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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Norming in a group

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Norming is normal for a group

Group norms are a set of informal rules (sometimes written, sometimes unspoken and often unwritten) that govern the behaviours of individuals in a group. Group norms vary based on the group and issues important to the group. Without group norms, individuals would have no understanding of how to act as an accepted member of the group.

All groups whether intentionally or unintentionally, no matter how small or big, develop norms. Norms relate to ways of behavior, roles and actions which become normal for a group.
Groups may adopt norms in two different ways. One form of norm adoption is the formal method, where norms are written down and implemented (e.g. laws, rules). However, social norms are much more likely to be informal, and emerge gradually (e.g. Bikies wearing leather jackets etc)

Norms can exist as both formal and informal rules of behavior. Both types of norms are described more clearly below:

Informal: Informal norms are not necessarily rules set in writing, but are more so just behaviours that people follow in the group so as to be part of the group, be accepted by the group and help the group function. These informal norms, if broken, do not invite punishments or sanctions usually, but instead encourage reprimands and warnings.

Formal: Formal norms are generally rules that if broken will result in some form of punishment. In a group these are formally agreed to ways of behaving which the group expects to be followed. In some groups the breaking of these rules may result in punishment (fines, ridicule) but in most group the breaking of these black and white rules may result in exclusion from the group as the major way of enforcing the norms.

Generally formal norms are considered to be essential to the effective functioning of the group and must be followed by group members, whilst informal norms are less important in terms of conformity – although desirable for group identity and coherence.

There is great pressure on group members to conform to group norms. Conforming to group norms usually ensure acceptance of the member in the group and the view that the group is functioning effectively and cooperating. If a person does not conform to group norms they are considered as being dysfunctional and deviant as a group member. If a person continues to break formal norms in particular, it may result in exclusion of the individual from the group for the sake of group functioning and the groups coherence.

Changing norms
Once firmly established, a norm becomes a social fact, and thus, a part of the group's operational structure, and is difficult to change. With that being said, newcomers to a group can change a group's norms. However, it is much more likely that the new individual entering the group will adopt the group's norms, values, and perspectives, rather than the other way around.

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