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Article contents

Organizational behavior.

  • Neal M. Ashkanasy Neal M. Ashkanasy University of Queensland
  •  and  Alana D. Dorris Alana D. Dorris University of Queensland
  • https://doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780190236557.013.23
  • Published online: 29 March 2017

Organizational behavior (OB) is a discipline that includes principles from psychology, sociology, and anthropology. Its focus is on understanding how people behave in organizational work environments. Broadly speaking, OB covers three main levels of analysis: micro (individuals), meso (groups), and macro (the organization). Topics at the micro level include managing the diverse workforce; effects of individual differences in attitudes; job satisfaction and engagement, including their implications for performance and management; personality, including the effects of different cultures; perception and its effects on decision-making; employee values; emotions, including emotional intelligence, emotional labor, and the effects of positive and negative affect on decision-making and creativity (including common biases and errors in decision-making); and motivation, including the effects of rewards and goal-setting and implications for management. Topics at the meso level of analysis include group decision-making; managing work teams for optimum performance (including maximizing team performance and communication); managing team conflict (including the effects of task and relationship conflict on team effectiveness); team climate and group emotional tone; power, organizational politics, and ethical decision-making; and leadership, including leadership development and leadership effectiveness. At the organizational level, topics include organizational design and its effect on organizational performance; affective events theory and the physical environment; organizational culture and climate; and organizational change.

  • organizational psychology
  • organizational sociology
  • organizational anthropology


Organizational behavior (OB) is the study of how people behave in organizational work environments. More specifically, Robbins, Judge, Millett, and Boyle ( 2014 , p. 8) describe it as “[a] field of study that investigates the impact that individual groups and structure have on behavior within organizations, for the purposes of applying such knowledge towards improving an organization’s effectiveness.” The OB field looks at the specific context of the work environment in terms of human attitudes, cognition, and behavior, and it embodies contributions from psychology, social psychology, sociology, and anthropology. The field is also rapidly evolving because of the demands of today’s fast-paced world, where technology has given rise to work-from-home employees, globalization, and an ageing workforce. Thus, while managers and OB researchers seek to help employees find a work-life balance, improve ethical behavior (Ardichivili, Mitchell, & Jondle, 2009 ), customer service, and people skills (see, e.g., Brady & Cronin, 2001 ), they must simultaneously deal with issues such as workforce diversity, work-life balance, and cultural differences.

The most widely accepted model of OB consists of three interrelated levels: (1) micro (the individual level), (2) meso (the group level), and (3) macro (the organizational level). The behavioral sciences that make up the OB field contribute an element to each of these levels. In particular, OB deals with the interactions that take place among the three levels and, in turn, addresses how to improve performance of the organization as a whole.

In order to study OB and apply it to the workplace, it is first necessary to understand its end goal. In particular, if the goal is organizational effectiveness, then these questions arise: What can be done to make an organization more effective? And what determines organizational effectiveness? To answer these questions, dependent variables that include attitudes and behaviors such as productivity, job satisfaction, job performance, turnover intentions, withdrawal, motivation, and workplace deviance are introduced. Moreover, each level—micro, meso, and macro—has implications for guiding managers in their efforts to create a healthier work climate to enable increased organizational performance that includes higher sales, profits, and return on investment (ROE).

The Micro (Individual) Level of Analysis

The micro or individual level of analysis has its roots in social and organizational psychology. In this article, six central topics are identified and discussed: (1) diversity; (2) attitudes and job satisfaction; (3) personality and values; (4) emotions and moods; (5) perception and individual decision-making; and (6) motivation.

An obvious but oft-forgotten element at the individual level of OB is the diverse workforce. It is easy to recognize how different each employee is in terms of personal characteristics like age, skin color, nationality, ethnicity, and gender. Other, less biological characteristics include tenure, religion, sexual orientation, and gender identity. In the Australian context, while the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act of 1992 helped to increase participation of people with disabilities working in organizations, discrimination and exclusion still continue to inhibit equality (Feather & Boeckmann, 2007 ). In Western societies like Australia and the United States, however, antidiscrimination legislation is now addressing issues associated with an ageing workforce.

In terms of gender, there continues to be significant discrimination against female employees. Males have traditionally had much higher participation in the workforce, with only a significant increase in the female workforce beginning in the mid-1980s. Additionally, according to Ostroff and Atwater’s ( 2003 ) study of engineering managers, female managers earn a significantly lower salary than their male counterparts, especially when they are supervising mostly other females.

Job Satisfaction and Job Engagement

Job satisfaction is an attitudinal variable that comes about when an employee evaluates all the components of her or his job, which include affective, cognitive, and behavioral aspects (Weiss, 2002 ). Increased job satisfaction is associated with increased job performance, organizational citizenship behaviors (OCBs), and reduced turnover intentions (Wilkin, 2012 ). Moreover, traditional workers nowadays are frequently replaced by contingent workers in order to reduce costs and work in a nonsystematic manner. According to Wilkin’s ( 2012 ) findings, however, contingent workers as a group are less satisfied with their jobs than permanent employees are.

Job engagement concerns the degree of involvement that an employee experiences on the job (Kahn, 1990 ). It describes the degree to which an employee identifies with their job and considers their performance in that job important; it also determines that employee’s level of participation within their workplace. Britt, Dickinson, Greene-Shortridge, and McKibbin ( 2007 ) describe the two extremes of job satisfaction and employee engagement: a feeling of responsibility and commitment to superior job performance versus a feeling of disengagement leading to the employee wanting to withdraw or disconnect from work. The first scenario is also related to organizational commitment, the level of identification an employee has with an organization and its goals. Employees with high organizational commitment, job satisfaction, and employee engagement tend to perceive that their organization values their contribution and contributes to their wellbeing.

Personality represents a person’s enduring traits. The key here is the concept of enduring . The most widely adopted model of personality is the so-called Big Five (Costa & McCrae, 1992 ): extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability, and openness. Employees high in conscientiousness tend to have higher levels of job knowledge, probably because they invest more into learning about their role. Those higher in emotional stability tend to have higher levels of job satisfaction and lower levels of stress, most likely because of their positive and opportunistic outlooks. Agreeableness, similarly, is associated with being better liked and may lead to higher employee performance and decreased levels of deviant behavior.

Although the personality traits in the Big Five have been shown to relate to organizational behavior, organizational performance, career success (Judge, Higgins, Thoresen, & Barrick, 2006 ), and other personality traits are also relevant to the field. Examples include positive self-evaluation, self-monitoring (the degree to which an individual is aware of comparisons with others), Machiavellianism (the degree to which a person is practical, maintains emotional distance, and believes the end will justify the means), narcissism (having a grandiose sense of self-importance and entitlement), risk-taking, proactive personality, and type A personality. In particular, those who like themselves and are grounded in their belief that they are capable human beings are more likely to perform better because they have fewer self-doubts that may impede goal achievements. Individuals high in Machiavellianism may need a certain environment in order to succeed, such as a job that requires negotiation skills and offers significant rewards, although their inclination to engage in political behavior can sometimes limit their potential. Employees who are high on narcissism may wreak organizational havoc by manipulating subordinates and harming the overall business because of their over-inflated perceptions of self. Higher levels of self-monitoring often lead to better performance but they may cause lower commitment to the organization. Risk-taking can be positive or negative; it may be great for someone who thrives on rapid decision-making, but it may prove stressful for someone who likes to weigh pros and cons carefully before making decisions. Type A individuals may achieve high performance but may risk doing so in a way that causes stress and conflict. Proactive personality, on the other hand, is usually associated with positive organizational performance.

Employee Values

Personal value systems are behind each employee’s attitudes and personality. Each employee enters an organization with an already established set of beliefs about what should be and what should not be. Today, researchers realize that personality and values are linked to organizations and organizational behavior. Years ago, only personality’s relation to organizations was of concern, but now managers are more interested in an employee’s flexibility to adapt to organizational change and to remain high in organizational commitment. Holland’s ( 1973 ) theory of personality-job fit describes six personality types (realistic, investigative, social, conventional, enterprising, and artistic) and theorizes that job satisfaction and turnover are determined by how well a person matches her or his personality to a job. In addition to person-job (P-J) fit, researchers have also argued for person-organization (P-O) fit, whereby employees desire to be a part of and are selected by an organization that matches their values. The Big Five would suggest, for example, that extraverted employees would desire to be in team environments; agreeable people would align well with supportive organizational cultures rather than more aggressive ones; and people high on openness would fit better in organizations that emphasize creativity and innovation (Anderson, Spataro, & Flynn, 2008 ).

Individual Differences, Affect, and Emotion

Personality predisposes people to have certain moods (feelings that tend to be less intense but longer lasting than emotions) and emotions (intense feelings directed at someone or something). In particular, personalities with extraversion and emotional stability partially determine an individual predisposition to experience emotion more or less intensely.

Affect is also related as describing the positive and negative feelings that people experience (Ashkanasy, 2003 ). Moreover, emotions, mood, and affect interrelate; a bad mood, for instance, can lead individuals to experience a negative emotion. Emotions are action-oriented while moods tend to be more cognitive. This is because emotions are caused by a specific event that might only last a few seconds, while moods are general and can last for hours or even days. One of the sources of emotions is personality. Dispositional or trait affects correlate, on the one hand, with personality and are what make an individual more likely to respond to a situation in a predictable way (Watson & Tellegen, 1985 ). Moreover, like personality, affective traits have proven to be stable over time and across settings (Diener, Larsen, Levine, & Emmons, 1985 ; Watson, 1988 ; Watson & Tellegen, 1985 ; Watson & Walker, 1996 ). State affect, on the other hand, is similar to mood and represents how an individual feels in the moment.

The Role of Affect in Organizational Behavior

For many years, affect and emotions were ignored in the field of OB despite being fundamental factors underlying employee behavior (Ashforth & Humphrey, 1995 ). OB researchers traditionally focused on solely decreasing the effects of strong negative emotions that were seen to impede individual, group, and organizational level productivity. More recent theories of OB focus, however, on affect, which is seen to have positive, as well as negative, effects on behavior, described by Barsade, Brief, and Spataro ( 2003 , p. 3) as the “affective revolution.” In particular, scholars now understand that emotions can be measured objectively and be observed through nonverbal displays such as facial expression and gestures, verbal displays, fMRI, and hormone levels (Ashkanasy, 2003 ; Rashotte, 2002 ).

