Informal Organization: Definition, Structure & Examples

Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:00 What is an Informal…
  • 0:22 Concepts and Structures
  • 2:45 Example of an Informal…
  • 4:53 Lesson Summary
Create An Account
To Start This Course Today
Used by over 10 million students worldwide
Create An Account
Try it free for 5 days
Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Shawn Grimsley
In this lesson, you will learn about informal organizations, including what they are and how they differ from formal organizations. You'll be provided with some examples along the way and have a chance to take a short quiz after the lesson.


An informal organization is the social structure of the organization, as opposed to the formal structure of an organization. It establishes how an organization functions from a practical standpoint. The informal organization can work in concurrence with the formal organizational structure, parallel with it, or against it.

Concepts and Structure

You can best understand the concept of an informal organization by comparing it to a formal organization. Let's look at the formal organization first since it's a bit easier to understand. The structure and operation of a formal organization is typically set forth in the official documents, rules, and procedures of the organization (like a corporation's articles of incorporation and bylaws). The roles, authority and responsibilities of each member of the organization are clearly defined. For example, a limited liability company's operating agreement outlines the scope of authority and responsibilities of the managers of the company. A formal organization is cold, sterile, and impersonal.

Now, let's take a look at an informal organization. It's primarily a social creature - made up of the sum total of social norms, relationships, and interactions that affect how an organization works. While a formal organization is cold and impersonal, an informal organization is intensely personal. It's all about social interactions and relationships between the members. Members of an informal organization can certainly hold official offices and have formal duties, but they also bring their own values, personal interests and assumptions into the equation of how they act. Members develop friendships, alliances, enemies, trusted sources of information, and preferences on how tasks should be performed.

These social influences may cause a member of the informal organization to work in conjunction with the organization, in parallel with it, or even against it. In some respects, you can think of an informal organization as:

  • An organization within the formal organization working with it
  • An organization beside the formal organization working towards the same goals but not necessarily together
  • Or an organization working outside the formal organization and against it

The structure of an informal organization is usually quite different from its formal counterpart. Its structure is usually fluid and rather flat. Decisions are often made collectively rather than unilaterally by one leader. Cohesion is often established through trust and reciprocity between members. An informal organization is also able to be dynamic, responsive, and adaptable to change, because formal rules and hierarchy don't pin it down.


This example will help you understand an informal organization. Let's say you're a recently hired associate attorney fresh out of law school. You were fortunate enough to be hired by one of the top law firms in Washington D.C. You are one of 26 new associates, making for a total of 467 lawyers in the firm. A formal mentor has been selected for, and you have access to a common pool of legal secretaries and paralegals to assist you as necessary. Your job duties and responsibilities are clearly outlined in the firm's associate's manual. You quickly learn, however, that this is just half of the story.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 10 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member

Already a member? Log In

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 49 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 2,000 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Click "next lesson" whenever you finish a lesson and quiz. Got It
You now have full access to our lessons and courses. Watch the lesson now or keep exploring. Got It
You're 25% of the way through this course! Keep going at this rate,and you'll be done before you know it.
The first step is always the hardest! Congrats on finishing your first lesson.
Way to go! If you watch at least 30 minutes of lessons each day you'll master your goals before you know it.
Congratulations on earning a badge for watching 10 videos but you've only scratched the surface. Keep it up!
You've just watched 20 videos and earned a badge for your accomplishment!
You've just earned a badge for watching 50 different lessons. Keep it up, you're making great progress!
You just watched your 100th video lesson. You have earned a badge for this achievement!
Congratulations! You just finished watching your 200th lesson and earned a badge!
Congratulations! You just finished watching your 300th lesson and earned a badge!
You are a superstar! You have earned the prestigious 500 video lessons watched badge.
Incredible. You have just entered the exclusive club and earned the 1000 videos watched badge.
You have earned a badge for watching 20 minutes of lessons.
You have earned a badge for watching 50 minutes of lessons.
You have earned a badge for watching 100 minutes of lessons.
You have earned a badge for watching 250 minutes of lessons.
You have earned a badge for watching 500 minutes of lessons.
You have earned a badge for watching 1000 minutes of lessons.