Social Groups and How They Work


This research paper examines social groups and how they work. It also looks at Weber’s five characteristics of an ideal bureaucracy and suggests which of the characteristics are applicable to the group.

These are groups formed by the association of two or more people who interact towards achieving the set goals, prospects, and obligations as members of the group. These people who form the group will also share identity, culture, and ideology, among other social values that form the cohesion forces between the members. Other shared interests include principles and a common social or ethnic background. (Hare, 1962)

An example of this shared background can be similar work, business, or family relationships. Of these social groups, there are primary social ones that are characterized by intimate social relationships like the kin ties of a family that is also characterized by a personal relationship of the members, are small and live generations. The secondary social groups include larger groups with formal and institutionalized relationships rather than personal ones. These last or get disbanded depending on the leadership and success of the group. Within the secondary groups are smaller primary groups. (Huber, 2002)

From these groups, the individual members adopt and form goals and values based on the attachment and relationship they feel to the group. Other forms of social groups may take the form of peer groups, clubs, household groups, cliques, communities, squads, franchises, and or teams. (Hare, 1962)

The social groups and organizations I belong to

The family as a social group that I have belonged to is one where the social ties are filial, affinity, common living place, and consanguinity but which also include adoption in addition to the basic relations. The major goal and motive of the family are to reproduce and take care of the children, including socialization. The division of labor is based on who is the breadwinner and who the receivers are. Often the parents provide, and the division is based on the sex of members.

The established social ranking is often the father as the leader followed by the mother then elder to younger children. The conventional norms and principles follow the social rank where the children obey and love the parents who guide, love, and provide for the children. The established sanctions include punishment of children by their parents and rewards when they do well. (Hare, 1962)

I have been a member of a club which is a cooperation of two or more people united by a common interest. In my case, this interest was service-related to educating people on HIV/AIDS. The division of labor was based on roles played by the members as there was a chairperson, vice-chairperson, secretary, treasurer, organizing leader, group relations attendant than the constituent members who worked towards the common goal. The social ranking was also based on the positions held within the group, the chairperson being the highest. The accepted norms were adherence to the authority structure, respect, and proper relations with the target groups. A good example is courtesy, among others. The developed praise and punishments included fines in case of being absent and reward for the member who attended all the meetings, among other sanctions. (Crozier, 1964)

Currently, I am a member of a franchise with an insurance company where the franchiser gives the sales staff the power to make and sell transactions on behalf of the company. Through this power, we distribute/market the insurance policies, company trademark, and information about the company, and in return, we are paid a fixed monthly salary and a varying sales commission depending on the level of sales one does within the month. The common motive of this organization is the sale of the insurance policies, and the accepted authority structure is that there is an overall head who heads the company.

The structure then flows on a down basis to the sales representatives and other minor employees who are the lowest in the order. The established division of labor follows the authority structure where the managers and supervisors take the work of overseeing other workers among other staff roles. The accepted values and norms are those of adherence, respect, and obedience to the authority structure than the norm of each individual doing their work to the best. The developed sanctions include salaries for work and misemployment or suspension in the case that one is not meeting the set goals and job scales. (Huber, 2002)

The roles and social functions of secondary social groups taking the example of the insurance institution

The roles of these groups putting in mind that they are a set of connected behaviors, privileges, and obligations as perceived by the members within a social community or situation. It stipulated the expected behavior that is guided by the social position, status, and importance to the functional and relational aspects and functions of the social group. The role of these social groups demands that the members of the group spend their time together in pursuit of the common group. An example of the social function this role does is that it brings harmony and understanding of one another that promotes peaceful living with the social group and in the larger community. (Huber, 2002)

The roles of the social groups also demand that each of these positions have a role that it’s associated with and that these responsibilities be in cooperation and complementary to one another. An example of the social function of this role is that the employee markets the insurance policies, and the consumer gets access to the insurance services leading to the employee getting a source of livelihood. This beneficial channel continues as the employee further becomes a market for the production of other producers’ therefore more social functions at the different levels of society. This is because the responsibilities should be designed to meet the expectations of the other parties in helping realize the common goals. (Hare, 1962)

The roles of social groups also demand that the expectations of the different parties to one another be formalized into norms so that the sanction system where punishments are offered with reference to the set expectations will be deemed fair and just in administration. The social function of this is that the employee gains the right to be paid, that the consumer receives the insurance policy, and that the owner of the goods gets his products consumed. (Crozier, 1964)