Fritz, Sonnentag, Spector, and McInroe ( 2010 ) focus on the importance of stress recovery in affective experiences. In fact, an individual employee’s affective state is critical to OB, and today more attention is being focused on discrete affective states. Emotions like fear and sadness may be related to counterproductive work behaviors (Judge et al., 2006 ). Stress recovery is another factor that is essential for more positive moods leading to positive organizational outcomes. In a study, Fritz et al. ( 2010 ) looked at levels of psychological detachment of employees on weekends away from the workplace and how it was associated with higher wellbeing and affect.

Emotional Intelligence and Emotional Labor

Ashkanasy and Daus ( 2002 ) suggest that emotional intelligence is distinct but positively related to other types of intelligence like IQ. It is defined by Mayer and Salovey ( 1997 ) as the ability to perceive, assimilate, understand, and manage emotion in the self and others. As such, it is an individual difference and develops over a lifetime, but it can be improved with training. Boyatzis and McKee ( 2005 ) describe emotional intelligence further as a form of adaptive resilience, insofar as employees high in emotional intelligence tend to engage in positive coping mechanisms and take a generally positive outlook toward challenging work situations.

Emotional labor occurs when an employee expresses her or his emotions in a way that is consistent with an organization’s display rules, and usually means that the employee engages in either surface or deep acting (Hochschild, 1983 ). This is because the emotions an employee is expressing as part of their role at work may be different from the emotions they are actually feeling (Ozcelik, 2013 ). Emotional labor has implications for an employee’s mental and physical health and wellbeing. Moreover, because of the discrepancy between felt emotions (how an employee actually feels) and displayed emotions or surface acting (what the organization requires the employee to emotionally display), surface acting has been linked to negative organizational outcomes such as heightened emotional exhaustion and reduced commitment (Erickson & Wharton, 1997 ; Brotheridge & Grandey, 2002 ; Grandey, 2003 ; Groth, Hennig-Thurau, & Walsh, 2009 ).

Affect and Organizational Decision-Making

Ashkanasy and Ashton-James ( 2008 ) make the case that the moods and emotions managers experience in response to positive or negative workplace situations affect outcomes and behavior not only at the individual level, but also in terms of strategic decision-making processes at the organizational level. These authors focus on affective events theory (Weiss & Cropanzano, 1996 ), which holds that organizational events trigger affective responses in organizational members, which in turn affect organizational attitudes, cognition, and behavior.

Perceptions and Behavior

Like personality, emotions, moods, and attitudes, perceptions also influence employees’ behaviors in the workplace. Perception is the way in which people organize and interpret sensory cues in order to give meaning to their surroundings. It can be influenced by time, work setting, social setting, other contextual factors such as time of day, time of year, temperature, a target’s clothing or appearance, as well as personal trait dispositions, attitudes, and value systems. In fact, a person’s behavior is based on her or his perception of reality—not necessarily the same as actual reality. Perception greatly influences individual decision-making because individuals base their behaviors on their perceptions of reality. In this regard, attribution theory (Martinko, 1995 ) outlines how individuals judge others and is our attempt to conclude whether a person’s behavior is internally or externally caused.

Decision-Making and the Role of Perception

Decision-making occurs as a reaction to a problem when the individual perceives there to be discrepancy between the current state of affairs and the state s/he desires. As such, decisions are the choices individuals make from a set of alternative courses of action. Each individual interprets information in her or his own way and decides which information is relevant to weigh pros and cons of each decision and its alternatives to come to her or his perception of the best outcome. In other words, each of our unique perceptual processes influences the final outcome (Janis & Mann, 1977 ).

Common Biases in Decision-Making

Although there is no perfect model for approaching decision-making, there are nonetheless many biases that individuals can make themselves aware of in order to maximize their outcomes. First, overconfidence bias is an inclination to overestimate the correctness of a decision. Those most likely to commit this error tend to be people with weak intellectual and interpersonal abilities. Anchoring bias occurs when individuals focus on the first information they receive, failing to adjust for information received subsequently. Marketers tend to use anchors in order to make impressions on clients quickly and project their brand names. Confirmation bias occurs when individuals only use facts that support their decisions while discounting all contrary views. Lastly, availability bias occurs when individuals base their judgments on information readily available. For example, a manager might rate an employee on a performance appraisal based on behavior in the past few days, rather than the past six months or year.

Errors in Decision-Making

Other errors in decision-making include hindsight bias and escalation of commitment . Hindsight bias is a tendency to believe, incorrectly, after an outcome of an event has already happened, that the decision-maker would have accurately predicted that same outcome. Furthermore, this bias, despite its prevalence, is especially insidious because it inhibits the ability to learn from the past and take responsibility for mistakes. Escalation of commitment is an inclination to continue with a chosen course of action instead of listening to negative feedback regarding that choice. When individuals feel responsible for their actions and those consequences, they escalate commitment probably because they have invested so much into making that particular decision. One solution to escalating commitment is to seek a source of clear, less distorted feedback (Staw, 1981 ).

The last but certainly not least important individual level topic is motivation. Like each of the topics discussed so far, a worker’s motivation is also influenced by individual differences and situational context. Motivation can be defined as the processes that explain a person’s intensity, direction, and persistence toward reaching a goal. Work motivation has often been viewed as the set of energetic forces that determine the form, direction, intensity, and duration of behavior (Latham & Pinder, 2005 ). Motivation can be further described as the persistence toward a goal. In fact many non-academics would probably describe it as the extent to which a person wants and tries to do well at a particular task (Mitchell, 1982 ).

Early theories of motivation began with Maslow’s ( 1943 ) hierarchy of needs theory, which holds that each person has five needs in hierarchical order: physiological, safety, social, esteem, and self-actualization. These constitute the “lower-order” needs, while social and esteem needs are “higher-order” needs. Self-esteem for instance underlies motivation from the time of childhood. Another early theory is McGregor’s ( 1960 ) X-Y theory of motivation: Theory X is the concept whereby individuals must be pushed to work; and theory Y is positive, embodying the assumption that employees naturally like work and responsibility and can exercise self-direction.

Herzberg subsequently proposed the “two-factor theory” that attitude toward work can determine whether an employee succeeds or fails. Herzberg ( 1966 ) relates intrinsic factors, like advancement in a job, recognition, praise, and responsibility to increased job satisfaction, while extrinsic factors like the organizational climate, relationship with supervisor, and salary relate to job dissatisfaction. In other words, the hygiene factors are associated with the work context while the motivators are associated with the intrinsic factors associated with job motivation.

Contemporary Theories of Motivation

Although traditional theories of motivation still appear in OB textbooks, there is unfortunately little empirical data to support their validity. More contemporary theories of motivation, with more acceptable research validity, include self-determination theory , which holds that people prefer to have control over their actions. If a task an individual enjoyed now feels like a chore, then this will undermine motivation. Higher self-determined motivation (or intrinsically determined motivation) is correlated with increased wellbeing, job satisfaction, commitment, and decreased burnout and turnover intent. In this regard, Fernet, Gagne, and Austin ( 2010 ) found that work motivation relates to reactions to interpersonal relationships at work and organizational burnout. Thus, by supporting work self-determination, managers can help facilitate adaptive employee organizational behaviors while decreasing turnover intention (Richer, Blanchard, & Vallerand, 2002 ).

Core self-evaluation (CSE) theory is a relatively new concept that relates to self-confidence in general, such that people with higher CSE tend to be more committed to goals (Bono & Colbert, 2005 ). These core self-evaluations also extend to interpersonal relationships, as well as employee creativity. Employees with higher CSE are more likely to trust coworkers, which may also contribute to increased motivation for goal attainment (Johnson, Kristof-Brown, van Vianen, de Pater, & Klein, 2003 ). In general, employees with positive CSE tend to be more intrinsically motivated, thus additionally playing a role in increasing employee creativity (Judge, Bono, Erez, & Locke, 2005 ). Finally, according to research by Amabile ( 1996 ), intrinsic motivation or self-determined goal attainment is critical in facilitating employee creativity.

Goal-Setting and Conservation of Resources

While self-determination theory and CSE focus on the reward system behind motivation and employee work behaviors, Locke and Latham’s ( 1990 ) goal-setting theory specifically addresses the impact that goal specificity, challenge, and feedback has on motivation and performance. These authors posit that our performance is increased when specific and difficult goals are set, rather than ambiguous and general goals. Goal-setting seems to be an important motivational tool, but it is important that the employee has had a chance to take part in the goal-setting process so they are more likely to attain their goals and perform highly.

Related to goal-setting is Hobfoll’s ( 1989 ) conservation of resources (COR) theory, which holds that people have a basic motivation to obtain, maintain, and protect what they value (i.e., their resources). Additionally there is a global application of goal-setting theory for each of the motivation theories. Not enough research has been conducted regarding the value of goal-setting in global contexts, however, and because of this, goal-setting is not recommended without consideration of cultural and work-related differences (Konopaske & Ivancevich, 2004 ).

Self-Efficacy and Motivation

Other motivational theories include self-efficacy theory, and reinforcement, equity, and expectancy theories. Self-efficacy or social cognitive or learning theory is an individual’s belief that s/he can perform a task (Bandura, 1977 ). This theory complements goal-setting theory in that self-efficacy is higher when a manager assigns a difficult task because employees attribute the manager’s behavior to him or her thinking that the employee is capable; the employee in turn feels more confident and capable.

Reinforcement theory (Skinner, 1938 ) counters goal-setting theory insofar as it is a behaviorist approach rather than cognitive and is based in the notion that reinforcement conditions behavior, or in other words focuses on external causes rather than the value an individual attributes to goals. Furthermore, this theory instead emphasizes the behavior itself rather than what precedes the behavior. Additionally, managers may use operant conditioning, a part of behaviorism, to reinforce people to act in a desired way.

Social-learning theory (Bandura, 1977 ) extends operant conditioning and also acknowledges the influence of observational learning and perception, and the fact that people can learn and retain information by paying attention, observing, and modeling the desired behavior.

Equity theory (Adams, 1963 ) looks at how employees compare themselves to others and how that affects their motivation and in turn their organizational behaviors. Employees who perceive inequity for instance, will either change how much effort they are putting in (their inputs), change or distort their perceptions (either of self or others in relation to work), change their outcomes, turnover, or choose a different referent (acknowledge performance in relation to another employee but find someone else they can be better than).

Last but not least, Vroom’s ( 1964 ) expectancy theory holds that individuals are motivated by the extent to which they can see that their effort is likely to result in valued outcomes. This theory has received strong support in empirical research (see Van Erde & Thierry, 1996 , for meta-analytic results). Like each of the preceding theories, expectancy theory has important implications that managers should consider. For instance, managers should communicate with employees to determine their preferences to know what rewards to offer subordinates to elicit motivation. Managers can also make sure to identify and communicate clearly the level of performance they desire from an employee, as well as to establish attainable goals with the employee and to be very clear and precise about how and when performance will be rewarded (Konopaske & Ivancevich, 2004 ).

