What organization is a collection of people who regularly interact with one another on the basis of shared expectations concerning behavior and shares a common identity?

Main Body

What organization is a collection of people who regularly interact with one another on the basis of shared expectations concerning behavior and shares a common identity?
Figure 6.1. Students, environmentalists, union members, and aboriginal people showed up to protest at the Occupy movement in Victoria, B.C. (Photo courtesy of rpaterso/flickr)

Learning Objectives

6.1. Types of Groups

  • Understand primary and secondary groups as two key sociological groups
  • Recognize in-groups and out-groups as subtypes of primary and secondary groups
  • Define reference groups

6.2. Groups and Networks

  • Determine the distinction between groups, social networks, and formal organizations
  • Analyze the dynamics of dyads, triads, and larger social networks
  • Distinguish between different styles of leadership
  • Explain how conformity is impacted by groups
  • Understand why groups and networks are more than the sum of their parts

6.3. Formal Organizations

  • Understand the different types of formal organizations
  • Categorize the characteristics of bureaucracies
  • Analyze the opposing tendencies of bureaucracy toward efficiency and inefficiency
  • Identify the concepts of the McDonaldization of society and the McJob as aspects of the process of rationalization

Introduction to Groups and Organizations

The punk band NOFX is playing outside in Los Angeles. The music is loud, the crowd pumped up and excited. But neither the lyrics nor the people in the audience are quite what you might expect. Mixed in with the punks and young rebel students are members of local unions, from well-dressed teachers to more grizzled labour leaders. The lyrics are not published anywhere but are available on YouTube: “We’re here to represent/The 99 percent/Occupy, occupy, occupy.” The song: “Wouldn’t It Be Nice If Every Movement Had a Theme Song” (Cabrel 2011).

At an Occupy camp in New York, roughly three dozen members of the Facilitation Working Group, a part of the General Assembly, take a steady stream of visitors with requests at their unofficial headquarters. One person wants a grant for $1,500 to make herbal medications available to those staying at the park. Another wants to present Native American peace principles derived from the Iroquois Confederacy. Yet another has a spreadsheet that he wants used as an evaluation tool for the facilitators. A group of women press for more inclusive language to be used in the “Declaration of the Occupation” document so that racial and women’s concerns are recognized as central to the movement.

In Victoria, B.C., a tent community springs up in Centennial Square outside city hall, just like tent cities in other parts of the country. Through the “horizontal decision-making process” of daily general assemblies, the community decides to change its name from Occupy Victoria to the  People’s Assembly of Victoria because of the negative colonial connotations of the word “occupy” for aboriginal members of the group. As the tent cities of the Occupy movement begin to be dismantled, forcibly in some cases, a separate movement, Idle No More, emerges to advocate for aboriginal justice.

Numerous groups make up the Occupy movement, yet there is no central movement leader. What makes a group something more than just a collection of people? How are leadership functions and styles established in a group dynamic?

Most people have a sense of what it means to be part of some kind of a group, whether it is a social movement, sports team, school club, or family. Groups connect us to others through commonalities of geography, interests, race, religion, and activities. But for the groups of people protesting from New York City to Victoria, B.C., and in the hundreds of cities in between, their connection within the Occupy Wall Street movement is harder to define. What unites these people? Are homeless people truly aligned with law school students? Do aboriginal people genuinely feel for the environmental protests against pipelines and fish farming?

Groups are prevalent in our social lives and provide a significant way to understand and define ourselves—both through groups we feel a connection to and those we do not. Groups also play an important role in society. As enduring social units, they help foster shared value systems and are key to the structure of society as we know it. There are four primary sociological perspectives for studying groups: functionalist, critical, feminist, and symbolic interactionist. We can look at the Occupy movement through the lenses of these methods to better understand the roles and challenges that groups offer.

The functionalist perspective is a big-picture, macro-level view that looks at how different aspects of society are intertwined. This perspective is based on the idea that society is a well-balanced system with all parts necessary to the whole. It studies the functions these parts play in the reproduction of the whole. In the case of the Occupy movement, a functionalist might look at what macro-level needs the movement serves. Structural functionalism recognizes that there are tensions or conflicts between different structural elements of the system. The huge inequalities generated by the economic system might function positively as part of the incentive needed for people to commit themselves to risky economic ventures, but they conflict with the normative structure of the political decision-making system based on equality and democratic principles. The Occupy movement forces both haves and have-nots to pay attention to the imbalances between the economic and political systems. Occupy emerges as an expression of the disjunction between these two systems and functions as a means of initiating a resolution of the issues.

The critical perspective is another macroanalytical view, one that focuses on the genesis and growth of inequality. A critical theorist studying the Occupy movement might look at how business interests have manipulated the system to reduce financial regulations and corporate taxes over the last 30 years. In particular, they would be interested in how these led to the financial crisis of 2008 and the increasing inequality we see today. The slogan, “We are the 99%,” emblematic of the Occupy movement, refers to the massive redistribution of wealth from the middle class to the upper class. Even when the mismanagement of the corporate elite (i.e., the “1%”) had threatened the stability of people’s livelihoods and the entire global economy in the financial meltdown of 2008, and even when their corporations and financial institutions were receiving bailouts from the American and Canadian governments, their personal income, bonuses, and overall share of social wealth increased.

Feminist analysis of the Occupy movement would be interested in the connection  between contemporary capitalism and patriarchy. Why are women the poorest of the poor? They would also be interested in the type of organizational models used by the Occupy movement to understand and address the resulting issues of power structure  and economic injustice. The consciousness-raising techniques and non-hierarchical decision-making processes developed by feminists in the 1960s and 1970s were, in fact, incorporated into the daily political activities of the Occupy movement in order to extend the critique of corporate greed and financial institutions to largely invisible issues of privilege and daily, personal struggle. Occupy Montreal adopted the concept of stepping back or “progressive stack” in their meetings. Men and other dominant movement figures were encouraged to step back from monopolizing the conversation so that a diversity of opinions and experiences could be heard.  “We are not here to reproduce the same monopolization of voice and power as the ‘1%,’ we are here to diversify spaces for radical inclusion” (Boler 2012).

A fourth perspective is the symbolic interactionist perspective. This method of analyzing groups takes a micro-level view. Instead of studying the big picture, these researchers look at the day-to-day interactions of groups. Studying these details, the interactionist looks at issues like leadership style, communicative interactions, and group dynamics. In the case of the Occupy movement, interactionists might ask, “How does a non-hierarchical organization work?”; “How is the social order of a diverse group maintained when there are no formal regulations in place?”; “What are the implicit or tacit rules such groups rely on?”; “How do members come to share a common set of meanings concerning what the movement is about?”

What organization is a collection of people who regularly interact with one another on the basis of shared expectations concerning behavior and shares a common identity?
Figure 6.2. Slavoj Zizek addresses the crowd at Occupy Wall Street, “You don’t need to be a genius to lead, anyone can be leader.” (Photo courtesy of Daniel Latorre/Flickr).

At one point during the occupation of Wall Street, speakers like Slovenian social critic and philosopher Slavoj Zizek were obliged to abandon the use of microphones and amplification to comply with noise bylaws. They gave their speeches one line at a time and the people within earshot repeated the lines so that those further away could hear. The symbolic interactionist would be interested in examining how this communicational format, despite its cumbersome nature, could come to be an expression of group solidarity.

6.1. Types of Groups

Most of us feel comfortable using the word “group” without giving it much thought. But what does it mean to be part of a group? The concept of a group is central to much of how we think about society and human interaction. As Georg Simmel (1858–1915) put it, “[s]ociety exists where a number of individuals enter into interaction” (1908). Society exists in groups. For Simmel, society did not exist otherwise. What fascinated him was the way in which people mutually attune to one another to create relatively enduring forms. In a group, individuals behave differently than they would if they were alone. They conform, they resist, they forge alliances, they cooperate, they betray, they organize, they defer gratification, they show respect, they expect obedience, they share, they manipulate, etc. Being in a group changes their behaviour and their abilities. This is one of the founding insights of sociology: the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The group has properties over and above the properties of its individual members. It has a reality sui generis, of its own kind. But how exactly does the whole come to be greater?

