explain individual’s behaviour in a group it is important to understand different types of groups, their norms and values and possible causes of the conflicts. There have been researches and experiments conducted by several scientists in order to explain unique behavioural pattern of each individual in working environment.

Individual and Group:

Groups are of vital importance in all fields of life whether its work situation, personal or social life, these are either formal or informal. Some people may prefer to work alone as they perform better and some might want to be a part of a group in various situations. I want to put myself as an example here, when this assignment was given I was worried to work individually on it and the reason behind this was that firstly I feel more comfortable to discuss ideas with people and second, as I write simple and straight I feel better working as a group where I can use other persons words to flourish and talk about my ideas more clearly.

Critical Analysis with Examples:

Formal groups are formed by organisations to achieve certain goals or tasks (Bowditch and Buono, 1994). In these groups goals, tasks, roles and norms are defined by the management (Brooks, 2009). Working in a formal group is of great benefit for an individual as this develops different skills and abilities in a person. One gets a chance to see how others behave and respond to different situations and learn to work in a group effectively.

I worked as a teacher for 2 years in Pakistan and learnt many things working in a group of teachers. I feel working in a group influenced my attitude and behaviour as individual, I gained more confidence of doing tasks or projects I have never done before. It also helped in developing decision power and managing multi tasks in given array of time. Working in a competitive environment changed my attitude when I started getting positive feedback from management and parents. Children respond me very well as I worked hard on each child, tried to develop skills and work on their weaknesses. There I got chance to study behaviours of children and parents as well. I tried to bring positive changes in children showing them my own example, as I was a role model for them, so in this way got a chance to study and observe own behaviours and attitudes in detail..

People join informal groups to satisfy their social, psychological and personal needs. These groups fulfil the individual’s needs of social interaction that lack working in formal groups. These groups not only exist out side work place but also at work places and people of same thinking and values become a part or make themselves a part of a particular group.

When I joined University of Salford in January as an international postgraduate student, I was a part of a formal group that was defined by university comprising almost thirty five students. Later students split into informal groups in order to satisfy their social needs depending on culture, language, race, age and gender.

According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of need theory, individual try to satisfy his basic needs which differ in importance. He identifies eight innate needs ranging from physiological and safety needs to self-actualization needs (Mullins, 2005). This theory answers one of the questions why informal groups are formed also why individuals are attracted towards each other to become part informal groups.

According to Hunsaker and Cook (1986) informal groups have strong influence on an individual than formal. Individuals are open to join a group of homogeneous thoughts; this gives psychological satisfaction and helps them to perform better in formal groups.

All groups have some norms as a proof of their existence or value. Norms are guidelines set by organisations or groups and are considered as code of conduct for its members. According to Kreitner, Kinicki & Buelens (1999) norms are unwritten and are seldom discussed. It is an attitude, mind-set and feeling shared by people, which bounds them to follow these as to continue with their membership with the group.

I would like to state an example here from the school where I was teaching, it was a norm for children to come to school in proper uniform and those who deviate from this norm were considered to be violating the rule. There were some discipline rules as well which all children had to follow as part of their training and personality development, like they were not allowed to talk loud or shout in the class, had to leave the room in queue if going some where together, ask for permission before they enter in class, raise hand before they speak in class. Such norms are advantageous for students in order to discipline and organise them.

According to a research group norms have strong influences on new members and they adopt the same behaviour as a result of group pressure. It gives example of a boy who indulges in violent activities after joining a gang involved in such brutal activities (Yablonsky, cited in McKenna, 2000).

Roles are behavioural aspects which are expected from a person or group in a particular position. According to a research, attitude change is driven by roles (Bowditch and Buono, 1994), and the performance of an individual is enhanced if the role he is into suits his personality (Belbin, cited in Davies and Kanaki, 2006).

An individual performs many roles in a group, like a teacher plays many roles in order to satisfy management and own personal need or others’ social needs. For children she is a teacher and a mother, who cares for them gives them sense of protection and security, trims them to face realities of life; also achieves set targets utilizing her own potentials to satisfy management; fulfils colleagues’ social, psychological needs. She plays more roles in her personal life like, of a daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend with various expectations from her which are not communicated formally but understood.

Boulden (1983) says this tradition of very high level of expectations in work situation was set in sixties, which has brought decline to the businesses as it is very difficult for a person to match that level of expectation.

When individuals share same targets, thinking and work closely together with commitment to achieve certain tasks, shows a good level of cohesiveness in a group. Cohesiveness of small groups increases when they are less diverse and more interactive, where as larger groups are less cohesive when they are more diverse and have competition (Capon, 2004).Cohesive groups share same attitudes, likings, performance and better in dealing with deviants than less cohesive groups (Bowditch and Buono, 1994). Mullins (2005) states a cohesiveness in groups is beneficial for organisations, it also leaves the members with rewarding experiences.

The best example of cohesiveness can be of military, where changes in level of coordination can change the situation in battle field. It is therefore necessary for them to co-ordinate well for achieving better results.