The Meso (Group) Level of Analysis

The second level of OB research also emerges from social and organizational psychology and relates to groups or teams. Topics covered so far include individual differences: diversity, personality and emotions, values and attitudes, motivation, and decision-making. Thus, in this section, attention turns to how individuals come together to form groups and teams, and begins laying the foundation for understanding the dynamics of group and team behavior. Topics at this level also include communication, leadership, power and politics, and conflict.

A group consists of two or more individuals who come together to achieve a similar goal. Groups can be formal or informal. A formal group on the one hand is assigned by the organization’s management and is a component of the organization’s structure. An informal group on the other hand is not determined by the organization and often forms in response to a need for social contact. Teams are formal groups that come together to meet a specific group goal.

Although groups are thought to go through five stages of development (Tuckman, 1965 : forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning) and to transition to effectiveness at the halfway mark (Gersick, 1988 ), group effectiveness is in fact far more complex. For example, two types of conformity to group norms are possible: compliance (just going along with the group’s norms but not accepting them) and personal acceptance (when group members’ individual beliefs match group norms). Behavior in groups then falls into required behavior usually defined by the formal group and emergent behavior that grows out of interactions among group members (Champoux, 2011 ).

Group Decision-Making

Although many of the decisions made in organizations occur in groups and teams, such decisions are not necessarily optimal. Groups may have more complex knowledge and increased perspectives than individuals but may suffer from conformity pressures or domination by one or two members. Group decision-making has the potential to be affected by groupthink or group shift. In groupthink , group pressures to conform to the group norms deter the group from thinking of alternative courses of action (Janis & Mann, 1977 ). In the past, researchers attempted to explain the effects of group discussion on decision-making through the following approaches: group decision rules, interpersonal comparisons, and informational influence. Myers and Lamm ( 1976 ), however, present a conceptual schema comprised of interpersonal comparisons and informational influence approaches that focus on attitude development in a more social context. They found that their research is consistent with the group polarization hypothesis: The initial majority predicts the consensus outcome 90% of the time. The term group polarization was founded in Serge Moscovici and his colleagues’ literature (e.g., Moscovici & Zavalloni, 1969 ). Polarization refers to an increase in the extremity of the average response of the subject population.

In other words, the Myer and Lamm ( 1976 ) schema is based on the idea that four elements feed into one another: social motivation, cognitive foundation, attitude change, and action commitment. Social motivation (comparing self with others in order to be perceived favorably) feeds into cognitive foundation , which in turn feeds into attitude change and action commitment . Managers of organizations can help reduce the negative phenomena and increase the likelihood of functional groups by encouraging brainstorming or openly looking at alternatives in the process of decision-making such as the nominal group technique (which involves restricting interpersonal communication in order to encourage free thinking and proceeding to a decision in a formal and systematic fashion such as voting).

Elements of Team Performance

OB researchers typically focus on team performance and especially the factors that make teams most effective. Researchers (e.g., see De Dreu & Van Vianen, 2001 ) have organized the critical components of effective teams into three main categories: context, composition, and process. Context refers to the team’s physical and psychological environment, and in particular the factors that enable a climate of trust. Composition refers to the means whereby the abilities of each individual member can best be most effectively marshaled. Process is maximized when members have a common goal or are able to reflect and adjust the team plan (for reflexivity, see West, 1996 ).


In order to build high-performing work teams, communication is critical, especially if team conflict is to be minimized. Communication serves four main functions: control, motivation, emotional expression, and information (Scott & Mitchell, 1976 ). The communication process involves the transfer of meaning from a sender to a receiver through formal channels established by an organization and informal channels, created spontaneously and emerging out of individual choice. Communication can flow downward from managers to subordinates, upward from subordinates to managers, or between members of the same group. Meaning can be transferred from one person to another orally, through writing, or nonverbally through facial expressions and body movement. In fact, body movement and body language may complicate verbal communication and add ambiguity to the situation as does physical distance between team members.

High-performance teams tend to have some of the following characteristics: interpersonal trust, psychological and physical safety, openness to challenges and ideas, an ability to listen to other points of view, and an ability to share knowledge readily to reduce task ambiguity (Castka, Bamber, Sharp, & Belohoubek, 2001 ). Although the development of communication competence is essential for a work team to become high-performing, that communication competence is also influenced by gender, personality, ability, and emotional intelligence of the members. Ironically, it is the self-reliant team members who are often able to develop this communication competence. Although capable of working autonomously, self-reliant team members know when to ask for support from others and act interdependently.

Emotions also play a part in communicating a message or attitude to other team members. Emotional contagion, for instance, is a fascinating effect of emotions on nonverbal communication, and it is the subconscious process of sharing another person’s emotions by mimicking that team member’s nonverbal behavior (Hatfield, Cacioppo, & Rapson, 1993 ). Importantly, positive communication, expressions, and support of team members distinguished high-performing teams from low-performing ones (Bakker & Schaufeli, 2008 ).

Team Conflict

Because of member interdependence, teams are inclined to more conflict than individual workers. In particular, diversity in individual differences leads to conflict (Thomas, 1992 ; Wall & Callister, 1995 ; see also Cohen & Bailey, 1997 ). Jehn ( 1997 ) identifies three types of conflict: task, relationship, and process. Process conflict concerns how task accomplishment should proceed and who is responsible for what; task conflict focuses on the actual content and goals of the work (Robbins et al., 2014 ); and relationship conflict is based on differences in interpersonal relationships. While conflict, and especially task conflict, does have some positive benefits such as greater innovation (Tjosvold, 1997 ), it can also lead to lowered team performance and decreased job satisfaction, or even turnover. De Dreu and Van Vianen ( 2001 ) found that team conflict can result in one of three responses: (1) collaborating with others to find an acceptable solution; (2) contending and pushing one member’s perspective on others; or (3) avoiding and ignoring the problem.

Team Effectiveness and Relationship Conflict

Team effectiveness can suffer in particular from relationship conflict, which may threaten team members’ personal identities and self-esteem (Pelled, 1995 ). In this regard, Murnighan and Conlon ( 1991 ) studied members of British string quartets and found that the most successful teams avoided relationship conflict while collaborating to resolve task conflicts. This may be because relationship conflict distracts team members from the task, reducing team performance and functioning. As noted earlier, positive affect is associated with collaboration, cooperation, and problem resolution, while negative affect tends to be associated with competitive behaviors, especially during conflict (Rhoades, Arnold, & Jay, 2001 ).

Team Climate and Emotionality

Emotional climate is now recognized as important to team processes (Ashkanasy & Härtel, 2014 ), and team climate in general has important implications for how individuals behave individually and collectively to effect organizational outcomes. This idea is consistent with Druskat and Wolff’s ( 2001 ) notion that team emotional-intelligence climate can help a team manage both types of conflict (task and relationship). In Jehn’s ( 1997 ) study, she found that emotion was most often negative during team conflict, and this had a negative effect on performance and satisfaction regardless of the type of conflict team members were experiencing. High emotionality, as Jehn calls it, causes team members to lose sight of the work task and focus instead on the negative affect. Jehn noted, however, that absence of group conflict might also may block innovative ideas and stifle creativity (Jehn, 1997 ).

Power and Politics

Power and organizational politics can trigger employee conflict, thus affecting employee wellbeing, job satisfaction, and performance, in turn affecting team and organizational productivity (Vigoda, 2000 ). Because power is a function of dependency, it can often lead to unethical behavior and thus become a source of conflict. Types of power include formal and personal power. Formal power embodies coercive, reward, and legitimate power. Coercive power depends on fear. Reward power is the opposite and occurs when an individual complies because s/he receives positive benefits from acting in accordance with the person in power. In formal groups and organizations, the most easily accessed form of power is legitimate because this form comes to be from one’s position in the organizational hierarchy (Raven, 1993 ). Power tactics represent the means by which those in a position of power translate their power base (formal or personal) into specific actions.

The nine influence tactics that managers use according to Yukl and Tracey ( 1992 ) are (1) rational persuasion, (2) inspirational appeal, (3) consultation, (4) ingratiation, (5) exchange, (6) personal appeal, (7) coalition, (8) legitimating, and (9) pressure. Of these tactics, inspirational appeal, consultation, and rational persuasion were among the strategies most effective in influencing task commitment. In this study, there was also a correlation found between a manager’s rational persuasion and a subordinate rating her effectively. Perhaps this is because persuasion requires some level of expertise, although more research is needed to verify which methods are most successful. Moreover, resource dependence theory dominates much theorizing about power and organizational politics. In fact, it is one of the central themes of Pfeffer and Salancik’s ( 1973 ) treatise on the external control of organizations. First, the theory emphasizes the importance of the organizational environment in understanding the context of how decisions of power are made (see also Pfeffer & Leblebici, 1973 ). Resource dependence theory is based on the premise that some organizations have more power than others, occasioned by specifics regarding their interdependence. Pfeffer and Salancik further propose that external interdependence and internal organizational processes are related and that this relationship is mediated by power.

Organizational Politics

Political skill is the ability to use power tactics to influence others to enhance an individual’s personal objectives. In addition, a politically skilled person is able to influence another person without being detected (one reason why he or she is effective). Persons exerting political skill leave a sense of trust and sincerity with the people they interact with. An individual possessing a high level of political skill must understand the organizational culture they are exerting influence within in order to make an impression on his or her target. While some researchers suggest political behavior is a critical way to understand behavior that occurs in organizations, others simply see it as a necessary evil of work life (Champoux, 2011 ). Political behavior focuses on using power to reach a result and can be viewed as unofficial and unsanctioned behavior (Mintzberg, 1985 ). Unlike other organizational processes, political behavior involves both power and influence (Mayes & Allen, 1977 ). Moreover, because political behavior involves the use of power to influence others, it can often result in conflict.

Organizational Politics, Power, and Ethics

In concluding this section on power and politics, it is also appropriate to address the dark side, where organizational members who are persuasive and powerful enough might become prone to abuse standards of equity and justice and thereby engage in unethical behavior. An employee who takes advantage of her position of power may use deception, lying, or intimidation to advance her own interests (Champoux, 2011 ). When exploring interpersonal injustice, it is important to consider the intent of the perpetrator, as well as the effect of the perpetrator’s treatment from the victim’s point of view. Umphress, Simmons, Folger, Ren, and Bobocel ( 2013 ) found in this regard that not only does injustice perceived by the self or coworkers influence attitudes and behavior within organizations, but injustice also influences observer reactions both inside and outside of the organization.

