Chapter 16: Small Group Communication

Chapter Learning Outcomes

In this chapter you will:

  1. Explore communication, characteristics and functions of small groups.
  2. Explore group development formation and its various stages.
  3. Explore group cohesion, climate, socialization, conformity and groupthink.
  4. Explore the relationship between conflict and cohesion in the work environment.
  5. Explore strategies for managing group conflict.
  6. Explore styles of management.

When you think of small groups, you probably think of the much dreaded “group assignment” that you’ve endured in high school and college. You are less likely to think of the numerous other groups to which you belong that bring more positive experiences, such as your family and friendship groups or shared-interest groups. Group communication scholars are so aware of this common negative sentiment toward group communication that they coined the term grouphate to describe it (Sorensen, 1981). Small groups, however, have served a central purpose in human history and evolution. Groups make it easier for us to complete a wide variety of tasks; help us establish meaningful social bonds; and help us create, maintain, and change our sense of self (Hargie, 2011, p. 433). Negative group experiences are often exacerbated by a lack of knowledge about group communication processes. We are just expected to know how to work in groups without much instruction or practice. This lack of knowledge about group communication can lead to negative group interactions, which creates a negative cycle that perpetuates further negative experiences. Fortunately, as with other areas of communication, instruction in group communication can improve people’s skills and increase people’s satisfaction with their group experiences.


Hargie, O. (2011). Skilled Interpersonal Interaction: Research, Theory, and Practice, 5th ed.

Sorensen, S. M. (1981, May). Group-hate: A negative reaction to group work. Annual meeting of the International Communication Association, Minneapolis, MN.

Chapter Acknowledgements

This chapter has been adapted from the following text:

Communication in the Real World by University of Minnesota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.


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