Defining a Group

How can we hone the meaning of the term group more precisely for sociological purposes? The term is an amorphous one and can refer to a wide variety of gatherings, from just two people (think about a “group project” in school when you partner with another student), a club, a regular gathering of friends, or people who work together or share a hobby. In short, the term refers to any collection of at least two people who interact with some frequency and who share a sense that their identity is somehow aligned with the group. Of course, every time people gather, they do not necessarily form a group. An audience assembled to watch a street performer is a one-time random gathering. Conservative-minded people who come together to vote in an election are not a group because the members do not necessarily interact with one another with some frequency. People who exist in the same place at the same time, but who do not interact or share a sense of identity—such as a bunch of people standing in line at Starbucks—are considered an  aggregate, or a crowd. People who share similar characteristics but are not otherwise tied to one another in any way are considered a category.

An example of a category would be Millennials, the term given to all children born from approximately 1980 to 2000. Why are Millennials a category and not a group? Because while some of them may share a sense of identity, they do not, as a whole, interact frequently with each other.

Interestingly, people within an aggregate or category can become a group. During disasters, people in a neighbourhood (an aggregate) who did not know each other might become friendly and depend on each other at the local shelter. After the disaster ends and the people go back to simply living near each other, the feeling of cohesiveness may last since they have all shared an experience. They might remain a group, practising emergency readiness, coordinating supplies for next time, or taking turns caring for neighbours who need extra help. Similarly, there may be many groups within a single category. Consider teachers, for example. Within this category, groups may exist like teachers’ unions, teachers who coach, or staff members who are involved with the school board.

Types of Groups

Sociologist Charles Horton Cooley (1864–1929) suggested that groups can broadly be divided into two categories: primary groups and secondary groups (Cooley 1909). According to Cooley, primary groups play the most critical role in our lives. The primary group is usually fairly small and is made up of individuals who generally engage face-to-face in long-term, emotional ways. This group serves emotional needs: expressive functions rather than pragmatic ones. The primary group is usually made up of significant others—those individuals who have the most impact on our socialization. The best example of a primary group is the family.

Secondary groups are often larger and impersonal. They may also be task focused and time limited. These groups serve an instrumental function rather than an expressive one, meaning that their role is more goal or task oriented than emotional. A classroom or office can be an example of a secondary group. Neither primary nor secondary groups are bound by strict definitions or set limits. In fact, people can move from one group to another. A graduate seminar, for example, can start as a secondary group focused on the class at hand, but as the students work together throughout their program, they may find common interests and strong ties that transform them into a primary group.

Peter Marsden (1987) refers to one’s group of close social contacts as a core discussion group. These are individuals with whom you can discuss important personal matters or with whom you choose to spend your free time. Christakis and Fowler (2009) found that the average North American had four close personal contacts. However, 12 percent of their sample had no close personal contacts of this sort, while 5 percent had more than eight close personal contacts. Half of the people listed in the core discussion group were characterized as friends, as might be expected, but the other half included family members, spouses, children, colleagues, and professional consultants of various sorts. Marsden’s original research from the 1980s showed that the size of the core discussion group decreases as one ages, there was no difference in size between men and women, and those with a post-secondary degree had core discussion groups almost twice the size of those who had not completed high school.

Making Connections: Careers in Sociology

Best Friends She’s Never Met

Writer Allison Levy worked alone. While she liked the freedom and flexibility of working from home, she sometimes missed having a community of coworkers, both for the practical purpose of brainstorming and the more social “water cooler” aspect. Levy did what many do in the internet age: she found a group of other writers online through a web forum. Over time, a group of approximately 20 writers, who all wrote for a similar audience, broke off from the larger forum and started a private invitation-only forum. While writers in general represent all genders, ages, and interests, it ended up being a collection of 20- and 30-something women who comprised the new forum—they all wrote fiction for children and young adults.

At first, the writers’ forum was clearly a secondary group united by the members’ professions and work situations. As Levy explained, “On the internet, you can be present or absent as often as you want. No one is expecting you to show up.” It was a useful place to research information about different publishers and who had recently sold what, and to track industry trends. But as time passed, Levy found it served a different purpose. Since the group shared other characteristics beyond their writing (such as age and gender), the online conversation naturally turned to matters such as childrearing, aging parents, health, and exercise. Levy found it was a sympathetic place to talk about any number of subjects, not just writing. Further, when people didn’t post for several days, others expressed concern, asking whether anyone had heard from the missing writers. It reached a point where most members would tell the group if they were travelling or needed to be offline for a while.

The group continued to share. One member on the site who was going through a difficult family illness wrote, “I don’t know where I’d be without you women. It is so great to have a place to vent that I know isn’t hurting anyone.” Others shared similar sentiments.

So is this a primary group? Most of these people have never met each other. They live in Hawaii, Australia, Minnesota, and across the world. They may never meet. Levy wrote recently to the group, saying, “Most of my ‘real-life’ friends and even my husband don’t really get the writing thing. I don’t know what I’d do without you.” Despite the distance and the lack of physical contact, the group clearly fills an expressive need.

What organization is a collection of people who regularly interact with one another on the basis of shared expectations concerning behavior and shares a common identity?
Figure 6.3. Engineering and construction students gather around a job site. How do your academic interests define your in- and out-groups? (Photo courtesy of USACEpublicaffairs/flickr)

In-Groups and Out-Groups

One of the ways that groups can be powerful is through inclusion, and its inverse, exclusion. In-groups and out-groups are subcategories of primary and secondary groups that help identify this dynamic. Primary groups consist of both in-groups and out-groups, as do secondary groups. The feeling that one belongs in an elite or select group is a heady one, while the feeling of not being allowed in, or of being in competition with a group, can be motivating in a different way. Sociologist William Sumner (1840–1910) developed the concepts of in-group and out-group to explain this phenomenon (Sumner 1906). In short, an in-group is the group that an individual feels he or she belongs to, and believes it to be an integral part of who he or she is. An out-group, conversely, is a group someone doesn’t belong to; often there may be a feeling of disdain or competition in relation to an out-group. Sports teams, unions, and secret societies are examples of in-groups and out-groups; people may belong to, or be an outsider to, any of these.

While these affiliations can be neutral or even positive, such as the case of a team-sport competition, the concept of in-groups and out-groups can also explain some negative human behaviour, such as white supremacist movements like the Ku Klux Klan, or the bullying of gay or lesbian students. By defining others as “not like us” and inferior, in-groups can end up practicing ethnocentrism, racism, sexism, ageism, and heterosexism—manners of judging others negatively based on their culture, race, sex, age, or sexuality. Often, in-groups can form within a secondary group. For instance, a workplace can have cliques of people, from senior executives who play golf together, to engineers who write code together, to young singles who socialize after hours. While these in-groups might show favouritism and affinity for other in-group members, the overall organization may be unable or unwilling to acknowledge it. Therefore, it pays to be wary of the politics of in-groups, since members may exclude others as a form of gaining status within the group.

Making Connections: the Big Pictures

Bullying and Cyberbullying: How Technology Has Changed the Game

Most of us know that the old rhyme “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is inaccurate. Words can hurt, and never is that more apparent than in instances of bullying. Bullying has always existed, often reaching extreme levels of cruelty in children and young adults. People at these stages of life are especially vulnerable to others’ opinions of them, and they’re deeply invested in their peer groups. Today, technology has ushered in a new era of this dynamic. Cyberbullying is the use of interactive media by one person to torment another, and it is on the rise. Cyberbullying can mean sending threatening texts, harassing someone in a public forum (such as Facebook), hacking someone’s account and pretending to be him or her, posting embarrassing images online, and so on. A study by the Cyberbullying Research Center found that 20 percent of middle-school students admitted to “seriously thinking about committing suicide” as a result of online bullying (Hinduja and Patchin 2010). Whereas bullying face-to-face requires willingness to interact with your victim, cyberbullying allows bullies to harass others from the privacy of their homes without witnessing the damage firsthand. This form of bullying is particularly dangerous because it’s widely accessible and therefore easier to accomplish.

Cyberbullying, and bullying in general, made international headlines in 2012 when a 15-year-old girl, Amanda Todd, in Port Coquitlam, B.C., committed suicide after years of bullying by her peers and internet sexual exploitation. A month before her suicide, she posted a YouTube video in which she recounted her story. It began in grade 7 when she had been lured to reveal her breasts in a webcam photo. A year later, when she refused to give an anonymous male “a show,” the picture was circulated to her friends, family, and contacts on Facebook. Statistics Canada  report that 7 percent of internet users aged 18 and over have been cyberbullied, most commonly (73 percent) by receiving threatening or aggressive emails or text messages. Nine percent of adults who had a child at home aged 8 to 17 reported that at least one of their children had been cyberbullied. Two percent reported that their child had been lured or sexually solicited online (Perreault, 2011).