Leadership plays an integrative part in understanding group behavior, because the leader is engaged in directing individuals toward attitudes and behaviors, hopefully also in the direction of those group members’ goals. Although there is no set of universal leadership traits, extraversion from the Big Five personality framework has been shown in meta-analytic studies to be positively correlated with transformational, while neuroticism appears to be negatively correlated (Bono & Judge, 2004 ). There are also various perspectives to leadership, including the competency perspective, which addresses the personality traits of leaders; the behavioral perspective, which addresses leader behaviors, specifically task versus people-oriented leadership; and the contingency perspective, which is based on the idea that leadership involves an interaction of personal traits and situational factors. Fiedler’s ( 1967 ) contingency, for example, suggests that leader effectiveness depends on the person’s natural fit to the situation and the leader’s score on a “least preferred coworker” scale.

More recently identified styles of leadership include transformational leadership (Bass, Avolio, & Atwater, 1996 ), charismatic leadership (Conger & Kanungo, 1988 ), and authentic leadership (Luthans & Avolio, 2003 ). In a nutshell, transformational leaders inspire followers to act based on the good of the organization; charismatic leaders project a vision and convey a new set of values; and authentic leaders convey trust and genuine sentiment.

Leader-member exchange theory (LMX; see Graen & Uhl-Bien, 1995 ) assumes that leadership emerges from exchange relationships between a leader and her or his followers. More recently, Tse, Troth, and Ashkanasy ( 2015 ) expanded on LMX to include social processes (e.g., emotional intelligence, emotional labor, and discrete emotions), arguing that affect plays a large part in the leader-member relationship.

Leadership Development

An emerging new topic in leadership concerns leadership development, which embodies the readiness of leadership aspirants to change (Hannah & Avolio, 2010 ). In this regard, the learning literature suggests that intrinsic motivation is necessary in order to engage in development (see Hidi & Harackiewicz, 2000 ), but also that the individual needs to be goal-oriented and have developmental efficacy or self-confidence that s/he can successfully perform in leadership contexts.

Ashkanasy, Dasborough, and Ascough ( 2009 ) argue further that developing the affective side of leaders is important. In this case, because emotions are so pervasive within organizations, it is important that leaders learn how to manage them in order to improve team performance and interactions with employees that affect attitudes and behavior at almost every organizational level.

Abusive Leadership

Leaders, or those in positions of power, are particularly more likely to run into ethical issues, and only more recently have organizational behavior researchers considered the ethical implications of leadership. As Gallagher, Mazur, and Ashkanasy ( 2015 ) describe, since 2009 , organizations have been under increasing pressure to cut costs or “do more with less,” and this sometimes can lead to abusive supervision, whereby employee job demands exceed employee resources, and supervisors engage in bullying, undermining, victimization, or personal attacks on subordinates (Tepper, 2000 ).

Supervisors who are very high or low in emotional intelligence may be more likely to experience stress associated with a very demanding high-performance organizational culture. These supervisors may be more likely to try to meet the high demands and pressures through manipulative behaviors (Kilduff, Chiaburu, & Menges, 2010 ). This has serious implications for employee wellbeing and the organization as a whole. Abusive supervision detracts from the ability for those under attack to perform effectively, and targets often come to doubt their own ability to perform (Tepper, 2000 ).

The Macro (Organizational) Level of Analysis

The final level of OB derives from research traditions across three disciplines: organizational psychology, organizational sociology, and organizational anthropology. Moreover, just as teams and groups are more than the sum of their individual team members, organizations are also more than the sum of the teams or groups residing within them. As such, structure, climate, and culture play key roles in shaping and being shaped by employee attitudes and behaviors, and they ultimately determine organizational performance and productivity.

Organizational Structure

Organizational structure is a sociological phenomenon that determines the way tasks are formally divided and coordinated within an organization. In this regard, jobs are often grouped by the similarity of functions performed, the product or service produced, or the geographical location. Often, the number of forms of departmentalization will depend on the size of the organization, with larger organizations having more forms of departmentalization than others. Organizations are also organized by the chain of command or the hierarchy of authority that determines the span of control, or how many employees a manager can efficiently and effectively lead. With efforts to reduce costs since the global financial crisis of 2009 , organizations have tended to adopt a wider, flatter span of control, where more employees report to one supervisor.

Organizational structure also concerns the level of centralization or decentralization, the degree to which decision-making is focused at a single point within an organization. Formalization is also the degree to which jobs are organized in an organization. These levels are determined by the organization and also vary greatly across the world. For example, Finnish organizations tend to be more decentralized than their Australian counterparts and, as a consequence, are more innovative (Leiponen & Helfat, 2011 ).

Mintzberg ( 1979 ) was the first to set out a taxonomy of organizational structure. Within his model, the most common organizational design is the simple structure characterized by a low level of departmentalization, a wide span of control, and centralized authority. Other organizational types emerge in larger organizations, which tend to be bureaucratic and more routinized. Rules are formalized, tasks are grouped into departments, authority is centralized, and the chain of command involves narrow spans of control and decision-making. An alternative is the matrix structure, often found in hospitals, universities, and government agencies. This form of organization combines functional and product departmentalization where employees answer to two bosses: functional department managers and product managers.

New design options include the virtual organization and the boundaryless organization , an organization that has no chain of command and limitless spans of control. Structures differ based on whether the organization seeks to use an innovation strategy, imitation strategy, or cost-minimization strategy (Galunic & Eisenhardt, 1994 ). Organizational structure can have a significant effect on employee attitudes and behavior. Evidence generally shows that work specialization leads to higher employee productivity but also lower job satisfaction (Porter & Lawler, 1965 ). Gagné and Deci emphasize that autonomous work motivation (i.e., intrinsic motivation and integrated extrinsic motivation) is promoted in work climates that are interesting, challenging, and allow choice. Parker, Wall, and Jackson ( 1997 ) specifically relate job enlargement to autonomous motivation. Job enlargement was first discussed by management theorists like Lawler and Hall ( 1970 ), who believed that jobs should be enlarged to improve the intrinsic motivation of workers. Today, most of the job-design literature is built around the issue of work specialization (job enlargement and enrichment). In Parker, Wall, and Jackson’s study, they observed that horizontally enlarging jobs through team-based assembly cells led to greater understanding and acceptance of the company’s vision and more engagement in new work roles. (In sum, by structuring work to allow more autonomy among employees and identification among individual work groups, employees stand to gain more internal autonomous motivation leading to improved work outcomes (van Knippenberg & van Schie, 2000 ).

The Physical Environment of Work

Ashkanasy, Ayoko, and Jehn ( 2014 ) extend the topic of organizational structure to discuss, from a psychological perspective, how the physical work environment shapes employee attitudes, behaviors, and organizational outcomes. Elsbach ( 2003 ) pointed out that the space within which employees conduct their work is critical to employees’ levels of performance and productivity. In their study, Ashkanasy and his colleagues looked at the underlying processes influencing how the physical environment determines employee attitudes and behaviors, in turn affecting productivity levels. They base their model on affective events theory (Weiss & Cropanzano, 1996 ), which holds that particular “affective” events in the work environment are likely to be the immediate cause of employee behavior and performance in organizations (see also Ashkanasy & Humphrey, 2011 ). Specifically, Ashkanasy and colleagues ( 2014 ) looked at how this theory holds in extremely crowded open-plan office designs and how employees in these offices are more likely to experience negative affect, conflict, and territoriality, negatively impacting attitudes, behaviors, and work performance.

  • Organizational Climate and Culture

Although organizational structure and the physical environment are important determinants of employee attitudes and behaviors, organizational culture and climate lie at the heart of organizational interactions (Ashkanasy & Jackson, 2001 ). Organizational culture derives from an anthropological research tradition, while organizational climate is based on organizational psychology.

A central presumption of culture is that, as Smircich ( 1983 ) noted, organizational behavior is not a function of what goes on inside individual employees’ heads, but between employees, as evidenced in daily organizational communication and language. As such, organizational culture allows one organization to distinguish itself from another, while conveying a sense of identity for its members.

Organizational Climate and its Relation to Organizational Culture

Organizational culture creates organizational climate or employees’ shared perceptions about their organization and work environment. Organizational climate has been found to facilitate and/or inhibit displays of certain behaviors in one study (Smith-Crowe, Burke, & Landis, 2003 ), and overall, organizational climate is often viewed as a surface-level indicator of the functioning of the employee/organizational environment relationship (Ryan, Horvath, Ployhart, Schmitt, & Slade, 2000 ). For instance, a more restrictive climate may inhibit individual decision-making in contrast to a more supportive climate in which the organization may intervene at the individual level and in which the ability/job performance relationship is supported (James, Demaree, Mulaik, & Ladd, 1992 ). In a study focused on safety climate, Smith-Crowe and colleagues found that organizational climate is essential in determining whether training will transfer to employee performance, and this is most likely because organizational climate moderates the knowledge/performance relationship. Gibbs and Cooper ( 2010 ) also found that a supportive organizational climate is positively related to employee performance. They specifically looked at PsyCap, the higher-order construct of psychological capital first proposed by Luthans and Youssef ( 2004 ).

Organizational Change

The final topic covered in this article is organizational change. Organizational culture and climate can both be negatively impacted by organizational change and, in turn, negatively affect employee wellbeing, attitudes, and performance, reflecting onto organizational performance. Often, there is great resistance to change, and the success rate of organizational change initiatives averages at less than 30% (Al-Haddad & Kotnour, 2015 ). In order to overcome this resistance, it is important that managers plan ahead for changes and emphasize education and communication about them. As organizations becoming increasingly globalized, change has become the norm, and this will continue into the future.

Additionally, as organizations become increasingly globalized, organizational changes often involve mergers that have important organizational implications. In this regard, Kavanagh and Ashkanasy ( 2006 ) found that, for a merger to be successful, there needs to be alignment between the individual values and organizational cultures of merging partners. Managers during a merger situation need to be especially cognizant of how this organizational change affects the company’s original organizational culture.

Organizational development (OD), a collection of planned change interventions, may be the way to improve organizational performance and increase employee wellbeing. OD focuses on employees respecting one another, trust and support, equal power, confrontation of problems, and participation of everyone affected by the organizational change (Lines, 2004 ). Moreover, when an organization already has an established climate and culture that support change and innovation, an organization may have less trouble adapting to the change.

