Primary Groups Within Secondary Groups
“I If we classified groups according to the extent to which they show primary- or secondary group traits, the result would be a listing of secondary groups such as the army, the corporation, and the national state, and a list of primary groups such as the family, the clique, and the gang. Proceeding in this fashion, we should then contrast the impersonal goaloriented nature of the large organization with the personal, relationship-oriented focus of smaller intimate groups. Such a separation is often assumed when we attempt to analyze the efficiency of large organizations. 1£we are interested in the productivity of industrial labor, we might study the goals, techniques, and rewards of the factory and then look at the character and trail)ing of the individuals up. the labor force.
‘” The fallacy of this approach is that it over- “looks the extent to which every large orgaization is a network of ma primary groups. A. person is not simply a unit in an organization chart designed by top management; :- he or she is also’ a member of a smaller informal group with its own structure and its own system of statuses and roles which define the behavior of its members. In the factory the worker finds a place in a group of peers its’ own leadership, from which the. supervisor is usually excluded. The supervisor Is part of “management” and therefore cannot be part’ of a worker in-group. Since workers need the approval and support of the clique more than the appeal of their supervisors, they meet the demands of management only when these demands harmonize with their in-group needs and attitudes. The ‘influence of the primary group is one reason why incentive pay plans giving the worker a bonus for greater output have frequently been ineffective. The logic of such plans is that many workers will work harder if paid in proportion to the work they do. The major defect in such plans is that they would destroy the unity of primary groups. Rather than a number of equals cooperating together, the work gang would become a number of competing individuals each striving to outdo the others. Aside from the strain of continuous competition, this situation threatens the workers’ social relationships. As a defense, factory cliques develop a norm ofa ”’fair day’s work.” The worker who attempts to ignore’ this norm is the butt of ‘ridicule, ostracism, and possible violence.Management may employ time-and-motion study experts to decide a “reasonable” out put, but new norms cannot be effective unless they are also accepted by the worker primary groups [Davis, 1972, pp. 488-490].While the primary group in the secondary Setting can be an obstacle, it can also be a positive aid in the accomplishment of organizational goals [Dunphy, 1972, pp. 23-25]. At times primary groups may even violate the rules of the larger secondary organization in order to getting done. If the formal rules are not always workable in all situations, primary worker groups simply trim some comers=-that is, break a few rules-in order to get the work out. For example, air traffic controllers, who direct plane landings and takeoffs, routinely “shave” the specified minim distance between planes when the weather is good. An exact following of the rules would cause long delays and stack-ups, thereby increasing in convenience and danger Just as we cannot realistically consider the individual apart from society we cannot understand secondary and primary groups completely except in relation to each other. modem-society, many of the former function of proprietary groups have by large, interpersonal, goal-directed secondary groups. Each of these secondary groups. however, creates a new network of primary groups