Organization behavior is the study of the functioning and performanceof individuals, groups, and teams within organizations aswell as of organizations as a whole. Based on scientific researchand empirical data, organizational behavioral theorists attemptto understand, predict, and influence behavior at all levelswithin the organization. There are many practical applicationsof organizational behavior theory for managers. For example,at the individual level, organizational behavior theory can helpmanagers learn to be better leaders and communicate with andmotivate their workers. At a team level, organizational behaviortheory helps managers understand how teams are formed andfunction, and how to best support them so that synergy occurs. At the organizational level, organizational behavior theory canhelp managers better understand how the organization works andhow each subsystem within it works together to make up theorganization as a whole.
Organizational behavior is the systematic study and applicationof how individuals and groups think and act within organizationsand how these activities affect the effectiveness of theorganization as a whole. Organizational behavior theorists takea systems approach, looking not only at individuals or groups asisolated entities, but also as part of an interactive social systemin which the actions of one part influence the functioning ofanother. Rather than merely focusing on the profitability of theorganization in isolation, the discipline of organizational behaviorattempts to improve organizational effectiveness at all levelswithin the organization. To do this, organizational behavior theoristsattempt to understand, predict, and influence events on theindividual, group, and organizational levels.
The field of organizational behavior is based on several principles. First, organizational behavior theory and practice doesnot operate in isolation, but is multidisciplinary, drawing onthe insights arising not only from its own research but also theresearch and insights of other disciplines. For example, psychologyhas contributed to organizational behavior theory byhelping explain issues relating to individual and interpersonalbehavior, as well as the dynamics of groups and teams. Sociologyhas contributed to the knowledge of organizational behaviorby increasing the understanding of how groups and teams actand interact, working together to contribute to the functioningof the organization as a social system. Anthropology contributesunderstanding of culture and rituals, while political science helpsus understand conflict between groups as well as organizationalenvironments, power, and decision making. Newer disciplines,such as information systems theory, help organizational behaviortheorists understand the dynamics of teams, how organizationsmanage knowledge, and how decisions are made.
Just as the disciplines from which it gathers insights are basedon empirical evidence, organizational behavior applies the scientificmethod in an attempt to systematically study the actions andinteractions of individuals and teams within an organization. Thescientific method involves observing behavior within organizations,formulating a theory based on the observations to explainwhy the behavior occurs, experimenting and collecting data todetermine the truth of the hypothesis, and validating or modifyingthe hypothesis as appropriate.
This process differs from some early management theorists whooften took lessons learned in isolated situations (such as thesuccess of one large manufacturing company) and turned theminto a list of simple steps to follow for success in all businesses. Rather, organizational behavior theory takes a contingencyapproach. This approach assumes that an action does not necessarilyalways have the same consequences, and may result in adifferent reaction in different situations. What this means practicallyis that one solution is not universally the best and behaviorcannot be distilled into simple lists of steps that ensure success. In general, it has been found that proposed absolute or universalrules need to be tempered by too many exceptions. For example,in the study of leadership, researchers and practitioners alikehave found that there is not one best way to lead, but that the"ideal" management style is contingent on the needs, abilities,and personalities of both the employees performing the tasks andof their leader or manager. Because of real world experiences,organizational behavior theorists tend to temper their theories bytrying to better understand when and why a principle works andby not stating absolutes.
One of the reasons that it is necessary to take a contingencyapproach when trying to understand behavior in organizations isthat organizations are systems comprising numerous subsystems. The functioning of each subsystem impacts the functioning ofthe other subsystems. Therefore, in addition to the contingencyapproach, organizational behavior theory is also founded on thepremise of systems theory. In this approach, the organizationis viewed as a system made up of interdependent subsystems,each of which affects the effectiveness of the other as well asthe effectiveness of the organization as a whole. For example, astrike by one segment of workers in an organization negativelyimpacts the ability of the organization as a whole to meet itsobjectives whether those be to efficiently collect garbage, transportpassengers, or produce auto parts. However, systems theoryaffects organizations in less obvious ways, too. For example,when writing a proposal for a new contract, if one work groupfails to meet its deadline for writing the technical response, abudget cannot be developed to submit to the prospective clientand the production of a professional-looking proposal cannotbe done in a timely manner. If enough of these small actionswith negative impacts occur, the organization will not win thecontract. This, in turn, could affect the profitability and even theviability of the organization and, along with it, the jobs and livesof the individuals and teams of which it is comprised. Each subsystem(technical work group, accounting or costing group, andproposal production group) affects the ability of the other groups -- as well as of the organization in general -- to do their jobs.
Although such insights are interesting in the abstract, organizationalbehavior is a practical discipline that not only attempts tounderstand and predict behavior, but to influence it. To this end,organizational behavior theorists have made significant contributionsto management theory and practice.
The field of organizational behavior is concerned with allthree levels of functioning within the organization: individual,groups and teams, and the organization as a whole. At the individuallevel, organizational theorists study the characteristics,thought processes, and behaviors of employees. This subset oforganizational behavior includes analyzing employees' personality,motivation, roles, and cultural differences and how suchelements affect their behavior and interactions within the organization. Understanding these processes prepares...