Organizational change research encompasses almost all aspects of organizational behavior. Individuals and employees are motivated to achieve success and be perceived as successful. In this regard, each of the individual differences—personality, affect, past experiences, values, and perceptions—plays into whether individuals can transcend obstacles and deal with the barriers encountered along the journey toward achievement. Teams are similarly motivated to be successful in a collective sense and to prove that they contribute to the organization as a whole. In addition to individual differences, team members deal with bringing all those individual differences together, which can wreak havoc on team communication and cause further obstacles in terms of power differences and conflicts in regard to decision-making processes. Last, at the organizational level of organizational behavior, it is important to account for all of these micro- and meso-level differences, and to address the complexity of economic pressures, increasing globalization, and global and transnational organizations to the mix. This is at the top level of sophistication because, as emphasized before, just as groups equal much more than the sum of individual members, organizations are much more than the sum of their teams. The organizational structure, the formal organization, the organizational culture, and climate and organizational rules all impact whether an organization can perform effectively. Organizational behavior, through its complex study of human behavior at its very conception, offers much-needed practical implications for managers in understanding people at work.

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Organizational behavior (OB) takes a systematic approach to understand how individuals and groups behave in organizations as well as the relationship between people and organizations. This chapter examines organizational behavior from the viewpoints of professionals and researchers. First, a case is presented describing individuals’ behavior in difficult circumstances, and then a brief definition of organizational behavior follows. Next, we will analyze how organizational behavior differs from human resources. Then we will proceed to OB during the pandemic. We will also review why we study OB: from Taylor’s Principles of Scientific Management to Mayo and Roethlisberger’s Human Relations Theory (Hawthorne Effect), to understand the history of organizational behavior. The following is a synopsis of all the topics that will be discussed in the book. Last, we look at organizational behavior research. This section provides an explanation of why and how we conduct OB research, as well as breaks down various study designs and measurement issues.

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Henri Fayol developed an approach to managing businesses that have come to be known as Fayolism during his career as a mining engineer, executive, author, and director. The development of modern management is generally attributed to Henri Fayol (Fayol, 1949 ). Over the course of the twentieth century, his management theories influenced industrial management practices in a significant way. The ideas of Fayol were developed independently of other theories that were prevalent at the time, such as those of Elton Mayo and Human Relations. Fayol outlined the skills needed for effective management in his 14 Principles of Management. Fayol’s management theories are still used today. Besides the Principles, Fayol identified five basic management functions. Among the management functions are planning, organizing, commanding, coordinating, and controlling. Fayol emphasized that managerial skills are different from technical skills. Moreover, Fayol recognized that management is a field requiring research, teaching, and development. Fayol proposed 14 principles and five functions that form the basis of Administrative Theory. A variety of nonacademics shared their experiences and contributed to its progress. Fayol’s Five Functions of Management originated the planning-organizing-leading-controlling framework that remains an influential management framework throughout the world today.


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Kwia, J. (2023). Introduction to Organizational Behavior. In: Hou, N., Tan, J.A., Valdez Paez, G. (eds) Organizational Behavior. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-31356-1_1

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organisational behaviour term paper

Here is a compilation of term papers on ‘Organisational Behaviour’ for class 11 and 12. Find paragraphs, long and short term papers on ‘Organisational Behaviour’ especially written for school and college students.

Term Paper on Organisational Behaviour

Term Paper Contents:

  • Term Paper on the Limitations of Organisational Behavior

Term Paper # 1. Definition of Organisational Behaviour:

Organisational behaviour may be defined as the study of behaviour of people in a formal organisation in given circumstances. It focuses on the individuals, groups and interactions between them. It attempts to understand individuals in formal organisation as a basis of meeting individual needs and achieving organisational objectives.


It seeks to shed light on the whole complex human factor in the organisation by identifying causes and effects of behaviour. According to Keith Davis, “organisational behaviour is the study and the application of knowledge about human behaviour in organisations as it relates to other system elements such as structure, technology and external social system.”

This definition focuses on organisational behaviour as a mix of people, structure, technology and external social system. In the words of Joe Kelly organisation behaviour is the “systematic study of the nature of organisations, how they begin to grow, develop and their effect on individual members, constituent groups, other organisations and larger institution.”

To quote S.P. Robins organisational behaviour is “a field of management that is primarily concerned with understanding, predicting and influencing human behaviour in organisations.”

Thus the study of organisation behaviour seeks to shed light on the whole complex human factor in the organisation by identifying causes and effects of behaviour.

Term Paper # 2. Features of Organisational Behaviour:

The features of organisational behaviour are:

(a) It has assumed the status of a distinct field of study. It is a part of general management. It represents behavioural approach to management.

(b) It contains a body of theory, research and application associated with a growing concern for people in workplace. Its study helps in understanding the human behaviour.

(c) The study of theories and research experiences of organisation facilitates managers for creative thinking to solve human problems in organisations.

(d) This discipline is heavily influenced by several other behavioural sciences and social sciences like psychology, sociology and anthropology. As a separate field of study it attempts to integrate the various aspects and levels of behaviour.

(e) It provides a rational thinking about people. It concentrates on three levels of behavior. They are individual behaviour, group behaviour and behaviour of the organisation.

(f) This is mainly concerned with the behaviour of people in the organisational setting. It may be considered as human behaviour at work.

(g) Organisational behaviour seeks to fulfill both employee needs and organisational objectives. The people in the organisational satisfy their needs through organisational activities and the organisation’s responsibility is to provide behavioural climate in the organisation. The object is to maintain a balance between human and technical values at work by combining productivity with employee satisfaction.

(h) Organisational behaviour has psychological foundations. The concepts like learning, perception, attitude, motivation, personality moral etc., are borrowed from psychology, sociology, and anthropology. It is an electric field of study that integrates knowledge of behavioural sciences.

(i) Organisational behaviour is both an art as well as a science. It is considered as a science because it contains knowledge about behaviour of people in the organisation.

It is an art because it involves the application of science. In essence it is an inexact science and a developing field of study.

(j) Organisational behaviour is dynamic rather than static. Every change in the social system is reflected in organisational behaviour through change in the behaviour of individuals.

(k) It attempts to reduce the wasteful activities through economic and psychological means and thus increasing the effectiveness of the people and the organisation.

Term Paper # 3. Scope of Organisational Behaviour or Foundations of Organisational Behaviour :

The concept of organisational behaviour revolves around two basic elements.

(i) Nature of people and

(ii) Nature of organisation.

(i) Nature of People:

Nature of people in an organisation can be well understood with the help of basic factors like individual differences, a whole person, caused behaviour and human dignity.

(a) Individual Differences:

The basic assumption in behavioural science is that every person is different from others. There are differences in physical characteristics and mental capabilities. Research studies have established that these differences affect their performance at work and behaviour. The mental differences may be related to intelligence, aptitudes, attitudes, skill etc.

Scientific techniques are to be evolved to identify and measure differences in psychological factors so that they can be effectively used in the selection and placement of right people for various jobs. Selection and training can be tuned accordingly. The principle of individual differences has wide applications in selection and placement and designing, training programmes.

This will facili­tate the organisation in knowing the motives of employees and their behaviour so that supervision can be made effectively. To achieve maximum co-operation from employees a suitable style of leadership and supervision can be developed and the right type of motivation can be provided. So the individual differences form the nerve centre of organisational behaviour.

(b) A Whole Person:

Some organisations generally believe that they employ only the brain or skill of the person. But they are wrong in their approach. Though we can make a study of each characteristic separately but in final analysis, they are a part of one system making up a whole person. We cannot separate each other. Skill cannot be separated from knowledge or background. Home life cannot be separated from work life.

The concept of whole person signifies that behaviour of a person at work cannot be studied in isolation. A person is a complete system in himself. It is not possible to separate a human mind and skills of a person. In the work spot the individual carries with him the problems of his private life. His performance is influenced by his private environment and vice versa. So his behaviour at home and office are influenced mutually.

(c) Caused Behaviour:

Industrial psychologists assume that human behaviour is caused. It is the situation that stimulates an individual to behave and perform in a particular way. Therefore it is necessary to understand the causes of behaviour before making an attempt to improve upon it.

Human behaviour is caused by needs which can be directed and controlled in order to get the desired results from human beings. This can be achieved by motivation. It turns on steam to keep the organisation going.

(d) Human Dignity:

Unlike other factors of production the employees should be treated differently as they are of higher order in the universe. The organisation must respect his emotions, sentiments and aspirations. He must be treated with respect and dignity. Then only the employees will co-operate with the organisation.

Otherwise they feel dissatisfied and it affects their performance. Ethical philosophy deals with consequences of our acts upon ourselves and other. It recognises that life has an overall purpose and accepts the inner integrity of each individual. As organisational behaviour involves people, ethical philosophy is involved in one way or the other in each action.

(ii) The Nature of Organisation:

There are two basic assumptions about organisation.

(a) Organisations are social systems.  

(b) They are formed on the basis of mutual interest.

(a) Social System:

An organisation is a social system which coordinates the activities of its members for the achievement of common goals. It is a part of society and consist of people who are social beings. In every organisation there are two types of social systems exist side by side. One is called the formal social system and the other is the informal social system. The interaction of these two is responsible for their behaviour and performance.

That is why, the organisation behaviour is dynamic. All parts of the system are interdependent and influence each other. The idea of social system makes the complexibility of the human behaviour in organisations conceptually manageable. It provides a framework for considering and analysing a number of variables involved in any organisational situation.

(b) Mutual Interest:

This is the basic factor in every kind of relationship. Employees need organisation and organisation needs employees. Employees need organisation as a means to reach their goals while organisations require employees to achieve their objectives. In fact, without people, there is no organisation. Both people and organisation are benefitted by their association.

Term Paper # 4. Elements of Organisational Behaviour :

Organisational behaviour relies upon scientific methods to develop, evaluate and modify theories about human behaviour in organisations. This discipline is influenced by several behavioural sciences and social sciences. The important among them are psychology, sociology and anthropology. Psychology focuses on what determines the behaviour of individual?

In an attempt to answer this question various sub-disciplines like industrial psychology, clinical psychology and experimental psychology have been developed. Sociology deals with groups, organisations and societies rather than individuals. Further it considers the actual pattern of interaction, the effects of different social status on the interaction and the effect of different roles on interaction.

Therefore, sociology is the basis of trying to understand social behaviour or the dynamics of two or more individuals interacting. Similarly Anthropology is a broad discipline that studies the origin and development of human culture, how those cultures have functioned in the past and how they continue to function in the present. This information is very useful in understanding human behaviour.

Management forms the organisation to achieve certain goals. In an organisation the efforts of the people are co-ordinated by the structure of authority-responsibility relationship. To achieve performance the organisation uses three elements known as people, structure and technology.

These elements interact with external environment and they are influenced by it. This has been aptly remarked by Keith Davis in the following words. Organisational behaviour is the “study and application of knowledge about human behaviour in organisations as it relates to other systems elements such as structure, technology and the external social system.”

