How Informal Organization Creates Problems for Managers

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Informal organizations are increasingly becoming common in modern organizations when managing a group of experienced and highly talented employees who need little supervision. In such a setting, the entity is not operated under written guidelines with a clear chain of command and guidelines (Burnes & Jackson, 2011). Instead, the company is operated under a system that is developed by trusted employees who have proven to be effective in what they do. An informal organization highly depends on the trust that is created between the leader and employees (Week 5). The leader believes that the subordinates have the capacity and willingness to do the right thing.

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As such, these employees are given the opportunity to make a decision on how they will handle their assignments without the strict supervision of their superiors. They have the freedom of choosing when to report to work and leave as long as they complete their assignments at the right time and in an effective way. The role of the manager is reduced to that of an adviser to the team. The leader will only need to supervise the completed tasks to ensure that everything was done as per the expectations.

How an Informal Organization Can Create Problems for Managers

Informal organizations have gained popularity when managing a team of highly skilled and experienced employees. It eliminates the need to constantly supervise workers and issue directives on how each task should be addressed. It creates time for the manager to focus on policy issues and how an organization can achieve strategic goals and the vision. On the side of the employees, it creates a sense of responsibility among workers (Ogbonna & Harris, 2015).

They realize that they have not only been empowered to make the right decisions but also trusted enough to be given the opportunity to decide how to handle their assignments. Despite these obvious benefits of informal organizations, it is important to note that they may pose various challenges for managers. The following are some of the problems that may arise for managers leading informal organizations.

The unstructured nature of the formation of the informal organization may become a major challenge for a manager. One of the traits of informal organizations is that they are formed through spontaneous interaction (Week 4). It means that it is not possible to know when they will be formed, their composition, and their capacity to undertake a given assignment. A manager cannot rely on such a team to address a given major task. When there is a project, a manager will need to develop a team of employees with clearly defined capabilities. When one has to work with informal groups, its spontaneous nature becomes less desirable because it takes away the ability of the leader to define its composition.

It is also worrying that, in most cases, informal groups form their own interests (Week 4). When these employees are undertaking their normal assignments, this issue may not be of great concern to the manager as long as they are known to deliver on their assignments. However, it becomes a major issue when an organization is keen on undertaking a new project. In such a case, the manager would need to influence these employees and make them work towards a specific goal (Elliott & Long, 2016). Their interest should not be the basis upon which they work on an assignment. It means that in such a case, it may take a significantly long time for the leader to convince subordinates that it is advisable to embrace a given way of doing things.

The autonomy that is often associated with informal groups is another issue that managers may find to be problematic (Week 4). Individuals in informal groups prefer making decisions independently without strictly relying on the views and directives of the manager. They have the experience and knowledge to do the right thing and, as such, believe that it is not necessary for the supervisor to closely monitor and control their activities (Ogbonna & Harris, 2015).

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This trait may pose a challenge when the firm is trying to introduce change. These employees may need some form of assistance and guidance when introducing a new technology or way of undertaking a given assignment. The fact that they are used to doing things autonomously may be a challenge for a leader trying to offer assistance (Brannan, 2017). It requires a high level of maturity and understanding of these employees to appreciate the assistance needed to achieve specific goals.

Favoritism, discrimination, lack of social acceptance (rejection), and falling out of favor are common phenomena in informal groups (Week 5). Employees have the liberty to choose who becomes a member of their group. It means that they will choose individuals they feel share as much social-economic and political perception as possible (Burnes & Jackson, 2011). They want to be among colleagues who share their cultural practices and have a common political interest.

For a manager, that becomes a major problem when managing a large organization. As Knight and Parker (2019) observe, in the modern business environment, it is not possible to avoid diversity. Employees have to learn to embrace their colleagues who may not have the same views towards life as theirs. They have to appreciate that diversity is essential for the success of their organization. In an informal organization, the manager may not have the needed control to ensure that such undesirable practices are limited (Elliott & Long, 2016). The leader will only rely on the ability and willingness of the workers to do the right thing. The problem is that it is common to find such employees resorting to discriminative practices.

