What Is the Difference Between Formal and Informal Group?

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Formal groups determine culture, codes of conduct and core values, and informal groups form more personal relationships that align with the mission statement. Informal encounters between employees help each understand their role in the organization. Morale is often positively or negatively affected by informal interactions.

Formal groups may be permanent and consist of a board of directors, department heads or specialized services staff. The organizational mission statement is developed and closely followed. Task forces or nominating committees are generally temporary formal groups designed with a specific goal in mind. Insightful formal group members recognize the value of informal interaction with employees and the value they create in reaching organizational objectives and department goals.

Informal groups serve as the grapevine within an organization, but shared information is skewed by personal dislikes, prejudices, attitudes and emotions. In a February 2007 "Bloomberg Businessweek" article, Marshall Goldsmith and Jon Katzenbach explain that informal groups are information networks that help employees learn what is not communicated by formal groups. However, for those who desire to move ahead in the organization in a positive way, it is better to seek out mentors or coaches with a dedicated desire to help them succeed.

The lines between formal and informal groups are not absolute, but together they connect the experiences of an organization.