Cohesiveness defines the degree of closeness that the members feel with the group. It identifies the strength of the member’s desires to remain in the group and the degree of commitment to the group. The extent of cohesiveness depends upon many factors including the compatibility of individual goals with group goals. The more the members are attracted to each other and the more the group goals align with their individual goals, the greater group’s cohesiveness.
Similarly, less attraction of members towards each other will lessen the strength of cohesiveness. There may be situations where an individual may become a member of a country club for the sake of his own prestige or career enhancement or for making selective friends for his business interests. These reasons for joining the group will undermine the strength of cohesiveness.
Factors Contributing to Group Cohesiveness
There are many factors that foster the cohesion of the group. Some of the more important factors are illustrated below:
Time Together: It is quite natural that the more time people spend together, the more they will get to know each other and more tendency there will be to get closer to each other, thus strengthening the degree of cohesiveness. This is based upon the assumption that you will spend more time with only those whom you like personally and want to continue interacting with them.
These interactions typically lead to common interests and increased attraction. The idea of long courtships or the idea that couples live together before marriage is primarily to ensure that there will be a high degree of cohesiveness in the marriage if the couple gets to know each other well by spending more time together and in close proximity to each other.
In an organizational setting, people who work near each other are more likely to spend more time together. For example, among clerical workers in one organization, it was found that distance between their desks was the single most important determinant of the rate of interaction among them.
Group Size: Since continuous and close interaction among members is a fundamental necessity for cohesiveness, it would be natural to assume that large groups restrict the extent of communication and interaction with each other, thus resulting in the reduction of degree of cohesiveness.
Another problem with large size groups is that there is a likelihood of forming small groups within the large groups. This would result in the dilution of the common group goal thus increasing the extent of power politics play. This tends to decrease the overall cohesiveness.
Another interesting aspect about group cohesion depends upon whether the group is all male, all female or mixed. Studies showed that if all members were of the same sex then smell groups had better cohesion than large ones. But when the groups were made up of both males and females, then larger groups had better cohesion. It seems that people like to join mixed groups than single sex groups and an opportunity to interact with a larger set of both sexes increases cohesiveness.
Difficult in Entry: Some groups are not easy to join. The members are very carefully selected and the selected member feels a sense of pride and accomplishment. The more difficult it is to get into a group, the more cohesive that group becomes. The reason being that in exclusive and elite groups the members are selected on the basis of certain characteristics and these characteristics being common to all add to the degree of liking and attraction towards each other.
The more exclusive the group, the more is the closeness among members. Accordingly, individuals like to join such exclusive groups. That is one reason, for example, why many bright students want to study at Harvard and Princeton universities. Similarly, exclusive yacht clubs and golf clubs have applicants on their waiting lists for many years before they are accepted.
Threat and Competition: Whenever the common group goal is threatened, cohesiveness increases. Also, such cohesiveness increases the importance of the goals. When we fight for a goal then the goal gets the highest priority. For example, when a hostile group wants to take over a corporation, the Board of Directors of the corporation suddenly becomes a united front against the threats and their cohesiveness reaches its peak. Similarly, management threats frequently bring together an otherwise disarrayed union. Thus the threatening party will have less chance of success when faced with a unified force.
Previous Successes: When a group achieves a meaningful goal, the cohesiveness of the group increases because the success is shared by all the members and each one feels responsible for the achievement. For example, when a sports team wins an important game, every one in the team congratulates every other member of the team for this success.
Specially, if a group has a series of successes, it builds a united team spirit. For this reason, successful companies find it easier to hire new talented employees. Similarly, prestigious universities are never short of applicants for admission. This proves that every one loves a winner.
Similarity of Attitudes and Values: One of the strongest sources of group cohesiveness is the similarity in values, morals, beliefs and code of conduct. We enjoy the company of others who hold similar opinions and characteristics as ourselves. That is one reason why interfaith marriages are discouraged. Similarity of interests is specially important when the group’s primary goal is that of creating a friendly interpersonal climate.
This increases group cohesiveness. This factor may not be so important if the goal is task oriented. For example, if an army unit has to win a strategic battle, then the successful task accomplishment becomes the cohesive factor rather than the similarity of interests because the unit may consist of black soldiers and white soldiers who may not have much in common.