In the aftermath of Amanda Todd’s death, most provinces enacted strict guidelines and codes of conduct obliging schools to respond to cyberbullying and encouraging students to come forward to report victimization.  In 2013, the federal government proposed Bill C-13—the  Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act–which would make it illegal to share an intimate image of a person without that person’s consent. (Critics however note that the anti-cyberbullying provision in the bill is only a minor measure among many others that expand police powers to surveil all internet activity.) Will these measures change the behaviour of would-be cyberbullies? That remains to be seen. But hopefully communities can work to protect victims before they feel they must resort to extreme measures.

Reference Groups

What organization is a collection of people who regularly interact with one another on the basis of shared expectations concerning behavior and shares a common identity?
Figure 6.4. Athletes are often viewed as a reference group for young people. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

A reference group is a group that people compare themselves to—it provides a standard of measurement. In Canadian society, peer groups are common reference groups. Children, teens, and adults pay attention to what their peers wear, what music they like, what they do with their free time—and they compare themselves to what they see. Most people have more than one reference group, so a middle-school boy might look not only at his classmates but also at his older brother’s friends and see a different set of norms. And he might observe the antics of his favourite athletes for yet another set of behaviours.

Some other examples of reference groups can be one’s church, synagogue, or mosque; one’s cultural centre, workplace, or family gathering; and even one’s parents. Often, reference groups convey competing messages. For instance, on television and in movies, young adults often have wonderful apartments, cars, and lively social lives despite not holding a job. In music videos, young women might dance and sing in a sexually aggressive way that suggests experience beyond their years. At all ages, we use reference groups to help guide our behaviour and show us social norms. So how important is it to surround yourself with positive reference groups? You may never meet or know a reference group, but it still impacts and influences how you act. Identifying reference groups can help you understand the source of the social identities you aspire to or want to distance yourself from.

Making Connections: Sociology in the Real World

University: A World of In-Groups, Out-Groups, and Reference Groups

What organization is a collection of people who regularly interact with one another on the basis of shared expectations concerning behavior and shares a common identity?
Figure 6.5. Which university club would you fit into, if any? Campus club recruitment day offers students an opportunity to learn about these different groups. (Photo courtesy of Murray State/flickr)

For a student entering university, the sociological study of groups takes on an immediate and practical meaning. After all, when we arrive someplace new, most of us look around to see how well we fit in or stand out in the ways we want. This is a natural response to a reference group, and on a large campus, there can be many competing groups. Say you are a strong athlete who wants to play intramural sports, but your favourite musicians are a local punk band. You may find yourself engaged with two very different reference groups.

These reference groups can also become your in-groups or out-groups. For instance, different groups on campus might solicit you to join. Are there student-union-sponsored clubs at your school? Is there a club day when the student clubs set up tables and displays? The spelunking club, the Aikido club, the square dance club, the Conservative Party club, the Green Party club, the chess club, the jazz club, the kayak club, the tightrope walkers club, the peace and disarmament club, the French club, the young women in business club—enumerable clubs will try to convince students to join them. While most clubs are pretty casual, along with a shared interest comes many subtle cues about what sorts of people will fit in and what sorts will not. While most campus groups refrain from insulting competing groups, there is a definite sense of an in-group versus an out-group. “Them?” a member might say, “They’re all right, but they are pretty geeky.” Or, “Only really straight people join that group.” This immediate categorization into in-groups and out-groups means that students must choose carefully, since whatever group they associate with will not just define their friends—it may also define types of people with whom they will not associate.

6.2. Groups and Networks

What organization is a collection of people who regularly interact with one another on the basis of shared expectations concerning behavior and shares a common identity?
Figure 6.6. Cadets illustrate how strongly conformity can define groups. (Photo courtesy David Spender/flickr)

Dyads, Triads, and Social Networks

A small group is typically one where the collection of people is small enough that all members of the group know each other and share simultaneous interaction, such as a nuclear family, a dyad, or a triad. Georg Simmel wrote extensively about the difference between a  dyad, or two-member group, and a  triad, a three-member group (Simmel 1902 (1950)). No matter what the content of the groups is—business, friendship, family, teamwork, etc.—the dynamic or formal qualities of the groups differ simply by virtue of the number of individuals involved. In a dyad, if one person withdraws, the group can no longer exist. Examples include a divorce, which effectively ends the “group” of the married couple, or two best friends never speaking again. Neither of the two members can hide what he or she has done behind the group, nor hold the group responsible for what he or she has failed to do.

In a triad, however, the dynamic is quite different. If one person withdraws, the group lives on. A triad has a different set of relationships. If there are three in the group, two-against-one dynamics can develop and the potential exists for a majority opinion on any issue. At the same time, the relationships in a triad cannot be as close as in a dyad because a third person always intrudes. Where a group of two is both closer and more unstable than a group of three, because it rests on the immediate, ongoing reciprocity of the two members, a group of three is able to attain a sense of super-personal life, independent of the members.

The difference between a dyad and a triad is an example of network analysis. A social network is a collection of people tied together by a specific configuration of connections. They can be characterized by the number of people involved, as in the dyad and triad, but also in terms of their structures (who is connected to whom) and functions (what flows across ties). The particular configurations of the connections determine how networks are able to do more things and different things than individuals acting on their own could. Networks have this effect, regardless of the content of the connections or persons involved.

For example, if one person phones 50 people one after the other to see who could come out to play ball hockey on Wednesday night, it would take a long time to work through the phone list. The structure of the network would be one in which the telephone caller has an individual connection with each of the 50 players, but the players themselves do not necessarily have any connections with each other. There is only one node in the network. On the other hand, if the telephone caller phones five key (or nodal) individuals, who would then call five individuals, and so on, then the telephone calling would be accomplished much more quickly. A telephone tree like this has a different network structure than the single telephone caller model does and can therefore accomplish the task much more efficiently and quickly. Of course the responsibility is also shared so there are more opportunities for the communication network to break down.

Network analysis is interesting because much of social life can be understood as operating outside of either formal organizations or traditional group structures. Social media like Twitter or Facebook connect people through networks. One’s posts are seen by friends, but also by friends of friends. The revolution in Tunisia in 2010–2011 was aided by social media networks, which were able to disseminate an accurate, or alternate, account of the events as they unfolded, even while the official media characterized the unrest as vandalism and terrorism (Zuckerman 2011). On the other hand, military counterinsurgency strategies trace cell phone connections to model the networks of insurgents in asymmetrical or guerilla warfare. Increased network densities indicate the ability of insurgents to mount coordinated attacks (Department of the Army 2006). The amorphous nature of global capital and the formation of a global capitalist class consciousness can also be analyzed by mapping interlocking directorates; namely, the way institutionalized social networks are established between banks and corporations in different parts of the world through shared board members (Carroll 2010).

Christakis and Fowler (2009) argue that social networks are influential in a wide range of social aspects of life including political opinions, weight gain, and happiness. They develop Stanley Milgram’s claim that there is only six degrees of separation between any two individuals on Earth by adding that in a network, it can be demonstrated that there are also three degrees of influence. That is, one is not only influenced by one’s immediate friends and social contacts, but by their friends, and their friends’ friends.  For example, an individual’s chance of becoming obese increases 57 percent if a friend becomes obese; it increases by 20 percent if it is a friend’s friend who becomes obese; and it increases 10 percent if it is a friend’s friend’s friend who becomes obese. Beyond the third degree of separation, there is no measurable influence.

Large Groups

It is difficult to define exactly when a small group becomes a large group. One step might be when there are too many people to join in a simultaneous discussion. Another might be when a group joins with other groups as part of a movement that unites them. These larger groups may share a geographic space, such as Occupy Montreal or the People’s Assembly of Victoria, or they might be spread out around the globe. The larger the group, the more attention it can garner, and the more pressure members can put toward whatever goal they wish to achieve. At the same time, the larger the group becomes, the more the risk grows for division and lack of cohesion.

Group Leadership

Often, larger groups require some kind of leadership. In small, primary groups, leadership tends to be informal. After all, most families don’t take a vote on who will rule the group, nor do most groups of friends. This is not to say that de facto leaders don’t emerge, but formal leadership is rare. In secondary groups, leadership is usually more overt. There are often clearly outlined roles and responsibilities, with a chain of command to follow. Some secondary groups, like the army, have highly structured and clearly understood chains of command, and many lives depend on those. After all, how well could soldiers function in a battle if they had no idea whom to listen to or if different people were calling out orders? Other secondary groups, like a workplace or a classroom, also have formal leaders, but the styles and functions of leadership can vary significantly.

