Wilmington University Norms that Have Experienced in Organization Discussion Describe the differences between roles and norms. Discuss the importance of roles and norms within an organization. What are a few norms that you have experienced in your own organization? Are these norms beneficial? Discussion 1
Both roles and norms are social constructs and are powerful within an organization because they are the
social forces that integrate an individual into a group. Roles and norms, while fluid and not always
intentional, are about welcoming conformity, and criticizing non-conformity, much like our concept of
peer pressure, which can be either beneficial or problematic. This interplay of roles and norms, and
subsequent level of adherence, is a major element in the social fabric of an organization.
Situated as a nuanced component within an organization’s hierarchy of authority are roles and their
corresponding expectations. A role is a compilation of the presumed conduct connected to a function or
post. Roles are specific to a job, project or situation, and are an integral part to all relationships and
interactions that we all function in, even if we are operating in a role unwittingly. Roles serve as the
mechanism moving people to pursue a common purpose and perform functions, influencing the group’s
dynamics, and ultimately its success or failure.
In a similar vein, norms exist within group dynamics as a frame of mind, belief, sentiment, or activity
agreed on by the group which influences conduct and practices. Norms are particularly useful as an
efficient function for a group by creating a schema or script to guide a group in the development process.
Thus sparing the group from having to determine how to repeat the same things each time they meet.
While norms are also driven by expectations, they differ from roles in that norms are more comprehensive
to the group in their impact, whereas roles are applied individually.
A norm I have noticed at the Prosecutor’s Office is the subtle prompt to arrive early for the day, and
correspondingly the acceptance to leave on time. Most of the office begins their day at 8:30am, but many
arrive as early as 7 or 7:30am. However, at 4:30pm the building clears out, typically within a matter of
minutes. These nudges to begin your day early can be helpful encouragement, but it also creates in me
some mild concern of misperception as my schedule can change wildly in any given week. Ironically, the
Prosecutor herself does not adhere to this schedule, as she usually arrives between 9-10am, but is known
to stay until 7pm or later.
Another norm I have noticed is the expectation to wish everyone well at a retirement send off, usually in
the form of a card, gift, and presence at a ceremony during office hours. The expectancy around this norm
does build up camaraderie and further the sense of group oneness. The depth of this norm has its
limitations though, as there have been times I have contributed monetarily, but had to ask others to
describe the person retiring as I was handing over the money.
Lastly, a norm in our organization that can be tricky to navigate is treading carefully to not make the
office look bad in public. This is especially important because of the contentious nature of prosecuting
crime with transparency in the public eye. I have been asked before to reprimand sub-contracted vendors
for their negative comments on their personal social media pages (also the comments and perceptions
being written were pretty ignorant and in the context of high profile case). Walking this line can be
complicated, but I also can see the point of the need to work things out internally to hold each other
accountable to our high standard.
In summary, understanding the interaction of roles and norms on group dynamics in an organization will
have lasting benefits. Every member of an organization is woven into the social fabric as part of the
assimilation process. Doing this with intentionality and purpose will increase the quality of the
relationships and culture, and ultimately the quality of the organization and how the mission is fulfilled.
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