I remember the time in school when we were preparing for annual function and a few programmes were included in schedule. Teachers had to prepare children for stage performances and there was an art exhibition on the same day. Annual sports day was following this event, due to which schedule was too tight for teachers as well as for children, who had to manage themselves for so many activities though at lower level and under teachers’ supervision. Such situations require high level of cohesiveness to achieve targets, which is not easy as outsiders are involved in observations who also critically evaluate the organisation’s performance. Such situations in work experience give its members to learn from observations like other individuals’ or groups’ behaviours, and dealing techniques with groups and individuals.

Good cohesiveness in a group influences an individual’s behaviour, also gives high level of job satisfaction. The member follows the norms of the group which have either positive or negative impact on his attitude and behaviour both. If the group norms are good and polish his creativities and skills, that helps developing his personality, but if the norms are negative like, to produce less than ability lefts negative impact on his behaviour.

According to Hawthorne’s experiment of fourteen men working in a wiring room formed their own informal group and the norm which everyone strongly followed was to produce less then their ability. That is how norms can be disadvantageous, if they are negative in nature (Mullins, 2005).

High level of cohesiveness is not necessarily always favourable as it stops creativity, thinking, decision power and problem solving skills in a group which results in Groupthink. According to a research previously it was thought that high cohesiveness is necessary for high performance, but it was Janis, who gave a concept that high group cohesiveness leads to group think – an ultimate disaster & fiasco for groups’ decision making ability (Eaton, 2001).

I want to quote Vietnam War here which was a consequence of high cohesiveness that lead to group think and America attacked Vietnam without considering the after effects they had face.

Bowditch and Buono (1994) quote Janis’s work saying groupthink leads to ‘overoptimism ‘and ‘high risk taking by group members’; there is rationalisation of group’s decisions so other members are not allowed to question the decisions made.

Leadership is a necessity which cannot be avoided in order to manage activities, conflicts and decision making. According to Mullins (2005 p.282) “Leadership is a relationship through which one person influences the behaviour or actions of other people.”

It is the leadership which moulds the behaviour of ordinary group members to competitive group, which enhances the competency level of members of that group. Great man theory explains well the qualities of good leaders, according to which the leaders influence the behaviour of people by force of their personality (Buchanan and Huczynski, 2004). The best example of leadership I think is Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of my country, Pakistan. It was because of his strong leadership qualities that he united the Muslims of sub-continent on one plate form, as a nation.

Different style of leadership have different affects on individuals’ personality, like, Autocratic leadership style suppresses the abilities of the group members. On the other hand if the leader tries to involve the member in making decisions, he wins their confidence, able to take better decisions, this also have very positive effects on the attitudes of members.

I want to share my own experience of working with SLM Connexions, a call centre located in Manchester, UK. The company started business with a good deal of investment, and recruitment of talented staff. The autocratic style of leadership was adopted by the directors who use to tell the staff what they want them to do or sell. Sometimes suggestions were welcomed but no one was allowed to question their decisions, and as a result the company bear much loss in last few months for making many wrong decisions.

Whenever individuals interact with each other, there is always a possibility of conflict between them depending on multidimensional thinking, perception and behaviour. Conflict my arise due to several reasons ranging from improperly defined roles to ambiguity in norms. Whatever reason of conflict is, it affects its member both positively and negatively. Role conflict mainly arises due to unethical behaviour of a member (Johns and Saks, 2005). Conflicts may also arise from cultural, demographic and value differences (Vodosek, 2007).

I want to quote an example from my own experience in school where teachers were provided with pick and drop facility. These group of teachers were from different level, like some were from pre-school and some from primary and their finishing time was different from each other. Pre-school teachers finished an hour before the primary level teacher and had enough time to wind-up before going home, but primary teachers use to finish at 2o’clock. Conflict arouse when pre-school teachers demanded van to leave school as they get free early without considering the teachers who finish at 2o’clock. This conflict leads to many other conflicts in school regarding duty timings and some others. Then our academic co-ordinator decided to have consensus and time was fixed for the school van to leave after school.

Conflict brings success to an organisation and groups in many ways. Conflicts are a sign of healthy mental approach; bring new ideas, innovations which individuals should learn to take positively as it is beneficial for them as well. On other hand conflict has adverse affects on personality & behaviour of an individual that can result in stress and frustration.


The subject discussed above reflects the positive and negative aspects of group behaviours on individual. Individuals and groups work parallel to each other in every sphere of life and study of an individual’s behaviour in a group is as important as organization’s. An individual interacts with other people in perspectives of behaviours and attitudes throughout life and learn to polish, enhance and develops his personality, through learning from different experiences.

Management should take the responsibility to resolve the conflicts related to roles, status leadership, norms, and develops good cohesiveness so that individuals can get maximum benefit from it. Generally problems are taken as hurdles but these are there to teach us. We should take them as opportunity which gives a new horizon to perception of an individual.

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