Leadership function refers to the main focus or goal of the leader. An instrumental leader is one who is goal oriented and largely concerned with accomplishing set tasks. An army general or a Fortune 500 CEO would be an instrumental leader. In contrast, expressive leaders are more concerned with promoting emotional strength and health, and ensuring that people feel supported. Social and religious leaders—rabbis, priests, imams, and directors of youth homes and social service programs—are often perceived as expressive leaders. There is a longstanding stereotype that men are more instrumental leaders and women are more expressive leaders. Although gender roles have changed, even today many women and men who exhibit the opposite-gender manner can be seen as deviants and can encounter resistance. Former U.S. Secretary of State and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton provides an example of how society reacts to a high-profile woman who is an instrumental leader. Despite the stereotype, Boatwright and Forrest (2000) have found that both men and women prefer leaders who use a combination of expressive and instrumental leadership.

What organization is a collection of people who regularly interact with one another on the basis of shared expectations concerning behavior and shares a common identity?
Figure 6.7. This gag gift demonstrates how female leaders may be viewed if they violate social norms. (Photo courtesy of istolethetv/flickr)

In addition to these leadership functions, there are three different leadership styles. Democratic leaders encourage group participation in all decision making. These leaders work hard to build consensus before choosing a course of action and moving forward. This type of leader is particularly common, for example, in a club where the members vote on which activities or projects to pursue. These leaders can be well liked, but there is often a challenge that the work will proceed slowly since consensus building is time-consuming. A further risk is that group members might pick sides and entrench themselves into opposing factions rather than reaching a solution. In contrast, a laissez-faire leader (French for “leave it alone”) is hands-off, allowing group members to self-manage and make their own decisions. An example of this kind of leader might be an art teacher who opens the art cupboard, leaves materials on the shelves, and tells students to help themselves and make some art. While this style can work well with highly motivated and mature participants who have clear goals and guidelines, it risks group dissolution and a lack of progress. As the name suggests, authoritarian leaders issue orders and assigns tasks. These leaders are clear instrumental leaders with a strong focus on meeting goals. Often, entrepreneurs fall into this mould, like Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Not surprisingly, this type of leader risks alienating the workers. There are times, however, when this style of leadership can be required. In different circumstances, each of these leadership styles can be effective and successful. Consider what leadership style you prefer. Why? Do you like the same style in different areas of your life, such as a classroom, a workplace, and a sports team?

Making Connections: the Big Pictures

Women Leaders and the Glass Ceiling

What organization is a collection of people who regularly interact with one another on the basis of shared expectations concerning behavior and shares a common identity?
Figure 6.8. Green Party leader Elizabeth May stands out both for her gender and her leadership style among federal party leaders. (Photo courtesy Itzafineday/flickr)

Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party, was voted best parliamentarian of the year in 2012 and hardest working parliamentarian in 2013. She stands out among the party leaders as both the only female and the only leader focused on changing leadership style. Among her proposals for changing leadership are reducing centralization and hierarchical control of party leaders, allowing MPs to vote freely, decreasing narrow political partisanship, engaging in cross-partisan collaboration, and restoring respect and decorum to House of Commons debates. The focus on a collaborative, non-conflictual approach to politics is a component of her expressive leadership style, typically associated with female leadership qualities.

However, as a female leader Elizabeth May is obliged to walk a tight line that does not generally apply to male politicians. According to some political analysts, women candidates face a paradox: they must be as tough as their male opponents on issues such as foreign or economic policy or risk appearing weak (Weeks 2011). However, the stereotypical expectation of women as expressive leaders is still prevalent. Consider that Hillary Clinton’s popularity surged in her 2008 campaign for the U.S. Democratic presidential nomination after she cried on the campaign trail. It was enough for the New York Times to publish an editorial, “Can Hillary Cry Her Way Back to the White House?” (Dowd 2008). Harsh, but her approval ratings soared afterwards. In fact, many compared it to how politically likable she was in the aftermath of President Clinton’s Monica Lewinsky scandal.

In the case of Elizabeth May, many pundits believed that she won the 2008 election leaders debate by being firm in her criticism of government policy and being both intelligent and clear in her statements. (Notably, she was prevented from participating in the 2011 election leaders’ debate, perhaps for the same reasons.) She was able to articulate the rationale behind a national carbon tax to reduce greenhouse gases, whereas then Liberal leader Stéphane Dion seemed to struggle to explain his “Green Shift” policy.  “We tax the pollution, and we take the taxes off families,” she said (Foot 2008). The idea of winning debates and defeating opponents in a hostile environment is regarded as a masculine virtue. At the same time, May is subject to criticisms that have to do with her femininity, in a way that male politicians are not subject to similar criticisms about their masculinity. Media tycoon Conrad Black called her “a frumpy, noisy, ill-favoured, half-deranged windbag” to which, May quipped, “He’s right on one point: I certainly am frumpy. I don’t have anything like Barbara Amiel’s [Black’s well-known journalist wife] sense of style. But on the whole, I figure being attacked by Conrad Black is in its own way an accolade in this country” (Allemang 2009).

Despite the cleverness of May’s retort, the pitfalls of her situation as a female leader reflect broader issues women confront in assuming leadership roles. Whereas women have been closing the gap with men in terms of workforce participation and educational attainment over the last decades, their average income  has remained at approximately 70 percent of men’s and their representation in leadership roles (legislators, senior officials, and managers) has remained at 50 percent of men’s (i.e., men are twice as likely as women to attain leadership roles in these professions than women). In terms of the representation of women in Parliament, cabinet, and political leadership, the figures are much lower at 15 percent (despite the fact that several provinces have had women as premiers) (McInturff 2013).

One concept for describing the situation facing women’s access to leadership positions is  the glass ceiling. Whereas most of the explicit barriers to women’s achievement have been removed through legislative action, norms of gender equality, and affirmative action policies, women often get stuck at the level of middle management. There is a glass ceiling or invisible barrier that prevents them from achieving positions of leadership (Tannen 1994).  This is also reflected in gender inequality in income over time. Early in their careers men’s and women’s incomes are more or less equal but at mid-career, the gap increases significantly (McInturff 2013).

Tannen argues that this barrier exists in part because of the different work styles of men and women, in particular conversational-style differences. Whereas men are very aggressive in their conversational style and their self-promotion, women are typically consensus builders who seek to avoid appearing bossy and arrogant. As a linguistic strategy of office politics, it is common for men to say “I” and claim personal credit in situations where women would be more likely to use “we” and emphasize teamwork. As it is men who are often in the positions to make promotion decisions, they interpret women’s style of communication “as showing indecisiveness, inability to assume authority, and even incompetence” (Tannen 1994).

Because of qualities of women’s expressive leadership, which in many cases is more effective, their skills, merits, and achievements go unrecognized. In terms of political leadership, as one political analyst said bluntly, “women don’t succeed in politics—or other professions—unless they act like men. The standard for running for national office remains distinctly male” (Weeks 2011).


We all like to fit in to some degree. Likewise, when we want to stand out, we want to choose how we stand out and for what reasons. For example, a woman who loves cutting-edge fashion and wants to dress in thought-provoking new styles likely wants to be noticed within a framework of high fashion. She would not want people to think she was too poor to find proper clothes. Conformity is the extent to which an individual complies with group norms or expectations. As you might recall, we use reference groups to assess and understand how we should act, dress, and behave. Not surprisingly, young people are particularly aware of who conforms and who does not. A high school boy whose mother makes him wear ironed button-down shirts might protest that he will look stupid—that everyone else wears T-shirts. Another high school boy might like wearing those shirts as a way of standing out. Recall Georg Simmel’s analysis of the contradictory dynamics of fashion: it represents both the need to conform and the need to stand out. How much do you enjoy being noticed? Do you consciously prefer to conform to group norms so as not to be singled out? Are there people in your class or peer group who immediately come to mind when you think about those who do, and do not, want to conform?

A number of famous experiments in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s tested the propensity of individuals to conform to authority. We have already examined the Stanford Prison experiment in Chapter 2. Within days of beginning the simulated prison experiment the random sample of university students proved themselves capable of conforming to the roles of prison guards and prisoners to an extreme degree, even though the conditions were highly artificial (Haney, Banks, and Zimbardo 1973).