How These Problems Can Be Redressed or Managed

The challenges identified above need to be addressed to ensure that autonomous groups are as successful as they can be. When it comes to addressing the spontaneous nature of these groups, Brannan (2017) explains that it may be necessary for the manager to have some form of control in the formation of such units. These employees may be given an opportunity to play a major role in the formation of the group, but the manager should have the capacity to influence its composition and the goal that it seeks to achieve. This way, it will be possible to form a group that is capable of achieving specific goals within an organization.

It was noted that in most cases, informal groups form their own interests. Sometimes their interests may not be in line with the goals that an organization seeks to achieve at a specific time. This challenge can be addressed by redefining an organizational culture that promotes flexibility and the willingness of employees to adjust their goals depending on goals that have to be achieved within a given period (Veen et al., 2020). It means that although these semi-autonomous workers have the liberty to define their interests at work, they should be flexible enough and willing to adjust if it is necessary. They should also have respect for the manager and respond positively whenever they are asked to adjust their approach to undertaking a given responsibility.

The autonomy of these independent groups becomes a problem when it is necessary to direct them towards a specific short-term goal. This problem can be addressed by promoting a blend of both formal and informal groups (Tjosvold, 2008). These talented and highly experienced employees should know that, in most cases, and especially when undertaking their normal duties, they will have the liberty to make personal decisions and work with colleagues that they feel make them perform better. However, they should know that whenever an urgent issue arises, the manager should have the power to run the entity as a formal group (Holland et al., 2015).

It means that in such a case, the manager will have the capacity to control and coordinate the activities of these employees to achieve the set objectives. During the period when the manager is in control, these employees should not feel despised.

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The discussion above also has identified favoritism, discrimination, lack of social acceptance, and falling out of favor as some of the major challenges of informal groups. This problem has to be addressed effectively, especially in modern organizations where diversity in terms of race, gender, religion, and social status, among other demographical classifications, is unavoidable (Elliott & Long, 2016). The best way of addressing this problem is to develop an organizational culture that prohibits such practices. The management should have policies that forbid employees from any form of favoritism and discrimination.

When forming groups, there should be a clear guideline about composition to avoid cases where individuals discriminate against a section of the employees. Although they will have the capacity to define how and when to form these units, their membership should reflect the face of the entire organization.

References

Brannan, M. J. (2017). Power, corruption and lies: Mis-selling and the production of culture in financial services. Human Relations, 70(6), 641–667. Web.

Burnes, B., & Jackson, P. (2011). Success and failure in organizational change: An exploration of the role of values. Journal of Change Management, 11(2), 133–162. Web.

Elliott, C., & Long, G. (2016). Manufacturing rate busters: Computer control and social relations in the labor process. Work, Employment and Society, 30(1), 135. Web.

Holland, P. J., Cooper, B., & Hecker, R. (2015). Electronic monitoring and surveillance in the workplace: The effects on trust in management, and the moderating role of occupational type. Personnel Review, 44(1), 161–175. Web.

Knight, C., & Parker, S. K. (2019). How work redesign interventions affect performance: An evidence-based model from a systematic review. Human Relations, 00(0), 1–36. Web.

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Ogbonna, E., & Harris, L. C. (2015). Subcultural tensions in managing organizational culture: A study of an English Premier League football organization. Human Resource Management Journal, 25(2), 217–232. Web.

Tjosvold, D. (2008). The conflict-positive organization: It depends upon us. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 29(1), 19–28. Web.

Veen, A., Barratt, T., & Goods, C. (2020). Platform-capital’s ‘app-etite’ for control: A labor process analysis of food-delivery work in Australia. Work, Employment and Society, 34(3), 388–406. Web.

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