(i) People:

All organisations are made up of people both individuals and groups. The groups may be formal or informal, large or small. They are inter-related and complex in nature. People are dynamic in nature and they interact with each other and also influence each other. They may form change and disband the organisation.

The organisations exist to serve the people. So the basic problem of the management is to understand the human behaviour so that they are motivated in a better way to contribute maximum performance.

(ii) Structure:

Structure refers to the organisational design which defines the roles and relationships of people in the organisation. Different people are given different roles and they have to play definite roles in the organisation. The organisation structure leads to division of work which facilitates employees in performing their duties to achieve organisational objectives.

The performance is expected from different levels in different spheres. The organisational structure relates to authority responsibility relationships and it co-ordinates performance of employees. The designed structure must be appropriate and also suit the organisational members.

(iii) Technology:

Technology imparts the physical and economic condition with which people perform in the organisation. The employees are given assistance of machines, tools, methods and resources. Nature of technology depends on organisational activities and scale of operations. Technology influences working conditions in the organisation. This places restrictions on the freedom of individuals.

(iv) Environment:

Environment refers to external environment provided by socio-cultural factors, economic factors, political conditions and geographical forces. These factors influence the attitudes, motives and working conditions of the people in the organisation. The organisation also has an influence over the environment. This type of interface continues so long as the organisation survives.

Term Paper # 5. Approaches of Organisational Behaviour:

There are four basic approaches of organisational behaviour.

1. Inter-disciplinary approach

2. Human resources approach

3. Contingency approach

4. Systems approach

(i) Inter-Disciplinary Approach:

Organisational behaviour is an integration of all other social sciences and disciplines. This helps in understanding the behaviour of people at work in the organisation. It is neither psychology, nor sociology, nor organisational theory but it is an integration of all other disciplines.

The field of organisation behaviour is very much like that of medicine which integrates physical, biological and social sciences into a workable practice. Man is to be studied as a whole and all disciplines con­cerning men are integrated. It means the study of men is to be taken up in an integrated way to know about workable relationship of the behavioural world.

Various social sciences have facilitated the understanding of human relationships. Some of them are Economics, Psychology, sociology and organisation theories. Some areas which are used are Human needs, motivation, counseling and individual differences. The interest of various social sciences in people may be called as behavioural science and this represents the systematised body of knowledge which speaks about why and how people behave as they do.

(ii) Human Resources Approach:

Other name supportive approach. This approach is developmental in nature as it is concerned with the growth and development of people towards higher level of competency, creativity and fulfillment as people are the central theme of the organisation. The traditional management approach wants to achieve objectives by implicit obedience of employees who are subject to strict control and supervision and the employees are not taken to confidence.

The human resources approach helps employees in developing self-control, responsibilities and other abilities in them where everybody will contribute to the performance of the organisation. It will result in operative effectiveness.

Tin’s is also known as the supportive approach because this approach changes the manager’s role. It supports the employees in developing their abilities. This approach provides a good organisational climate in which people can grow and be productive.

(iii) Contingency Agency:

In Traditional approach the points focussed are:

(i) Application of universally accepted principles irrespective of the situation.

(ii) Concept of universality.

These were accepted by the followers in the field of organisational behaviour.

But the position has changed now. Behavioural researchers are of the opinion that there are some concepts that are useful in all circumstances otherwise different organisational environments require different behavioural relationship for proper effectiveness as behavioural situations are much complicated now-a-days.

This approach is known as contingency approach.

The advocations of this approach are:

(i) There is no one best way to deal into the human problem.

(ii) Each situation must be analysed carefully before taking any action and at the same time discourage universal concept about people. This approach helps in using in the most appropriate manner all the current knowledge about the organisation.

(iii) In this approach appropriate action depends on the situational variables.

(iv) Systems Approach:

Organisations are social systems. There are so many variables in the system and they are inter-related and inter-dependent. So a change in one variable may affect the other variable. So a manger is to consider the situation behind the scene before taking any action. The effects of the action is to be thought about to know its impact on organisation and a cost-benefit analysis should be made taking into consideration the organisation as a whole.

These four behavioural approaches that facilitate the understanding of organisational behaviour.

Term Paper # 6. Merits of Organisational Behaviour :

(i) This facilitates a manager in predicting individual behaviour and group behaviour. The manager can develop a more retired and realistic set of assumptions about people and can plan action.

(ii) This study helps in explaining the causes of human behaviour. It tells us why people behave in a particular way. Some of the causes of behaviour are controllable and some others are beyond control. The manager if he knows the controllable factors then he can design better policies and practice to obtain the desired behaviour from his subordinates.

(iii) This helps in improving the organisational behaviour and results in smoothening the relationship between employees and organisation. The employees can be motivated to function as a team to fulfil their needs and achieve organisational objectives.

(iv) The application of organisational behaviour cannot solve all behavioural problems but it facilitates the manager in considering all tenable assumptions and important variables underlying the situation.

Term Paper # 7. Limitations of Organisational Behavior:

The limitations of organisational behaviour are as follows:

(i) Members of an organisation are not free to behave in their own way. Their behavioural patterns are guided and controlled by rules, regulations, procedures and practices of the organisation. So their activities, interactions, sentiments are developed in a particular manner. Further Group behaviour of workers is largely guided by the attitude and approach of trade unions. So the members are controlled in organisations either in a formal way or in informal way.

(ii) In organisations, there are certain apathetic groups which are little concerned with environmental changes. Their reaction to the behaviour may not produce cause-effect relationship. In such a situation it is difficult for the management to formulate a behavioural policy that may satisfy all the members of the organisation.

(iii) In organisations there are certain ethnic and erratic groups in the organisation. Their reactions to the environment cannot be predicted. Similarly, certain conservative groups and vested interests may resist strongly managerial initiatives.

In spite of these limitations organisational behaviour has great potentiality for increasing managerial effectiveness. It seeks to help people and organisations and relate them more effectively to each other. It is a human tool for human benefit.

Related Articles:

  • Term Paper on Organisational Climate | Management
  • Term Paper on Perception | Employee Behaviour | Organisation | Management
  • Organisational Behaviour

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Organizational Behavior Research Paper Topics

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This page provides a comprehensive list of 100 organizational behavior research paper topics that are divided into 10 categories, each containing 10 topics. These categories include communication and teamwork, organizational culture and climate, employee motivation and engagement, organizational leadership, diversity and inclusion, organizational communication, employee well-being and work-life balance, organizational change, human resource management, and organizational ethics and corporate social responsibility. In addition to the list of topics, the page also provides expert advice on how to choose a research topic and how to write an organizational behavior research paper. Finally, students can take advantage of iResearchNet’s writing services to order a custom organizational behavior research paper on any topic. With this page, students will be able to explore the wide range of topics in organizational behavior and excel in their academic pursuits.

Organizational Behavior Topics Guide

Organizational behavior is an important field of study that focuses on how individuals and groups behave in organizations. It is a multidisciplinary field that draws on insights from psychology, sociology, anthropology, economics, and management. Understanding organizational behavior is crucial for individuals who are interested in careers in management, human resources, or organizational development. Research papers are an important aspect of studying organizational behavior, as they allow students to explore various aspects of this field in-depth.

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The purpose of this page is to provide students with a comprehensive list of organizational behavior research paper topics that will help them choose a topic for their research paper. The page is divided into 10 categories, each containing 10 topics. The categories include communication and teamwork, organizational culture and climate, employee motivation and engagement, organizational leadership, diversity and inclusion, organizational communication, employee well-being and work-life balance, organizational change, human resource management, and organizational ethics and corporate social responsibility. By providing a wide range of topics, students can find one that aligns with their interests and career goals.

Organizational Behavior Research Paper Topics

100 Organizational Behavior Research Paper Topics

Communication and Teamwork

1. Communication barriers in the workplace 2. Interpersonal communication and conflict resolution 3. The effects of technology on communication and teamwork 4. Cultural diversity and communication in global organizations 5. Communication strategies for effective leadership 6. Group dynamics and team performance 7. Decision-making processes in teams 8. Motivation and satisfaction in team-based work environments 9. Leadership styles and their impact on team effectiveness 10. Team training and development programs

Organizational Culture and Climate

1. The impact of organizational culture on employee behavior 2. The role of leadership in shaping organizational culture 3. Organizational change and resistance to change 4. Organizational culture and innovation 5. Ethical climates in organizations 6. Managing cultural diversity in organizations 7. The impact of organizational culture on employee well-being 8. Measuring and assessing organizational culture 9. The relationship between organizational culture and performance 10. The impact of organizational climate on employee motivation and job satisfaction

Employee Motivation and Engagement

1. Theories of employee motivation and their application in the workplace 2. The role of incentives and rewards in employee motivation 3. The impact of job design on employee motivation and engagement 4. The relationship between job satisfaction and employee motivation 5. Employee engagement and its impact on organizational performance 6. Employee empowerment and motivation 7. The role of leadership in employee motivation and engagement 8. The impact of organizational culture on employee motivation 9. Employee motivation and retention strategies 10. Employee motivation and its impact on organizational change

Organizational Leadership

1. Theories of leadership and their application in the workplace 2. Transformational leadership and its impact on organizational performance 3. Authentic leadership and its impact on organizational culture 4. Situational leadership and its effectiveness in different contexts 5. Servant leadership and its impact on employee well-being 6. The relationship between leadership and employee motivation 7. The impact of gender and cultural diversity on leadership 8. The role of emotional intelligence in leadership 9. The impact of leadership on organizational change 10. Developing effective leadership skills

Diversity and Inclusion

1. Defining diversity and inclusion in the workplace 2. The business case for diversity and inclusion 3. The relationship between diversity and innovation 4. Overcoming diversity challenges in global organizations 5. Managing diversity and inclusion through leadership 6. The impact of cultural diversity on team performance 7. Addressing diversity and inclusion in performance evaluations 8. The role of diversity and inclusion in employee retention 9. The impact of diversity and inclusion on organizational culture 10. Strategies for developing and implementing effective diversity and inclusion initiatives

Organizational Communication

1. The impact of communication on organizational effectiveness 2. Organizational communication strategies 3. Internal communication and its impact on employee engagement 4. The role of communication in change management 5. The impact of technology on organizational communication 6. The relationship between communication and organizational culture 7. The impact of communication on employee motivation and satisfaction 8. The role of nonverbal communication in organizational behavior 9. The impact of communication on organizational reputation 10. The role of feedback in organizational communication