Stanley Milgram conducted experiments in the 1960s on how structures of authority rendered individuals obedient (Milgram 1963). This was shortly after the Adolf Eichmann war crime trial in which Eichmann claimed that he was just a bureaucrat following orders when he helped to organize the Holocaust. Milgram had experimental subjects administer what they were led to believe were electric shocks to a subject when the subject gave a wrong answer to a question. Each time a wrong answer was given, the experimental subject was told to increase the intensity of the shock. The experiment was supposed to be testing the relationship between punishment and learning, but the subject receiving the shocks was an actor. As the experimental subjects increased the amount of voltage, the actor began to show distress, eventually begging to be released. When the subjects became reluctant to administer more shocks, Milgram (wearing a white lab coat to underline his authority as a scientist) assured them that the actor would be fine and that the results of the experiment would be compromised if the subject did not continue. Seventy-one percent of the experimental subjects were willing to continue administering shocks even beyond 285 volts even though the actor was clearly in pain and the voltage dial was labelled with warnings like “Danger: Severe shock.”

Making Connections: Sociological Research

Conforming to Expectations

What organization is a collection of people who regularly interact with one another on the basis of shared expectations concerning behavior and shares a common identity?
Figure 6.9. In the Asch conformity experiments a subject had to determine which of the three lines on the left matched the length of the line on the right. (Photo courtesy of Nyenyec/Wikimedia Commons). http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Asch_experiment.png

Psychologist Solomon Asch (1907–1996) conducted experiments that illustrated how great the pressure to conform is, specifically within a small group (1956).  In 1951, he sat a small group of eight people around a table. Only one of the people sitting there was the true experimental subject; the rest were actors or associates of the experimenter. However, the subject was led to believe that the others were all, like him, people brought in for an experiment in visual judgments. The group was shown two cards, the first card with a single vertical line, and the second card with three vertical lines differing in length. The experimenter polled the group, asking each participant one at a time which line on the second card matched up with the line on the first card.

However, this was not really a test of visual judgment. Rather, it was Asch’s study on the pressures of conformity. He was curious to see what the effect of multiple wrong answers would be on the subject, who presumably was able to tell which lines matched. In order to test this, Asch had each planted respondent answer in a specific way. The subject was seated in such a way that he had to hear almost everyone else’s answers before it was his turn. Sometimes the non-subject members would unanimously choose an answer that was clearly wrong.

So what was the conclusion? Asch found that 37 out of 50 test subjects responded with an “obviously erroneous” answer at least once. When faced by a unanimous wrong answer from the rest of the group, the subject conformed to a mean of four of the staged answers. Asch revised the study and repeated it, wherein the subject still heard the staged wrong answers, but was allowed to write down his answer rather than speak it aloud. In this version, the number of examples of conformity—giving an incorrect answer so as not to contradict the group—fell by two-thirds. He also found that group size had an impact on how much pressure the subject felt to conform.

The results showed that speaking up when only one other person gave an erroneous answer was far more common than when five or six people defended the incorrect position. Finally, Asch discovered that people were far more likely to give the correct answer in the face of near-unanimous consent if they had a single ally. If even one person in the group also dissented, the subject conformed only a quarter as often. Clearly, it was easier to be a minority of two than a minority of one.

Asch concluded that there are two main causes for conformity: people want to be liked by the group or they believe the group is better informed than they are. He found his study results disturbing. To him, they revealed that intelligent, well-educated people would, with very little coaxing, go along with an untruth. He believed this result highlighted real problems with the education system and values in our society (Asch 1956).

What would you do in Asch’s experiment? Would you speak up? What would help you speak up and what would discourage you?

6.3. Formal Organizations

A complaint of modern life is that society is dominated by large and impersonal secondary organizations. From schools to businesses to health care to government, these organizations are referred to as formal organizations. A formal organization is a large secondary group deliberately organized to achieve its goals efficiently. Typically, formal organizations are highly bureaucratized. The term bureaucracy refers to what Max Weber termed “an ideal type” of formal organization (1922). In its sociological usage, “ideal” does not mean “best”; it refers to a general model that describes a collection of characteristics, or a type that could describe most examples of the item under discussion. For example, if your professor were to tell the class to picture a car in their minds, most students will picture a car that shares a set of characteristics: four wheels, a windshield, and so on. Everyone’s car will be somewhat different, however. Some might picture a two-door sports car while others might picture an SUV. It is possible for a car to have three wheels instead of four. However, the general idea of the car that everyone shares is the ideal type. Bureaucracies are similar. While each bureaucracy has its own idiosyncratic features, the way each is deliberately organized to achieve its goals efficiently shares a certain consistency. We will discuss bureaucracies as an ideal type of organization.

Types of Formal Organizations

What organization is a collection of people who regularly interact with one another on the basis of shared expectations concerning behavior and shares a common identity?
Figure 6.10. Cub and Guide troops and correctional facilities are both formal organizations. (Photo (a) courtesy of Paul Hourigan/Hamilton Spectator 1983; Photo (b) courtesy of CxOxS/flickr)

Sociologist Amitai Etzioni (1975) posited that formal organizations fall into three categories. Normative organizations, also called voluntary organizations, are based on shared interests. As the name suggests, joining them is voluntary and typically done because people find membership rewarding in an intangible way. Compliance to the group is maintained through moral control. The Audubon Society or a ski club are examples of normative organizations. Coercive organizations are groups that one must be coerced, or pushed, to join. These may include prison, the military, or a rehabilitation centre. Compliance is maintained through force and coercion. Goffman (1961) states that most coercive organizations are total institutions. A total institution is one in which inmates live a controlled life apart from the rest of society and in which total resocialization takes place. The third type are utilitarian organizations, which, as the name suggests, are joined because of the need for a specific material reward. High school or a workplace would fall into this category—one joined in pursuit of a diploma, the other in order to make money. Compliance is maintained through remuneration and rewards.

Table 6.1. Etzioni’s Three Types of Formal Organizations (Source: Etzioni 1975)

Normative or VoluntaryCoerciveUtilitarian
Benefit of Membership Non-material benefit Corrective or disciplinary benefit Material benefit
Type of Membership Volunteer basis Obligatory basis Contractual basis
Feeling of Connectedness Shared affinity Coerced affinity Pragmatic affinity


Bureaucracies are an ideal type of formal organization. Pioneer sociologist Max Weber (1922) popularly characterized a bureaucracy as having a hierarchy of authority, a clear division of labour, explicit rules, and impersonality. Bureaucracies were the basic structure of rational efficient organization, yet people often complain about bureaucracies, declaring them slow, rule-bound, difficult to navigate, and unfriendly. Let us take a look at terms that define  bureaucracy as an ideal type of formal organization to understand what they mean.

Hierarchy of authority refers to the aspect of bureaucracy that places one individual or office in charge of another, who in turn must answer to her own superiors. For example, if you are an employee at Walmart, your shift manager assigns you tasks. Your shift manager answers to the store manager, who must answer to the regional manager, and so on in a chain of command up to the CEO who must answer to the board members, who in turn answer to the stockholders. There is a clear chain of authority that enables the organization to make and comply with decisions.

A clear division of labour refers to the fact that within a bureaucracy, each individual has a specialized task to perform. For example, psychology professors teach psychology, but they do not attempt to provide students with financial aid forms. In this case, it is a clear and commonsensical division. But what about in a restaurant where food is backed up in the kitchen and a hostess is standing nearby texting on her phone? Her job is to seat customers, not to deliver food. Is this a smart division of labour?

The existence of explicit rules refers to the way in which rules are outlined, written down, and standardized. There is a continuous organization of official functions bound by rules. For example, at your college or university, student guidelines are contained within the student handbook. As technology changes and campuses encounter new concerns like cyberbullying, identity theft, and other issues, organizations are scrambling to ensure their explicit rules cover these emerging topics.

Bureaucracies are also characterized by impersonality, which takes personal feelings out of professional situations. Each office or position exists independently of its  incumbent, and clients and workers receive equal treatment. This characteristic grew, to some extent, out of a desire to eliminate the potential for nepotism, backroom deals, and other types of “irrational” favouritism, simultaneously protecting customers and others served by the organization. Impersonality is an attempt by large formal organizations to protect their members. However, the result is often that personal experience is disregarded. For example, you may be late for work because your car broke down, but the manager at Pizza Hut doesn’t care why you are late, only that you are late.

