Norms tend to be of three levels: pivotal, relevant, and peripheral. Pivotal norms are critical for success within a group. If a group member rejects a pivotal norm, then his or her stay in the organization is likely to be very limited. When Microsoft founder Bill Gates meets with a product-development team, he asks some very pointed questions about both the technical and financial aspects of the project. Team leaders and members must be prepared to answer these questions or they may not last long at Microsoft. Thus, being prepared is a pivotal norm at Microsoft.
Relevant norms are fairly important, but not as critical as the pivotal norms. It is generally important for a salesperson to be on time for work (relevant norm) but with productivity (pivotal norm) tops in the department, he or she might be able to come in late more often with minimal repercussions.
A peripheral norm is one that some people accept, but which is not important for success in an organization. Managers in one engineering company meet every Friday after work for a beer at a nearby pub. Although most show up all the time, some seldom show up and a few never go at all. Status at work is not affected by this peripheral norm.
Of course, what is peripheral in one group may be relevant or pivotal in another. For managerial success in most Japanese organizations, the kind of after-work contacts the engineers were having is absolutely essential. At some companies, such as Levi-Strauss & Company, mode of dress is peripheral because the norm for even the top executive team is - you guessed it - Levis jeans. At other firms such as IBM or Procter & Gamble, dress code is more likely to be a relevant norm.
1. Which of these statements expresses the main idea of the text?
a) Group norms are important because they prescribe appropriate behaviour for group members.
b) Group norms affect almost all aspects of group functioning.
c) Group norms may be positive and negative.
d) Group norms tend to be of three levels.
2. Are these statements true or false? Correct the false ones.
a) Norms help group members to prevent possible problems in their relationships.
b) Positive norms disagree with the goals, mission, and success of the organization.
c) EDS is successful because it accepted all norms at the right time.
d) At most Ritz Carlton hotels, it takes an employee not more than ten minutes to resolve a customer's problem.
e) Sometimes norms can provoke abnormal actions of group members.
f) To stay in the organization, a group member must refuse to accept its pivotal norms.
g) A pivotal norm at Microsoft is meeting regularly with Bill Gates.
h) Relevant norms are less important than pivotal norms.
i) An employee who shows the best productivity in the department may be praised for occasional breaking of relevant norms.
j) Peripheral norms may be neglected by some members of the group without any harm to its success.
k) Levels of norms are the same in all groups and organizations.
4. Answer the questions.
a) What could happen in the group if its members did not know how to act?
b) What aims can the introduction of group norms help to achieve?
c) What aspects of group functioning can norms affect?
d) What kind of norms may a shadow organization have?
e) What kind of questions can Microsoft founder ask when he meets with a product-development team?
f) What is a pivotal norm for a salesperson?
g) Why do some managers from one engineering company never come to a nearby pub on Friday?
h) What kind of behaviour is important for managerial success in many Japanese companies?
i) Why is mode of dress a peripheral norm at Levi-Strauss & Company?
5. Write a summary of the text.
Development and socialization of group Norms
The Development of Norms
Figure 3 shows four methods through which norms develop over time. One way is through the explicit statements of group leaders. The founder of Mars Candy Co. once brought to a meeting of his top executives a box of stale Mars candy bars he had found at a store. He went around the room, threw a candy bar at each team member, and told them he would hold each of them responsible if he ever found another stale Mars candy bar in a store. However, most explicit statements are not as extreme. For instance, a dean's comment to a faculty member that he stopped by during office hours and did not find him there might be enough to enforce a norm that professors are expected to honor office hours.
A second way norms develop is through some critical event in a group's history. The Mars example above could be one. Another is a common tale about Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald's. Kroc once ordered the backs of the chairs of McDonald’s store managers to be cut off to remind them that their job was to be out in the restaurant managing, not lounging in their offices.
Sometimes the first behaviour pattern that emerges in a group sets group expectations for subsequent ones. If, during the first meeting, a team leader cracks a joke and asks for every member's opinion about an issue, then the norms of casual interaction and full participation may be initiated within the team.
The final method through which norms may evolve is through a carryover from past experiences. EDS project team members know most of the team norms because they have participated on similar EDS project teams in the past. Even new EDS employees may know some norms from project work in other organizations.
Socializing and Modifying Norms
Regardless of how norms are established, it is the manager's job to help new employees learn the group's norms and values. This is called socialization, the process by which an individual learns the norms, values, goals, and expectations of an organization. The manager must also support prevailing positive norms and try to change dysfunctional or negative ones. Figure 3 depicts some techniques managers can use to maintain, change, and teach organizational norms. These include providing a formal and informal orientationprogram; establishing a mentoring system; conducting training (which communicates norms as well as develops skills); modelling the desired behaviours; sanctioning positive behaviours and weakening negative ones, through speech and action;using formal evaluations to support positive norms; using the rewards system to reinforce norms, such as paying for performance; using informal and formal communication and feedback to discuss norms and how well group members are meeting the norms; recruiting and selecting individuals who already have exhibited positive norms; gaining the support of the group's informal leaders to promote positive norms; and developing standard operating policies and procedures that clarify and support desired norms. Because teams need to be adaptable, these techniques should be used to socialize members to the pivotal norms, but not to stifle their creativity by forcing them to conform to every relevant and peripheral norm the group may hold.
1. Which of these statements expresses the main idea of the text?
a) There are various methods through which group norms develop.
b) Regardless of how norms are established, it is the manager's job to help new employees learn the group's norms and values.
c) The manager must support positive norms and try to change negative ones.
d) There are different techniques to maintain, change, and teach organizational norms.
3. Are these statements true or false? Correct the false ones.
a) The founder of Mars Candy Co. once used an extreme pattern of explicit statement to find who was responsible for selling stale Mars candy bars.
b) The founder of McDonald’s once ordered the backs of the chairs of store managers to be cut off because he wanted those managers to do their job appropriately.
c) The norms of casual interaction and full participation may be initiated within the team thanks to the relevant behaviour of the team leader during the first meeting.
d) New EDS employees are taught some norms by other team members.
e) Only a formal orientationprogram can be regarded as a socialization technique.
f) Norm altering may involve modelling the desired behaviours, sanctioning positive behaviours and weakening negative ones.
g) It is not reasonable to employ individuals who already have exhibited positive norms.
h) The manager must make group members conform to every group norm.
4. Here are some answers about group norms. Write the questions.
a) It shows four methods through which norms develop over time.
b) It is a norm that professors are expected to honour office hours.
c) It is through some critical event in a group's history.
d) It sets group expectations for subsequent ones.
e) Because they have participated on similar EDS project teams in the past.
f) This is called socialization.
g) These include orientationprograms; mentoring; training; modelling the desired behaviours; sanctioning positive behaviours; formal evaluations; rewards; communication and feedback; recruiting and selecting; work group support; standard operating policies and procedures.