Employee Well-being and Work-Life Balance

1. The impact of work-life balance on employee well-being 2. The relationship between stress and employee performance 3. Mental health in the workplace 4. Workplace wellness programs 5. The role of leadership in promoting employee well-being 6. The impact of job demands and resources on employee well-being 7. The impact of work schedule flexibility on employee well-being 8. The impact of job security on employee well-being 9. Burnout and its impact on employee well-being 10. Developing effective work-life balance policies

  Organizational Change

1. Theories of organizational change 2. Managing resistance to change 3. The role of leadership in organizational change 4. The impact of organizational culture on change management 5. The role of communication in change management 6. The impact of technology on organizational change 7. The impact of organizational change on employee motivation and satisfaction 8. The role of employee involvement in change management 9. Change management strategies for global organizations 10. The impact of organizational change on organizational performance

Human Resource Management

1. Recruitment and selection strategies 2. Performance management and appraisal 3. Training and development programs 4. The impact of compensation and benefits on employee motivation 5. The role of HR in promoting diversity and inclusion 6. The impact of technology on HRM 7. The impact of employee turnover on organizational performance 8. Employee retention strategies 9. HR metrics and analytics 10. HR strategy and its impact on organizational performance

Organizational Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility

1. The importance of ethical behavior in organizations 2. Ethical decision-making processes in organizations 3. The impact of corporate social responsibility on organizational performance 4. The relationship between ethics and organizational culture 5. Ethical leadership and its impact on employee behavior 6. The role of codes of ethics in organizations 7. The impact of social media on organizational ethics 8. The impact of globalization on organizational ethics 9. The role of stakeholders in promoting ethical behavior 10. Developing ethical organizational policies

Choosing an Organizational Behavior Topic

Choosing a research topic can be a daunting task, especially when there are so many organizational behavior research paper topics to choose from. The key to choosing a successful topic is to select one that is relevant, interesting, and manageable. In this section, we provide expert advice on how to choose an organizational behavior research paper topic that will help students succeed in their academic pursuits.

The importance of choosing a relevant and interesting topic

The first step in choosing an organizational behavior research paper topic is to select a relevant and interesting topic. A relevant topic is one that aligns with the course curriculum and the student’s area of interest. An interesting topic is one that is engaging and will hold the student’s attention throughout the research and writing process. Choosing a relevant and interesting topic is important because it will make the research and writing process more enjoyable and fulfilling.

Tips for choosing a topic that aligns with the student’s interests and career goals

To choose a topic that aligns with the student’s interests and career goals, it is important to consider what topics are relevant to the student’s area of study and future career aspirations. Students should consider their personal interests, as well as the interests of potential employers. They should also consider the latest trends and developments in the field of organizational behavior, and choose a topic that is timely and relevant.

How to narrow down a broad topic into a manageable research question

Once a broad topic has been selected, it is important to narrow it down into a manageable research question. This can be done by breaking the topic down into smaller, more manageable sub-topics. Students should consider the scope of the topic and the available resources, and choose a research question that is focused and manageable.

Examples of how to brainstorm ideas for research topics

Brainstorming is an effective way to generate ideas for research topics. Students can start by listing the topics that interest them and then narrowing down the list to the most relevant and interesting topics. They can also read academic journals and textbooks to identify current trends and issues in organizational behavior. Finally, they can talk to their instructors or peers to get ideas and feedback.

How to conduct preliminary research

Before choosing a research topic, it is important to conduct preliminary research to ensure that the topic is feasible and has enough available resources. Students can start by conducting a literature review to identify the latest research on the topic. They can also use online databases and search engines to find relevant articles and publications. Finally, they can consult with their instructors or academic advisors to get advice on the available resources and potential research topics.

Choosing the right organizational behavior research paper topic is essential for success in academic pursuits. By following these expert tips and advice, students can choose a relevant and interesting topic, narrow it down into a manageable research question, and conduct preliminary research to ensure the topic is feasible and has enough available resources.

How to Write an Organizational Behavior Research Paper

Once a research topic has been chosen, the next step is to write the research paper. Writing an organizational behavior research paper can be a challenging task, but with the right guidance and strategies, it can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience. In this section, we provide expert advice on how to write an organizational behavior research paper.

The structure and format of a research paper

The structure and format of an organizational behavior research paper should follow the standard guidelines for academic research papers. It should include an introduction, literature review, methodology, results, and discussion sections. The introduction should provide an overview of the research topic and the purpose of the study. The literature review should summarize the relevant research on the topic. The methodology section should describe the research design, sample, and data collection methods. The results section should present the findings of the study, and the discussion section should interpret the results and provide conclusions and recommendations.

How to conduct research and gather sources

To conduct research and gather sources for an organizational behavior research paper, students should start by conducting a literature review. This involves searching for relevant articles and publications on the research topic. Students can use online databases, search engines, and academic journals to find relevant sources. They should also consider the credibility and relevance of the sources they choose, and use a variety of sources to support their arguments.

How to organize and outline the paper

Organizing and outlining an organizational behavior research paper is an important step in the writing process. Students should start by creating an outline that includes the major sections of the paper and the key points they want to make in each section. They should then organize their sources and research findings according to the outline. This will help them write a clear and coherent paper.

How to write an introduction, literature review, methodology, results, and discussion sections

Each section of an organizational behavior research paper has a specific purpose and format. The introduction should provide an overview of the research topic and the purpose of the study. The literature review should summarize the relevant research on the topic. The methodology section should describe the research design, sample, and data collection methods. The results section should present the findings of the study, and the discussion section should interpret the results and provide conclusions and recommendations. Students should use clear and concise language and support their arguments with relevant sources and research findings.

How to properly cite sources and format the paper

Properly citing sources and formatting the paper is essential for academic integrity and professionalism. Students should follow the guidelines for the appropriate citation style, such as APA or MLA. They should also ensure that the paper is formatted according to the guidelines provided by their instructor or academic institution. This includes proper margins, headings, and references.

How to revise and edit the paper for clarity and coherence

Revising and editing the organizational behavior research paper is an important step in the writing process. Students should read the paper carefully and revise it for clarity, coherence, and organization. They should also check for spelling and grammar errors and ensure that the paper meets the requirements and guidelines provided by their instructor or academic institution.

Writing an organizational behavior research paper can be a challenging task, but with the right guidance and strategies, it can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience. By following these expert tips and advice, students can write a high-quality research paper that meets the academic standards and expectations.

Order Custom Organizational Behavior Research Papers from iResearchNet

Organizational behavior research is a dynamic and challenging field, and writing a research paper on the topic can be daunting. However, with the right guidance, strategies, and support, students can succeed in their academic pursuits and contribute to the ongoing discourse in the field.

We have provided a comprehensive list of organizational behavior research paper topics and expert advice on how to choose a topic, conduct research, and write a high-quality research paper. Additionally, iResearchNet offers writing services that provide customized solutions to students who need expert help with their organizational behavior research papers.

If you’re struggling to choose a topic, conduct research, or write your organizational behavior research paper, iResearchNet’s writing services can help. Our team of experienced writers can provide personalized assistance on any topic, ensuring that your paper meets the highest standards of quality. We offer flexible pricing, timely delivery, and a money-back guarantee, so you can trust us to provide the support you need to succeed.

Don’t let the challenges of writing an organizational behavior research paper hold you back. With the right tools and support, you can excel in your academic pursuits and make a valuable contribution to the field of organizational behavior. Contact iResearchNet today to get started!


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What Is Organizational Behavior (OB), and Why Is It Important?

organisational behaviour term paper

Amanda Bellucco-Chatham is an editor, writer, and fact-checker with years of experience researching personal finance topics. Specialties include general financial planning, career development, lending, retirement, tax preparation, and credit.

What Is Organizational Behavior (OB)?

Organizational behavior is the academic study of how people interact within groups. The principles of OB are applied primarily in attempts to help businesses operate more effectively.

Key Takeaways

  • Organizational behavior is the study of how people interact in group settings.
  • This field of study includes areas of research dedicated to improving job performance, increasing job satisfaction, promoting innovation, and encouraging leadership.
  • The Hawthorne Effect, which describes the way test subjects' behavior may change when they know they are being observed, is the best-known study of organizational behavior.
  • Organizational behavior is a foundation of corporate human resources, encompassing elements such as employee retention, engagement, training, and culture.
  • Organizational behavior is a subset of organizational theory which studies a more holistic way of structuring a company and managing its resources.

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Understanding Organizational Behavior (OB)

The study of organizational behavior includes areas of research dedicated to improving job performance, increasing job satisfaction, promoting innovation, and encouraging leadership . Each has its own recommended actions, such as reorganizing groups, modifying compensation structures, or changing methods of performance evaluation .

Organizational Behavior Origins

The study of organizational behavior has its roots in the late 1920s, when the Western Electric Company launched a now-famous series of studies of the behavior of workers at its Hawthorne Works plant in Cicero, IL.

Researchers there set out to determine whether workers could be made to be more productive if their environment was upgraded with better lighting and other design improvements. To their surprise, the researchers found that the environment was less important than social factors. It was more important, for example, that people got along with their co-workers and felt their bosses appreciated them.

Those initial findings inspired a series of wide-ranging studies between 1924 and 1933. They included the effects on productivity of work breaks, isolation, and lighting, among many other factors.

The Hawthorne Effect —which describes the way test subjects' behavior may change when they know they are being observed—is the best-known study of organizational behavior. Researchers are taught to consider whether or not (and to what degree) the Hawthorne Effect may skew their findings on human behavior.

Organizational behavior was not fully recognized by the American Psychological Association as a field of academic study until the 1970s. However, the Hawthorne research is credited for validating organizational behavior as a legitimate field of study, and it's the foundation of the  human resources (HR) profession as we now know it.

Evolution of Organization Behavior

The leaders of the Hawthorne study had a couple of radical notions. They thought they could use the techniques of scientific observation to increase an employee's amount and quality of work, and they did not look at workers as interchangeable resources. Workers, they thought, were unique in terms of their psychology and potential fit within a company.

Over the following years, the concept of organizational behavior widened. Beginning with World War II, researchers began focusing on logistics and management science. Studies by the Carnegie School in the 1950s and 1960s solidified these rationalist approaches to decision-making.

Today, those and other studies have evolved into modern theories of business structure and decision-making. The new frontiers of organizational behavior are the cultural components of organizations, such as how race, class, and gender roles affect group building and productivity. These studies take into account how identity and background inform decision-making.

Organizational behavior is no different than other forms of psychological behavior analysis. It simply emphasizes how individuals operate and work together within a business setting.