Finally, bureaucracies are, in theory at least, meritocracies, meaning that hiring and promotion are based on proven and documented skills, rather than on nepotism or random choice. In order to get into graduate school, you need to have an impressive transcript. In order to become a lawyer and represent clients, you must graduate from law school and pass the provincial bar exam. Of course, there is a popular image of bureaucracies that they reward conformity and sycophancy rather than skill or merit. How well do you think established meritocracies identify talent? Wealthy families hire tutors, interview coaches, test-prep services, and consultants to help their children get into the best schools. This starts as early as kindergarten in New York City, where competition for the most highly regarded schools is especially fierce. Are these schools, many of which have copious scholarship funds that are intended to make the school more democratic, really offering all applicants a fair shake?

There are several positive aspects of bureaucracies. They are intended to improve efficiency, ensure equal opportunities, and increase efficiency. And there are times when rigid hierarchies are needed. However, there is a clear component of irrationality within the rational organization of bureaucracies. Firstly, bureaucracies create conditions of bureaucratic alienation in which workers cannot find meaning in the repetitive, standardized nature of the tasks they are obliged to perform. As Max Weber put it, the “individual bureaucrat cannot squirm out of the apparatus in which he is harnessed… He is only a single cog in an ever‐moving mechanism which prescribes to him an essentially fixed route of march” (1922). Secondly, bureaucracies can lead to bureaucratic inefficiency and ritualism (red tape). They can focus on rules and regulations to the point of undermining the organization’s goals and purpose. Thirdly, bureaucracies have a tendency toward inertia. You may have heard the expression “trying to turn a tanker around mid-ocean,” which refers to the difficulties of changing direction with something large and set in its ways. Inertia means bureaucracies focus on perpetuating themselves rather than effectively accomplishing or re-evaluating the tasks they were designed to achieve. Finally, as Robert Michels (1911) suggested, bureaucracies are characterized by the iron law of oligarchy in which the organization is ruled by a few elites. The organization serves to promote the self-interest of oligarchs and insulate them from the needs of the public or clients.

Remember that many of our bureaucracies grew large at the same time that our school model was developed—during the Industrial Revolution. Young workers were trained and organizations were built for mass production, assembly-line work, and factory jobs. In these scenarios, a clear chain of command was critical. Now, in the information age, this kind of rigid training and adherence to protocol can actually decrease both productivity and efficiency. Today’s workplace requires a faster pace, more problem solving, and a flexible approach to work. Too much adherence to explicit rules and a division of labour can leave an organization behind. Unfortunately, once established, bureaucracies can take on a life of their own. As Max Weber said, “Once it is established, bureaucracy is among those social structures which are the hardest to destroy” (1922).

What organization is a collection of people who regularly interact with one another on the basis of shared expectations concerning behavior and shares a common identity?
Figure 6.11. This McDonald’s storefront in Egypt shows the McDonaldization of society. (Photo courtesy of s_w_ellis/flickr)

The McDonaldization of Society

The McDonaldization of society (Ritzer 1994) refers to the increasing presence of the fast-food business model in common social institutions. This business model includes efficiency (the division of labour), predictability, calculability, and control (monitoring). For example, in your average chain grocery store, people at the cash register check out customers while stockers keep the shelves full of goods, and deli workers slice meats and cheese to order (efficiency). Whenever you enter a store within that grocery chain, you receive the same type of goods, see the same store organization, and find the same brands at the same prices (predictability). You will find that goods are sold by the kilogram, so that you can weigh your fruit and vegetable purchases rather than simply guessing at the price for that bag of onions, while the employees use a time card to calculate their hours and receive overtime pay (calculability). Finally, you will notice that all store employees are wearing a uniform (and usually a name tag) so that they can be easily identified. There are security cameras to monitor the store, and some parts of the store, such as the stockroom, are generally considered off-limits to customers (control).

While McDonaldization has resulted in improved profits and an increased availability of various goods and services to more people worldwide, it has also reduced the variety of goods available in the marketplace while rendering available products uniform, generic, and bland. Think of the difference between a mass-produced shoe and one made by a local cobbler, between a chicken from a family-owned farm versus a corporate grower, or a cup of coffee from the local roaster instead of one from a coffee-shop chain. Ritzer also notes that the rational systems, as efficient as they are, are irrational in that they become more important than the people working within them, or the clients being served by them. “Most specifically, irrationality means that rational systems are unreasonable systems. By that I mean that they deny the basic humanity, the human reason, of the people who work within or are served by them.” (Ritzer 1994)

Making Connections: Sociology in the Real World

Secrets of the McJob

We often talk about bureaucracies disparagingly, and no organizations have taken more heat than fast-food restaurants. The book and movie Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal by Eric Schossler (2001) paints an ugly picture of what goes in, what goes on, and what comes out of fast-food chains. From their environmental impact to their role in the U.S. obesity epidemic, fast-food chains are connected to numerous societal ills. Furthermore, working at a fast-food restaurant is often disparaged, and even referred to dismissively, as a McJob rather than a real job.

But business school professor Jerry Newman (2007) went undercover and worked behind the counter at seven fast-food restaurants to discover what really goes on there. His book, My Secret Life on the McJob, documents his experience. Newman found, unlike Schossler, that these restaurants have much good alongside the bad. Specifically, he asserted that the employees were honest and hard-working, the management was often impressive, and the jobs required a lot more skill and effort than most people imagined. In the book, Newman cites a pharmaceutical executive who states that a fast-food service job on an applicant’s résumé is a plus because it indicates the employee is reliable and can handle pressure.

So what do you think? Are these McJobs and the organizations that offer them still serving a role in the economy and people’s careers? Or are they dead-end jobs that typify all that is negative about large bureaucracies? Have you ever worked in one? Would you?

What organization is a collection of people who regularly interact with one another on the basis of shared expectations concerning behavior and shares a common identity?
Figure 6.12.Fast-food jobs are expected to grow more quickly than most industries. (Graph courtesy of U.S. Department of Labor)

Key Terms

aggregate  a collection of people who exist in the same place at the same time, but who don’t interact or share a sense of identity

authoritarian leader  a leader who issues orders and assigns tasks

bureaucracy  a formal organization characterized by a hierarchy of authority, a clear division of labour, explicit rules, and impersonality

category people who share similar characteristics but who are not connected in any way

clear division of labour the structuring of work in a bureaucracy such that each individual has a specialized task to perform

coercive organization organization that people do not voluntarily join, such as prison or a mental hospital

conformity the extent to which an individual complies with group or societal norms

core discussion group the group of close personal contacts with whom one confides on personal matters and with whom one chooses to spend free time

democratic leader a leader who encourages group participation and consensus-building before acting

dyad a two-member group

explicit rules the types of rules in a bureaucracy; rules that are outlined, recorded, and standardized

expressive function a group function that serves an emotional need

expressive leader a leader who is concerned with process and with ensuring everyone’s emotional well-being

formal organizations large, impersonal organizations

glass ceiling an invisible barrier that prevents women from achieving positions of leadership

group refers to any collection of at least two people who interact with some frequency and who share a sense that their identity is somehow aligned with the group

hierarchy of authority a clear chain of command found in a bureaucracy

impersonality the absence of personal feelings from a professional situation

in-group a group a person belongs to and feels is an integral part of his or her identity

instrumental function orientation toward a task or goal

instrumental leader a leader who is goal oriented with a primary focus on accomplishing tasks

iron law of oligarchy the theory that an organization is ruled by a few elites rather than through collaboration

laissez-faire leader a hands-off leader who allows members of the group to make their own decisions

leadership function the main focus or goal of a leader

leadership style the style a leader uses to achieve goals or elicit action from group members

McDonaldization the increasing presence of the fast-food business model in common social institutions

meritocracy a bureaucracy where membership and advancement are based on merit as shown through proven and documented skills

normative or voluntary organizations organizations that people join to pursue shared interests or because they provide intangible rewards

out-group a group that an individual is not a member of and may compete with

primary groups small, informal groups of people who are closest to us

reference groups groups to which an individual compares herself or himself

secondary groups larger and more impersonal groups that are task focused and time limited

social network a collection of people tied together by a specific configuration of connections

total institution an organization in which participants live a controlled life and in which total resocialization occurs

triad a three-member group

utilitarian organization an organization that people join to fill a specific material need

Section Summary

6.1. Types of Groups
Groups largely define how we think of ourselves. There are two main types of groups: primary and secondary. As the names suggest, the primary group is the long-term, complex one. People use groups as standards of comparison to define themselves—as both who they are and who they are not. Sometimes groups can be used to exclude people or as a tool that strengthens prejudice.

