Work groups are not unorganized mobs. Work groups have properties that shape the behavior of members and make it possible to explain and predict a large portion of individual behavior within the group as well as the performance of the group itself. What are some of these properties? These include roles, norms, status, group size and the degree of group cohesiveness.
Shakespeare said that the world is a stage and all the men and women are merely players. Using the same metaphor, all group members are actors, each playing their role. By this term, we mean a set of expected behavior patterns attributed to someone occupying a given position in social unit. The understanding of the role behavior would be dramatically simplified of each of us choose one role and play it out regularly and consistently. Unfortunately we are required to play a number of diverse roles, both on and off our jobs. As we’ll see, one of the tasks in understanding behavior is grasping the role that a person is currently playing.
For example Bill Patterson is a plant manager with EMM Industries, a large electrical equipment manufacturer in Phoenix. He has a number of roles that he fulfills on that job – for instance, an EMM employee, member of middle management electrical engineer, and the primary company spokesperson in the community Off the job, Bill Patterson finds himself in still more roles, husband, after catholic, Rotarian, tennis player, member of the Thunderbird Country Club, and president of is one owners’ association. Many of these roles are compatible some create conflicts. For instances how does his religious involvement influence his managerial decisions regarding layoffs expense account padding and providing accurate information to government agencies? A recent offer of promotion requires Bill to relocate, yet his family very much wants to stay in Phoenix. Can the role be reconciled wit the demands of his husband and father roles?
The issue should be clear: Like Bill Patterson we all are required to play a number of roles, and our behavior varies with the role we are playing. Bill’s behavior when he attends church on Sunday morning is different from his behavior on the golf course later that same day. So different groups impose different role requirement individuals.
Role Identity: There are certain attitudes and actual behaviors consistent with a role, and they create the role identity. People have the ability to change roles rapidly when they create that the situation and its demands clearly require major changes. For instance, when union stewards were promoted to supervisory positions, it was found that their attitudes changed from pro-union to pro-management within few months of their promotion. When these promotions had to be rescinded later because of economic difficulties in the firm, it was found that the demoted supervisors had once again adopted their pro-union attitudes.
Role Perception: Our view of how we are supposed to act in a given situation is a role perception. Based on an interpretation of how we believe we are supposed to behave, we engage in certain types of behavior.
Where do we get these perceptions? We get them from stimuli all around us – friends, books, movies television. For example, many current law enforcement officers any have learned tier roles. Many of tomorrow’s lawyers might be influenced by watching the actions of attorneys in Law & Order, and the role of crime investigators, as portrayed on the television program CSI, could direct people into careers in criminology. Of course, the primary reason that apprenticeship programs exist in many traders and professions is to allow beginners to watch an ‘expert’ so that they can learn to act as they supposed to.
Role expectation is defined as how others believe you should act in a given situation. How you behave is determined to a large extent by the role defined in the context in which you are acting. For instance, the role of a US federal judge is viewed as having propriety and dignity while a football coach is seen as aggressive, dynamic, and inspiring to his players.