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Groups and Organizations


The groups we belong to provide us with norms, values, beliefs, and behaviors.  An example of a group and group categories is generations.  There are several different generations and each are different in terms of norms, values, beliefs, and behaviors.  Review the following research data on charts on the various generations and note the categories and the differences between each generational group.


This chart shows the various generations: 1022-1945: veterans, silent, and traditionalists generations; 1946-1964 baby boomers; 1965-1980 Generation X; 1981-2000 Generation Y, Gen Yers, Millennials, Echo Boomers, Cupsers.


This chart shows the percentage of the population for each generation and their percentage of internet use.  We can see that Millennials are the largest percentage of the population (30%) and largest percentage of internet use (35%).


This chart indicates that the older generations are more likely to be conservative and the younger generations are more likely to be liberal.  The data also shows that there is a larger percentage of those who consider themselves “mixed” in their political ideologies in each generation.


The data shows that an increasing percentage of millennials consider themselves to be independent in their political affiliation today.


This data shows each generation and the percentage of each religious affiliation.  The data shows that the younger the generation the more likely that they are to consider themselves “unaffiliated”.


This data indicates that millennial men and millennial women have different experiences and perspectives on issues related to women and the workplace.

The Digital Generation

Digital Natives are those born after 1980 when social digital technologies came online.  The digital generation are those that grew up experiencing social networks, social media, iTunes, and mobile devices (cell phones, iPhones, etc.).

Changes in society: Family (communication, relationships), Politics (politicians videos, emailing constituents, campaign websites, organize events; more political participation; more democracy; laws), Education (online classes, Wikipedia, accuracy of online information, not wanting to read large amounts of information/only small amounts- SparkNotes, plagiarism), Economy (work – always connected, work from home, sales), Religion (web participation; religious services on television); health (information; diagnose self)

Amount of time spent online and effects: nontraditional relationships, online dating, family relationships, higher rates of stalking – ease of keeping tabs on a person, online identity (can take on another identity), privacy (multitude of information on each person – birth cert., social security records, marriage certificates, traffic violations, medical records, and other information one posts on themselves -, once information is out there it is out there for good, safety), reputations, college admissions and employers look up information on student/employees, tracking devices (trust), pornography online, cyberbullying, and internet addiction.

Disinhibition theory: reveal information or say things would not normally say due to view of anonymous; impulsive behavior

Overload: internet addiction, information fatigue syndrome (now there is a new syndrome), and information overload are psychological diseases now; strain on families, friendships, and lives; those predisposed to psychological conditions –may make it worse; can only keep seven items in our working memory, desensitized to excessive stimuli, inability to process information, increased heart rates, increased cholesterol, migraines, stunted reading skills, reduced attention spans, and restlessness; multitasking (bad for learning, cannot pay attention to more than one thing at a time, concentration problems, multitasking in the classroom); decision making (too much information, cannot make a decision; video games – aggression.

Positive aspects of technology is innovation and efficiency.  Moderate use is key – excess causes negative effects

Shift from a Traditional Society to a Rational Society

The Evolution of society

Society has moved through the following stages:

  • Hunting and Gathering Societies
  • Pastoral and Horticultural Societies
  • Agricultural Societies
  • Industrial Societies
  • Postindustrial Societies

Society has shifted from a Traditional Society (survival) à Rational Society (Capitalism; profit motive).  During the Industrial Revolution was where we saw this change in society.  With the change to a rational society came the emergence of formal organizations and the growth in group size.  We also saw more inequalities emerge with this shift in society and especially a vast increase in inequalities with industrialization. 

Application of Groups, Organizations, and Bureaucracies

A good example of what you will be doing on our application papers (application and analysis) is to read the material on groups and organizations and especially the material on  bureaucracies and apply the terms, concepts, and theories to the film, “Office Space”.   If you have not seen this movie it is definitely a must see.  Our paper assignments will require you to apply the course material and analyze the issues at hand.  So, if you have already seen “Office Space” a good application practice exercise for you to do (in your head) would be to apply the course material to the examples you can recall from the film.

