Group norms

From CEOpedia | Management online

Group norms - are patterns of behavior regarding the functioning of the individual in a larger social group. Group norms define not only the rules of the group's operation, but also the creation of good relations within it. Norms of group may also relate to the way people behave and look.

Group norms should be accepted and understood by all of the group members. It must be sure that every member know the rules and have no doubts about them. If there rules are not accepted by all of the members, there is a possibility that someone is not going to respect them. Moreover, if the rules are not clearly define, members may be even unaware that they are breaking the rules.

Functions of group norms

We can point out 4 functions of group norms [1]:

  • expressing the group's main values - through which the members get a sense of who they are as a group.
  • helping coordinate the work of the members - making clear what is wanted from the members
  • defining the right behavior for members of a group - it helps to avoid unwanted and awkward situation in group and raises participation in the life of a group.
  • helping set up unique identity - making members know how dissimilar they are from others.

Types of norms

There are two main and most important types of norms [2]:

  • implicit, the kind of norms which are not written anywhere and not announced verbally. They are naturally understood by members. The example of implicit rules could be: being quiet when other person is speaking. There is no official punishment for those who do not respect these norms. There is possibility that someone will only frown or shake a finger at the person who do not respect the rule.
  • explicit, the kind of rules which are written down or announced verbally. Explicit norms are expected to be followed by all of the members. Normally there is also clearly define the consequences resulting from non-compliance with the rules.

The ways of creating group norms

It is typical that the group norms develop and change with time. The rules also depend on the people who participate in the group. It can be said that the norms are completely accepted by the members when they obey them even when there is no external pressure. In this case the members use the rules to control their own behavior. According to information includes in book Group Dynamics for Teams [3] which author is Daniel Levi, there are a few sources from which the group norms can come from. First of all, rules can be transferred by the members from other groups they used to belong to or even still belong to. Secondly, norms can be created based on prevailing standards in the environment. Normally the rules are invented at the beginning of the group's life but with time they are developed. In the situations when the members do not know how to behave, it is likely to invent new rules that are going to describe clearly the way of procedure.

Impact of group norms

The impact of group norms can be negative or positive [4]. The positive aspect is that the rules define the way of communication between the members, make the membres respect each other's and distribute power to the weaker people in the group. Talking about the negative aspect, group rules can somehow limit the creativity of members and enforce conformity.

Examples of group norms

Below are pointed out examples of typical group norms:

  • Speaking respectfully to each other
  • Being always on time
  • Avoiding ethnic or gender-based humor
  • Giving everyone a chance to speak

Advantages of Group norms

An introduction to the advantages of group norms: Group norms can be highly beneficial for any social group, as they provide a set of rules and expectations that can help maintain order and unity within the group. The following are advantages of group norms:

  • Group norms provide structure and order to a group, which helps to ensure that the group functions efficiently and productively. This structure can also help to reduce interpersonal conflicts, as group members know what is expected of them and what behaviors are unacceptable.
  • Group norms also help to create an atmosphere of respect and trust, which is essential for any group to remain unified and successful. Group norms can help members understand each other and work together towards a common goal.
  • Group norms also provide members with a sense of belonging and identity, as they are able to identify themselves as part of the group and contribute to its success. This can be especially beneficial for those who feel isolated or out of place in society.
  • Group norms can also help to promote creativity and innovation, as group members are encouraged to think outside the box and come up with new ideas that can benefit the group as a whole. This can lead to new and exciting projects, products, or services that can help the group to succeed.

Limitations of Group norms

Group norms can be limiting in many ways. Below are some of the key limitations:

  • Group norms can create an environment where people are afraid to voice dissenting opinions, as it can be seen as going against the group. This can lead to groupthink, where people are afraid to challenge ideas and solutions that might not be the best for the group.
  • Group norms can be oppressive and exclude certain people from participating in the group, either consciously or subconsciously. This can create an environment where those who do not fit the norms feel unwelcome or uncomfortable.
  • Group norms can also restrict creativity, as they can limit the type of ideas that are considered acceptable by the group and restrict the exploration of new solutions to problems.
  • Group norms can also lead to a lack of accountability, as people may be more likely to follow the norms without considering the implications or consequences of their actions.

Overall, group norms can be a useful tool for creating a sense of belonging and purpose in a group, but they can also be restrictive and limit the potential of the group.

Other approaches related to Group norms

Group norms can also be approached in different ways. Here are a few:

  • Establishing group expectations: Establishing expectations for behavior and participation within the group is an important part of creating and maintaining group norms. This can include expectations for communication, respect, and how members should interact with one another.
  • Encouraging open communication: Open communication between members of the group is essential to developing a healthy and productive team. Encouraging members to ask questions and share their ideas can help foster a stronger relationship between the members.
  • Developing respect and trust: Respect and trust are key components of any successful team. Developing these within the group can help to maintain the group’s norms and make it easier for members to work together.
  • Encouraging participation: Encouraging all members of the group to participate in the decision-making process and in the discussions can help to ensure that all voices are heard.

Overall, group norms can be approached from a variety of angles. Establishing expectations, encouraging open communication, developing respect and trust, and encouraging participation are all important components of successful group norms.


  1. (D. Levi 2007, p.48)
  2. (R. Fujishin 2007, p.10)
  3. (D. Levi 2007, p.49)
  4. (D. Levi 2007, p.49)

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Author: Klaudia Trączyk