The Culture of Groups: How They Form

Past and modern culture exhibit many examples of group activities. Modern groups present in the way of clubs, work teams, and many other social groupings. According to psychologist Bruce Tuckman, groups follow certain habits when forming. It takes time for the individuals in a group to find their place and for a team to reach a point where they are focused on a common goal. This has a lot to do with a sort of social hierarchy and often depends on personality types. It can be interesting to follow this cultural development. Tuckman has broken up the stages into an easy to follow format.


This stage consists of a group trying to figure out if they belong together. Until this point, they are a bunch of individuals without a common purpose. This is a very formal stage where everyone is getting to know each other. They may have been put together by a teacher or manager at work to handle a specific project. They could also be forming club or sports team. Everyone is extremely polite at this point and they usually avoid any extreme behavior. Anxiety over fitting in may plague some members. Others may naturally be thinking about leading, or a group leader may have been assigned by an outside party. There is often a lack of clarity about everyone’s roles at this point. Introductions and inquiring conversations help people begin to think about where they fit in to the dynamic and to understand what others are capable of.


Many groups simply stop progressing and fall apart at this stage. Conflict can easily occur during storming. People start to work toward a goal and discover that others are not complying with similar work methods. Differences are either worked out or deemed unmanageable. This stage is comparable to animals that fight for placement in a pack. If a leader is already identified in the human group, or has been assigned, others may push to take over. All members must find a way to work together and establish a routine, or they cannot proceed. A large number of strong personalities may focus more on conflict than on a goal. Some people naturally stand back and take directions or avoid conflict, others seek out recognition. The storming phase is a vital part of group organization.


The norming phase brings about a more peaceful time in the group’s existence. People start to work out their differences and realize they need each other to reach a common goal. They may also start to be appreciative and complimentary of each other. This is the time when bonding begins. Strong relationships form and socialization outside of group activities may also occur. Storming can make a comeback if a new project or goal is introduced, however, an established group may handle it much more quickly and positively.


This is the easiest part of the group formation. Everyone is working towards the goal and it seems effortless at times. Leaders are well-established and respected. This enables them to delegate work efficiently. There can be some new members or others that leave. The group dynamic, however, is strong enough to support change in a positive way. Routines are well-established, and goals are easily accomplished.


This is the last phase, and may result in a dissipation of the team. Many may feel a loss at the end of the project and hope to continue in the future. A sense of satisfaction may also be present, as the goals have been completed successfully. Teams at work may reach this phase quickly, as a work project may be short lived. Other groups may continue for years, such as a Boy Scout troop. The adjourning phase for this type of group may be coupled with many rituals. Relationships stemming from long-term groups often continue outside of the group.

Group formation can occur for many reasons. Some groups are joint voluntarily, while others are put together for a certain purpose. Success often depends on personality types and willingness to cooperate. These stages have been outlined by Tuckerman as a guideline for determining what groups are going through as they form. Many of us can relate to feeling anxious about a new group, or trying to find out where we fit in.

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