6.2. Groups and Networks
The size and dynamic of a group greatly affects how members act. Primary groups rarely have formal leaders, although there can be informal leadership. Groups generally are considered large when there are too many members for a simultaneous discussion. Social networks are  collections of people tied together by a specific configuration of connections. The structure and function of the connections determine what the network is capable of and how it influences its members.

In secondary groups, there are two types of leadership functions, with expressive leaders focused on emotional health and wellness, and instrumental leaders more focused on results. Further, there are different leadership styles: democratic leaders, authoritarian leaders, and laissez-faire leaders.

Within a group, conformity is the extent to which people want to go along with the norm. A number of experiments have illustrated how strong the drive to conform can be. It is worth considering real-life examples of how conformity and obedience can lead people to ethically and morally suspect acts.

6.3. Formal Organizations
Large organizations fall into three main categories: normative/voluntary, coercive, and utilitarian. We live in a time of contradiction: while the pace of change and technology are requiring people to be more nimble and less bureaucratic in their thinking, large bureaucracies like hospitals, schools, and governments are more hampered than ever by their organizational format. At the same time, the past few decades have seen the development of a trend to bureaucratize and conventionalize local institutions. Increasingly, Main Streets across the country resemble each other; instead of a Bob’s Coffee Shop and Jane’s Hair Salon there is a Dunkin Donuts and a Supercuts. This trend has been referred to as the McDonaldization of society.

Section Quiz

6.1. Types of Groups
1. What does a functionalist consider when studying a phenomenon like the Occupy Wall Street movement?

  1. The minute functions that every person at the protests plays in the whole
  2. The internal conflicts that play out within such a diverse and leaderless group
  3. How the movement contributes to the stability of society by offering the discontented a safe, controlled outlet for dissension
  4. The factions and divisions that form within the movement

2. What is the largest difference between the functionalist, conflict, and, interactionist perspectives?

  1. The first two consider long-term repercussions of the group or situation, while the last one focuses on the present.
  2. The first two are the more common sociological perspectives, while the last one is a newer sociological model.
  3. The first two focus on hierarchical roles within an organization, while the last one takes a more holistic view.
  4. The first two address large-scale issues facing groups, while the last one examines more detailed aspects.

3. What role do secondary groups play in society?

  1. They are transactional, task based, and short term, filling practical needs.
  2. They provide a social network that allows people to compare themselves to others.
  3. The members give and receive emotional support.
  4. They allow individuals to challenge their beliefs and prejudices.

4. When a high school student gets teased by her basketball team for receiving an academic award, she is dealing with competing ______________.

  1. Primary groups
  2. Out-groups
  3. Reference groups
  4. Secondary groups

5. Which of the following is NOT an example of an in-group?

  1. The Ku Klux Klan
  2. A university club
  3. A synagogue
  4. A high school

6. What is a group whose values, norms, and beliefs come to serve as a standard for one’s own behaviour?

  1. Secondary group
  2. Formal organization
  3. Reference group
  4. Primary group

7. A parent who is worrying over her teenager’s dangerous and self-destructive behaviour and low self-esteem may wish to look at her child’s ______________.

  1. Reference group
  2. In-group
  3. Out-group
  4. All of the above

6.2. Group Size and Structure
8. Two people who have just had a baby have turned from a _______ to a _________.

  1. Primary group; secondary group
  2. Dyad; triad
  3. Couple; family
  4. De facto group; nuclear family

9. Who is more likely to be an expressive leader?

  1. The sales manager of a fast-growing cosmetics company
  2. A high school teacher at a youth correctional facility
  3. The director of a summer camp for chronically ill children
  4. A manager at a fast-food restaurant

10. Which of the following is NOT an appropriate group for democratic leadership?

  1. A fire station
  2. A college classroom
  3. A high school prom committee
  4. A homeless shelter

11. In Asch’s study on conformity, what contributed to the ability of subjects to resist conforming?

  1. A very small group of witnesses
  2. The presence of an ally
  3. The ability to keep one’s answer private
  4. All of the above

12. Which type of group leadership has a communication pattern that flows from the top down?

  1. Authoritarian
  2. Democratic
  3. Laissez-faire
  4. Expressive

6.3. Formal Organizations
13. Which is NOT an example of a normative organization?

  1. A book club
  2. A church youth group
  3. A People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) protest group
  4. A study hall

14. Which of these is an example of a total institution?

  1. Jail
  2. High school
  3. Political party
  4. A gym

15. Why do people join utilitarian organizations?

  1. Because they feel an affinity with others there
  2. Because they receive a tangible benefit from joining
  3. Because they have no choice
  4. Because they feel pressured to do so

16. Which of the following is NOT a characteristic of bureaucracies?

  1. Coercion to join
  2. Hierarchy of authority
  3. Explicit rules
  4. Division of labour

17. What are some of the intended positive aspects of bureaucracies?

  1. Increased productivity
  2. Increased efficiency
  3. Equal treatment for all
  4. All of the above

18. What is an advantage of the McDonaldization of society?

  1. There is more variety of goods.
  2. There is less theft.
  3. There is more worldwide availability of goods.
  4. There is more opportunity for businesses.

19. What is a disadvantage of the McDonaldization of society?

  1. There is less variety of goods.
  2. There is an increased need for employees with postgraduate degrees.
  3. There is less competition so prices are higher.
  4. There are fewer jobs so unemployment increases.

Short Answer

6.1. Types of Groups

  1. How has technology changed your primary groups and secondary groups? Do you have more (and separate) primary groups due to online connectivity? Do you believe that someone, like Levy, can have a true primary group made up of people she has never met? Why or why not?
  2. Compare and contrast two different political groups or organizations, such as the Occupy and Tea Party movements (in the United States) or one of the Arab Spring uprisings. How do the groups differ in terms of leadership, membership, and activities? How do the group’s goals influence participants? Are any of them in-groups (and have they created out-groups)? Explain your answer.
  3. The concept of hate crimes has been linked to in-groups and out-groups. Can you think of an example where people have been excluded or tormented due to this kind of group dynamic?

6.2. Group Size and Structure

  1. Think of a scenario where an authoritarian leadership style would be beneficial. Explain. What are the reasons it would work well? What are the risks?
  2. Describe a time you were led by a leader using, in your opinion, a leadership style that didn’t suit the situation. When and where was it? What could she or he have done better?
  3. Imagine you are in Asch’s study. Would you find it difficult to give the correct answer in that scenario? Why or why not? How would you change the study now to improve it?
  4. What kind of leader do you tend to be? Do you embrace different leadership styles and functions as the situation changes? Give an example of a time you were in a position of leadership. What function and style did you express?

6.3. Formal Organizations

  1. What do you think about the spotlight on fast-food restaurants? Do you think they contribute to society’s ills? Do you believe they provide a needed service? Have you ever worked in a fast-food restaurant? What did you learn?
  2. Do you consider today’s large companies like General Motors, Amazon, or Facebook to be bureaucracies? Why or why not? Which of the main characteristics of bureaucracies do you see in them? Which are absent?
  3. Where do you prefer to shop, eat out, or grab a cup of coffee? Large chains like Walmart or smaller retailers? Starbucks or a local restaurant? What do you base your decisions on? Does this section change how you think about these choices? Why or why not?

Further Research

6.1. Types of Groups
For more information about cyberbullying causes and statistics, check out this website: http://openstaxcollege.org/l/Cyberbullying

6.2. Group Size and Structure
What is your leadership style? The website http://openstaxcollege.org/l/Leadership offers a quiz to help you find out.

Explore other experiments on conformity at http://openstaxcollege.org/l/Stanford-Prison.

6.3. Formal Organizations
As mentioned above, the concept of McDonaldization is a growing one. The following link discusses this phenomenon further: http://openstaxcollege.org/l/McDonaldization.


6. Introduction to Groups and Organizations
Boler, Megan. 2012. “Occupy feminism: Start of a fourth wave?” Rabble.ca. May 29. Retrieved February 25, 2014, from http://rabble.ca/news/2012/05/occupy-feminism-start-fourth-wave

Cabrel, Javier. 2011. “NOFX – Occupy LA.” LAWeekly.com, November 28. Retrieved February 10, 2012 (http://blogs.laweekly.com/westcoastsound/2011/11/nofx_-_occupy_la_-_11-28-2011.php).