It also argues that people who are the members of the social groups are generally conformists and that with time and enforcement, they get used and conforming to the roles they are assigned within the group. The social function played by this role is that maximum production and income is achieved that will further lead to the development of the community and that employee and other members become specialized and therefore do their work in the best way possible and become satisfied with what they do. (Hare, 1962)

It is also argued that the roles of these social groups are further fueled and realized by the anticipation of rewards and avoidance of punishments. The social function of this role is that the members advance their social status in society that motivates others to work, and promotes societal cooperation and efficient coexistence (Hare, 1962)

The effects of these groups on personal and professional development

Personally, working with the insurance company has benefited me in that I learned better ways of dealing with different people, as in the course of work we meet different people who have different problems, including those of depression which can be difficult to deal with. Professionally it has helped impart the skills of salesmanship, which I did not have before. (Wolfgang, 1992)

Personally, it has served as a source of income and status within the society, and professionally it is a source of knowledge on the need, benefits, and working of insurance policies. It has further played the role of making me satisfied in life as I enjoy what I do and has also helped me the challenge and motivate others towards achievement. It also has cultivated my cooperative and coexistence ability within the social settings I find myself in. (Huber, 2002)

Weber’s characteristics of an ideal bureaucracy

Bureaucracy is the concept of leadership in social and political systems that explain the way administration, enforcement, and execution of authority and rule of a given group is organized. He argues in his work that the conditions that must be there for a bureaucratic system to work efficiently are specialization where every member should take their role and not any other to avoid negligence of some activities. This is to ensure that there is an expressly definite hierarchy of power and rule so as to make the administration of roles, supervision, personal responsibility, and complementary operation smooth and efficient.

That written rules, policies, and regulations that will guide the operation and roles of members and the relationships be devised. That impartiality, fairness, and neutrality are developed in every member and level within the bureaucracy so as to promote sound coexistence. He also argues that the different members and levels of the bureaucracy develop the virtue of impersonality and focus on the common goals. Lastly, he argues that an ideal bureaucracy should develop and maintain records so as to be accountable for the cooperative work of each member towards the set goals. (Wolfgang, 1992).

The characteristics of an ideal bureaucratic that best apply to my organization

Keeping in mind that the insurance institution is a large-scale business operating in a wide area and harboring a large number of employees, it’s obvious that it operates on a bureaucratic form of authority structure. Also, depending on the efficient management of the company, I can argue out that the six characteristics of an ideal bureaucratic leadership have been applied in the organization.

These characteristics are those of specialization by the different staff, the hierarchy from the top management to the low-level management, the written rules guiding work and relationships, impartiality has also been highly observed, impersonality has been highly cultivated, and record-keeping is the core of all these. The areas I can argue are not fully addressed are those of impersonality to make the institution an ideal bureaucratic institution. (Wolfgang, 1992).

The positive and negative effects of a bureaucratic structure

The business operates according to set rules, each individual has their roles predetermined, every official is given the authority he/she deserves, and means of compulsion are rarely applied, and the rights of members are defined. Others include that officials are accountable for resources, the office is achieved on a merit basis, official and private business are strictly distinguished, rewarding, and punishment is based on written rules, and all official business is based on writing. (Huber, 2002)

The negative effects of bureaucratic models are that capabilities can be unclear, the effect of decisions is often not considered, the rule of impersonality is countered by corruption and other impartialities, creativity is suppressed, procedures are rigid and demanding, opinion of low-level employees may not be recognized and that it makes people operate majorly like machines. (Wolfgang, 1992)


Social groups being in pursuit of common set goals which need the contribution of each member of the group need rather strict monitoring and authority structure. This makes the operation of a bureaucratic structure most efficient and applicable in the operation of social groups, especially when the ideal characteristics of a bureaucratic system are observed. This will make coexistence within these groups more efficient, and this will be incorporated into the whole society.

List of reference

Crozier, M. (1964). The Bureaucratic Phenomenon. London: Tavistock Publications.

Hare, A. P. (1962). Handbook of small group research. New York: Macmillan.

Huber & Shipan. (2002). Deliberate discretion: The institutional foundations of bureaucratic autonomy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wolfgang, J (1992). The political and social Theory of Max Weber. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-53400-6.

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