Characteristics of Bureaucracies

  • Hierarchy (levels; stratification)
  • Division of labor
  • Written rules
  • Written communications and records
  • Impersonal
  • Replaceability
  • Meritocracy
  • Ownership and Management

There has been a definite hierarchy at every formal organization I have ever worked for.  Every place I have ever worked has given me an organizational chart (or hierarchy of demand).  This has given me information on where I fall in the hierarchy, or in other words, shown me how low I was on the totem pole! 🙂  There is always a clear division of labor.  We are always given a job description that tells us exactly what is expected of us and what our duties are.  There are written rules usually in the form of a policy and procedure manual.  Remember you are supposed to read the entire manual and sign that you have done so…most of us do not read the entire manual!  There are written communications and records of everything that occurs…everything you do is written in your file.  Finally, the bureaucracy is impersonal and many of us may feel that we are replaceable.  How many of you have personally met the president or vice president of the company and he or she actually knows your name?  Actually, this is something presidents should do as individuals would feel important and this would result in lower turnover rates and actually save the company money.

Dysfunctions of Bureaucracies

  • Red tape
  • Bureaucratic alienation (feel like objects rather than people)
  • Bureaucratic Incompetence (employees are promoted to his or her level of incompetence)

Red tape is a major problem.  The idea is “a rule is a rule” and there are specific procedures in order to accomplish any task.  A friend of mine is a police officer.  He noticed that just about every day there was a car accident in the same spot in his “beat.”  He immediately noticed that the problem was that there was a curve on the street as well as a tree that was blocking the view of a stop sign ahead.  So, can he just get a “stop ahead” sign and put it in the ground?  No, he had to go through the red tape (proposal, pictures of the area, review board, etc.).  It took about 8-9 months to get the sign.  Think of all of the accidents that could have been prevented!  Many individuals feel alienated (Marx, proletariat).  Think of the assembly line worker who never sees the end result of his or her labor.  The assembly line worker who puts a screw in, never sees the car completely built, and never sees the buyer drive off with the wind blowing in his or her hair!   We resist alienation by personalizing our workspace, forming groups, and forming friendships at work (see text).  The alienated bureaucrat feels like an object, especially if memos have replaced all face-to-face interactions.  Bureaucratic incompetence is also a major problem (Peter Principle).  We have this expectation today that if we do a good or even decent job we will be promoted and move up the hierarchy; however, just because we are good at one position does not mean that we will excel at the next level.  The idea is that we are promoted for good work until we reach a level of incompetence.  A person can be incompetent at the next level but do we immediately demote or fire him or her?  Well, then we have to go through all of the red tape to do so.  A good example was from the series “Band of Brothers” (HBO).  There was a sergeant who was seen as the best at training soldiers to fight in battle.  His soldiers were always the best.  So they promoted him to actually lead the soldiers in battle.  He was incompetent at that level as he could not handle the stress, could not read the map, and led them into enemy territory. 

Iron Rule of Oligarchy (Michel)

Make sure you have read this section in the textbook.  What is the problem with a small elite group of individuals dominating our formal organizations?  Do we see a perpetuation of this small elite group?  How do we get inside this inner circle?  Do the elite hire and promote like people, or people similar to them?  How does this affect the mobility of some very capable people?  Think about women “breaking” into male dominated fields.  Are these women less likely to become the major decision makers in these fields?  Why?   What happens if the major business transactions take place after work during social hour or on the golf course?  Are women automatically left out (self-fulfilling prophecy)?  You could also apply this issue to other minority groups.

The McDonaldization of Society, George Ritzer

The Modern/Rational Society focuses on cost-benefit analyses, the bottom line, profits motive, and efficiency.  George Ritzer’s research focused on how our society has become McDonaldized, that our society has become like a fast food restaurant.  This has affected all aspects of our society including: dieting and fitness, how we cook and eat, our health, how we shop, how we view films, how we travel, our education, how we practice our religion, our relationships, and how we work.  Each institution in our society has become McDonaldized: family, religion, education, politics, economy, and the media.  Ritzer even discusses how humans are being substituted for technology as we strive for efficiency and rationalization.  Some of the dysfunctions of our McDonaldized society include health effects (increase in heart disease and obesity) and the loss of interpersonal relationships.  Think about how your life has become McDonaldized.

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