6.1. Types of Groups
Christakis, N., & J. Fowler. 2009. Connected: The surprising power of our social networks and how they change our lives New York: Little Brown and Co.

Cooley, Charles Horton.1963 [1909]. Social Organizations: A Study of the Larger Mind. New York: Shocken.

Cyberbullying Research Center. Retrieved November 30, 2011 (http://www.cyberbullying.us).

Hinduja, Sameer and Justin W. Patchin.2010. “Bullying, Cyberbullying, and Suicide.”Archives of Suicide Research 14(3): 206–221.

Marsden, Peter. 1987. “Core discussion networks of Americans.” American Sociological Review. 52:122-131.

New York Times. 2011. “Times Topics: Occupy Wall Street.”Retrieved February 10, 2012 (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/o/occupy_wall_street/index.html?scp=1-spot&sq=occupy wall street&st=cse).

Occupy Wall Street. Retrieved November 27, 2011. (http://occupywallst.org/about/).

Perreault, Samuel. 2011. Self-reported Internet victimization in Canada, 2009. September 15. Juristat. Statistics Canada catalogue no. 85-002-X. Retrieved September 20, 2014, from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/85-002-x/2011001/article/11530-eng.pdf

Simmel, Georg. 1971 [1908]. “The problem of sociology.” Pp. 23–27 in D. Levine (Ed.), Georg Simmel: On Individuality and Social Forms.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press

Sumner, William. 1959 [1906]. Folkways. New York: Dover.

6.2. Groups and Networks
Allemang, John. 2009.  “Elizabeth May is not only Losing Confidence – she agrees with Conrad Black.” The Globe and Mail. Toronto. April 18: F.3.

Asch, Solomon. 1956. “Studies of Independence and Conformity: A Minority of One Against a Unanimous Majority.” Psychological Monographs 70(9, Whole No. 416).

Boatwright, K.J. and L. Forrest. 2000. “Leadership Preferences: The Influence of Gender and Needs for Connection on Workers’ Ideal Preferences for Leadership Behaviors.” The Journal of Leadership Studies 7(2): 18–34.

Carroll, William. 2010. The Making of a Transnational Capitalist Class: Corporate Power in the 21st Century. London: Zed Books.

Christakis, Nicholas and James Fowler. 2009. Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives. NY: Little, Brown and Company

Department of the Army. 2006. Counterinsurgency. Marine Corps Warfighting Publication No. 3-33.5. Retrieved February 28, 2014, from http://www.fas.org/irp/doddir/army/fm3-24.pdf

Dowd, Maureen. 2008. “Can Hillary Cry Her Way Back to the White House?” New York Times, January 9. Retrieved February 10, 2012 (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/09/opinion/08dowd.html?pagewanted=all).

Foot, Richard. 2008 “May changes debate rules.” Edmonton Journal October 13: A.3.

Haney, C., W.C. Banks, and P.G. Zimbardo. 1973. “Interpersonal Dynamics in a Simulated Prison.” International Journal of Criminology and Penology. 1, 69–97.

McInturff, Kate. 2013. Closing Canada’s Gender Gap: Year 2240 Here We Come! Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Ottawa. Retrieved February 28, 2014, from http://www.policyalternatives.ca/sites/default/files/uploads/publications/National Office/2013/04/Closing_Canadas_Gender_Gap_0.pdf

Milgram, Stanley. 1963. “Behavioral Study of Obedience.” Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 67: 371–378.

Simmel, Georg. 1950. The Sociology of Georg Simmel. Glencoe, IL: The Free Press.

Tannen, Deborah. 1994. You Just Don’t Understand. NY: William Morrow and Co.

Weeks, Linton. 2011. “The Feminine Effect on Politics.” National Public Radio (NPR), June 9. Retrieved February 10, 2012 (http://www.npr.org/2011/06/09/137056376/the-feminine-effect-on-presidential-politics).

Zuckerman, Ethan. 2011. “The First Twitter Revolution?” Foreign Policy. January 14. Retrieved February 28, 2014, from http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/01/14/the_first_twitter_revolution

6.3. Formal Organizations
Etzioni, Amitai. 1975. A Comparative Analysis of Complex Organizations: On Power, Involvement, and Their Correlates. New York: Free Press.

Goffman, Erving. 1961. Asylums: Essays on the Social Situation of Mental Patients and Other Inmates. Chicago, IL: Aldine.

Michels, Robert. 1949 [1911]. Political Parties. Glencoe, IL: Free Press.

Newman, Jerry. 2007. My Secret Life on the McJob. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Ritzer, George. 1994. The McDonaldization of Society. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge.

Schlosser, Eric. 2001. Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.

United States Department of Labor. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010–2011 Edition. Retrieved February 10, 2012 (http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos162.htm).

Weber, Max. 1946 [1922]. “Bureaucracy.” Pp. 196-244 in HH Gerth and CW Mills (ed.s) From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology. NY: Oxford University Press.

Weber, Max. 1968 [1922]. Economy and Society: An Outline of Interpretative Sociology. New York: Bedminster.

Solutions to Section Quiz

1.C  | 2. D  |  3. A  |  4.C  |  5.D  |  6. C  |  7. D  |  8. B  |  9. C  |  10. A  |  11. D  |  12. A  |  13. D  |  14. A  |  15. B  |  16. A  |  17. D  |  18. C  |  19. A

Image Attributions

Figure 6.1 Occupy Victoria (vii) by r.a. paterson (https://www.flickr.com/photos/bcpaterson/6248358546/) used undr CC BY SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/)

Figure 6.2. OccupyWallStNYC by Daniel Latorre (https://www.flickr.com/photos/27035950@N00/6227096006/in/photolist-auguGf-afyaTi-7Lo4AY-bCfY2w-berYbr-2UuXHy-2NUZaXHayley) used under CC BY 2.0 license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)

Figure 6.4. Hayley Wickenheiser celebrates her first CIS goal with her teammates by Canada Hky (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:HayleyWickenheiserCgyGoal.jpg) used under CC BY SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en)

Figure 6.8. Elizabeth May on CBC Radio One by Tavis Ford (https://www.flickr.com/photos/18844496@N00/2636098278/in/photolist-51WGbj-51WFWb-6D9cQ5-51SxhB-52hu1p-52hthv-6ARSUr-6AQwwv-6ARQcr-6AUG5w-7h4N4z-7h8L7b-7h4MTg-7h4MXn-cgfWxd-7h8L1S-7ydn2Y-51WFzJ-4ZVGu8-51SrLR-51WFhC-jMr2NF-4wL16h-9HpMJ8-6Kya7i-6Ky5cV-6KCcFj-4wFS8v-dtR2AQ-9uRbK7-8mLSmJ-hNYDXb-78NtMk-esMbwk-esQAYh-esMgi8-esMcN8-esRCZh-esRHtJ-esQP4u-esQBg1-esRF2w-esN5r4-esN7gi-esMDwV-esMVGi-esNrjD-esQKPA-esQEWw-esQE5w-esMZkn) used under CC BY 2.0 license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)

Figure 6.10. (a) Brownie and Cub compare badges by Girl Guides of Canada (https://www.flickr.com/photos/54154001@N07/8488348265/in/photolist-dW61da-8tEAJ-bn4UBa-6tCvpF-dWdEfq-56iY6X-5L1NGX-dWbBuG-dW61eP-dW61hR-8inELS-8inDuu-dPi7vS-8SFGEu-4mMjN-5B9NeA) used under CC BY 2.0 license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)

Is a collection of people who regularly interact with one another on the basis of share expectations concerning behavior and who share a sense of common identity?

A social group consists of two or more people who regularly interact on the basis of mutual expectations and who share a common identity.

What do you call a collection of people who regularly interact with one another and shared common identity?

Social Group. -A collection of people who regularly interact with one another on the basis of shared expectations concerning behavior and who share a sense a of common identity.

What are groups of individuals that interact frequently?

A social group consists of two or more people who regularly interact and share a sense of unity and common identity. In other words, it's a group of people who see each other frequently and consider themselves a part of the group.

What is a collection of individuals who interact and communicate with each other share goals and have a subjective awareness of themselves as a distinct social unit?

Group. A collection of individuals who: - Interact and communicate with each other. - Share goals and norms. - Have a subjective awareness of themselves as "we," that is, as a distinct social unit.