Learning Organizational Behavior

Academic programs focusing on organizational behavior are found in business schools, as well as at schools of social work and psychology. These programs draw from the fields of anthropology, ethnography, and leadership studies, and use quantitative, qualitative, and computer models as methods to explore and test ideas.

Depending on the program, one can study specific topics within organizational behavior or broader fields within it. Specific topics covered include cognition, decision-making, learning, motivation, negotiation, impressions, group process, stereotyping, and power and influence. The broader study areas include social systems, the dynamics of change, markets, relationships between organizations and their environments, how social movements influence markets, and the power of social networks .

Organizational Behavior Study Methods

Organizational behavior can be studied using a variety of methods to collect data. Surveys are a popular research method in organizational behavior research. They involve asking individuals to answer a set of questions, often using a Likert scale. The goal of the survey is to gather quantitative data on attitudes, behaviors, and perceptions related to a particular topic. In a similar manner, companies may perform interviews to gather data about individuals' experiences, attitudes, and perceptions.

Companies can also gather data without directly interacting with study subjects. Observations involve watching individuals in real-life settings to gather data on their behaviors, interactions, and decision-making processes. Meanwhile, a company can perform case studies to perform an in-depth examination of a particular organization, group, or individual.

In situations where there isn't really precedent, companies can study organizational behavior by running experiments. By manipulating one or more variables at a time to observe the effect on a particular outcome, a company can get the best sense of how organizational behavior tweaks change employee disposition.

Organizational behavior data can be quantitative or qualitative.

Organizational behavior is an especially important aspect to human resources. By better understanding how and why individuals perform in a certain way, organizations can better recruit, retain, and deploy workers to achieve its mission. The specific aspects of organizational behavior relating to HR are listed below.


Organizational behavior research is used to identify the skills, abilities, and traits that are essential for a job. This information is used to develop job descriptions, selection criteria, and assessment tools to help HR managers identify the best candidates for a position. This is especially true for roles that may have technical aspects but rely heavier on soft skills .

Organizational behavior can be used to design and deliver training and development programs that enhance employees' skills. These programs can focus on topics such as communication, leadership, teamwork, and diversity and inclusion. In addition, organizational behavior can be used to be better understand how each individual may uniquely approach a training, allowing for more customized approaches based on different styles.

Performance Management

Organizational behavior is used to develop performance management systems that align employee goals with organizational objectives. These systems often include performance metrics, feedback mechanisms, and performance appraisal processes. By leveraging organizational behavior, a company can better understand how its personnel will work towards common goals and what can be achieved.

Employee Engagement

Organizational behavior is used to develop strategies to improve employee engagement and motivation. These strategies can include recognition and rewards programs, employee involvement initiatives, and career development opportunities. Due to the financial incentives of earning a paycheck , organizational behavior strives to go beyond incentivizing individuals with a paycheck and understanding ways to enhance the workplace with other interests.

Organizational behavior research is used to develop and maintain a positive organizational culture. This includes devising strategies that supports employee well-being, trust, and a shared vision for the future. As each individual may act in their own unique manner, it is up to organizational behavior to blend personalities, integrate backgrounds, and bring people together for a common cause.

Organizational Behavior vs. Organizational Theory

Organizational behavior and organizational theory are related fields of study, but they have some important differences. While organizational behavior is concerned with understanding and improving the behavior of individuals, organizational theory is concerned with developing and testing theories about how organizations function and how they can be structured effectively.

Organizational theory draws on concepts and theories from economics, sociology, political science, and other social sciences . It aims to understand how organizations are structured and how they operate. In some aspects, organizational behavior can be considered a subset of organizational theory.

Both fields are important for understanding and improving organizational performance, and they often overlap in their research topics and methods. However, organizational theory is often much broader and does not focus on individuals.

Examples of Organizational Behavior

Findings from organizational behavior research are used by executives and human relations professionals to better understand a business’s culture , how that culture helps or hinders productivity and employee retention, and how to evaluate candidates' skills and personality during the hiring process.

Organizational behavior theories inform the real-world evaluation and management of groups of people. There are several components:

  • Personality plays a large role in the way a person interacts with groups and produces work. Understanding a candidate's personality, either through tests or through conversation, helps determine whether they are a good fit for an organization.
  • Leadership—what it looks like and where it comes from—is a rich topic of debate and study within the field of organizational behavior. Leadership can be broad, focused, centralized or de-centralized, decision-oriented, intrinsic in a person’s personality, or simply a result of a position of authority.
  • Power, authority, and politics all operate inter-dependently in a workplace. Understanding the appropriate ways these elements are exhibited and used, as agreed upon by workplace rules and ethical guidelines, are key components to running a cohesive business.

Why Is Organizational Behavior Important?

Organizational behavior describes how people interact with one another inside of an organization, such as a business. These interactions subsequently influence how the organization itself behaves and how well it performs. For businesses, organizational behavior is used to streamline efficiency, improve productivity, and spark innovation to give firms a competitive edge.

What Are the 4 Elements of Organizational Behavior?

The four elements of organizational behavior are people, structure, technology, and the external environment. By understanding how these elements interact with one another, improvements can be made. While some factors are more easily controlled by the organization—such as its structure or people hired—it still must be able to respond to external factors and changes in the economic environment.

What Are the 3 Levels of Organizational Behavior?

The first is the individual level, which involves organizational psychology and understanding human behavior and incentives. The second level is groups, which involves social psychology and sociological insights into human interaction and group dynamics. The top-level is the organizational level, where organization theory and sociology come into play to undertake systems-level analyses and the study of how firms engage with one another in the marketplace.

What Are Some Common Problems that Organizational Behavior Tries to Solve?

Organizational behavior can be used by managers and consultants to improve the performance of an organization and to address certain key issues that commonly arise. These may include a lack of direction or strategic vision for a company, difficulty getting employees on board with that vision, pacifying workplace conflict or creating a more amenable work environment, issues with training employees, poor communication or feedback, and so on.

OB is the study of human behavior in an organizational setting. This includes how individuals interact with each other in addition to how individuals interact with the organization itself. OB is a critical part of human resources, though it is embedded across a company.

Harvard Business School. " Harvard Business School and the Hawthorne Experiments (1924-1933) ."

Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology. " A Brief History of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Inc. – A Division of the APA ."

Mie Augier. " Cyert, March, and the Carnegie School ," Page 1.

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A wave of AI systems have “deceived” humans in ways they haven’t been explicitly trained to do, by offering up untrue explanations for their behavior or concealing the truth from human users and misleading them to achieve a strategic end. 

This issue highlights how difficult artificial intelligence is to control and the unpredictable ways in which these systems work, according to a review paper published in the journal Patterns today that summarizes previous research.

Talk of deceiving humans might suggest that these models have intent. They don’t. But AI models will mindlessly find workarounds to obstacles to achieve the goals that have been given to them. Sometimes these workarounds will go against users’ expectations and feel deceitful.

One area where AI systems have learned to become deceptive is within the context of games that they’ve been trained to win—specifically if those games involve having to act strategically.

In November 2022, Meta announced it had created Cicero , an AI capable of beating humans at an online version of Diplomacy, a popular military strategy game in which players negotiate alliances to vie for control of Europe.

Meta’s researchers said they’d trained Cicero on a “truthful” subset of its data set to be largely honest and helpful, and that it would “never intentionally backstab” its allies in order to succeed. But the new paper’s authors claim the opposite was true: Cicero broke its deals, told outright falsehoods, and engaged in premeditated deception. Although the company did try to train Cicero to behave honestly, its failure to achieve that shows how AI systems can still unexpectedly learn to deceive, the authors say. 

Meta neither confirmed nor denied the researchers’ claims that Cicero displayed deceitful behavior, but a spokesperson said that it was purely a research project and the model was built solely to play Diplomacy. “We released artifacts from this project under a noncommercial license in line with our long-standing commitment to open science,” they say. “Meta regularly shares the results of our research to validate them and enable others to build responsibly off of our advances. We have no plans to use this research or its learnings in our products.” 

But it’s not the only game where an AI has “deceived” human players to win. 

AlphaStar , an AI developed by DeepMind to play the video game StarCraft II, became so adept at making moves aimed at deceiving opponents (known as feinting) that it defeated 99.8% of human players. Elsewhere, another Meta system called Pluribus learned to bluff during poker games so successfully that the researchers decided against releasing its code for fear it could wreck the online poker community. 

Beyond games, the researchers list other examples of deceptive AI behavior. GPT-4, OpenAI’s latest large language model, came up with lies during a test in which it was prompted to persuade a human to solve a CAPTCHA for it. The system also dabbled in insider trading during a simulated exercise in which it was told to assume the identity of a pressurized stock trader, despite never being specifically instructed to do so.

The fact that an AI model has the potential to behave in a deceptive manner without any direction to do so may seem concerning. But it mostly arises from the “ black box” problem that characterizes state-of-the-art machine-learning models: it is impossible to say exactly how or why they produce the results they do—or whether they’ll always exhibit that behavior going forward, says Peter S. Park, a postdoctoral fellow studying AI existential safety at MIT, who worked on the project. 

“Just because your AI has certain behaviors or tendencies in a test environment does not mean that the same lessons will hold if it’s released into the wild,” he says. “There’s no easy way to solve this—if you want to learn what the AI will do once it’s deployed into the wild, then you just have to deploy it into the wild.”

Our tendency to anthropomorphize AI models colors the way we test these systems and what we think about their capabilities. After all, passing tests designed to measure human creativity doesn’t mean AI models are actually being creative. It is crucial that regulators and AI companies carefully weigh the technology’s potential to cause harm against its potential benefits for society and make clear distinctions between what the models can and can’t do, says Harry Law, an AI researcher at the University of Cambridge, who did not work on the research.“These are really tough questions,” he says.

Fundamentally, it’s currently impossible to train an AI model that’s incapable of deception in all possible situations, he says. Also, the potential for deceitful behavior is one of many problems—alongside the propensity to amplify bias and misinformation—that need to be addressed before AI models should be trusted with real-world tasks. 

Artificial intelligence

Sam altman says helpful agents are poised to become ai’s killer function.

Open AI’s CEO says we won’t need new hardware or lots more training data to get there.

  • James O'Donnell archive page

An AI startup made a hyperrealistic deepfake of me that’s so good it’s scary

Synthesia's new technology is impressive but raises big questions about a world where we increasingly can’t tell what’s real.

  • Melissa Heikkilä archive page

Taking AI to the next level in manufacturing

Reducing data, talent, and organizational barriers to achieve scale.

  • MIT Technology Review Insights archive page

Is robotics about to have its own ChatGPT moment?

Researchers are using generative AI and other techniques to teach robots new skills—including tasks they could perform in homes.

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