Wouldn’t a Manager’s job be easier if he or she could explain and predict behavior? This is the focus of organizational behavior (OB), the study of the actions of people at work. The goal of OB is to explain and predict behavior of employees at work.
OB focuses on both individual behavior and group behavior. Managers must understand behavior in both the formal and informal components of an organization. Managers are particularly concerned with three types of employee behaviors: productivity, absenteeism, and turnover. A fourth type of behavior, organizational citizenship, is emerging as a vital concern.
Managers must also be attentive to employee attitudes. Attitudes are value statements, either favorable or unfavorable, concerning people, events, or objects. Attitudes of special interest to managers pertain to those related to job satisfaction, job involvement, and organizational commitment. Can you think of ways in which your personal attitudes (values) have impact on your behavior at work?
Sometimes an individual experiences an inconsistency between two or more attitudes or between behavior and attitudes. Are happy workers productive workers? The answer to this question is not as simple as it might appear. Review the relationship between employee happiness and productivity and see what you think. Many researchers now believe that managers should direct their attention primarily to what might help employees become more productive.
Five specific personality traits have proven most powerful in explaining individual behavior in organizations. These are locus of control, Machiavellians, self-esteem, self-monitoring, and risk propensity. Review these traits so you can be prepared to predict practical work-related behaviors.
Sometimes different people will hear or witnesses the same situations yet interpret them differently. This happens because of differences in perception. Perception is the process of organizing and interpreting sensory impressions in order to give meaning to the environment. Managers need to recognize that employees react to perceptions, not to reality (if there is such a thing as “reality”). Thus, managers must pay close attention to how employees perceive both their jobs and management practices.
We constantly learn from our experiences. Sometimes we learn from rewards and punishments that are a consequence of our behavior. We learn to behave in order to get something we want or to avoid something we do not want. This is called operative conditioning. An extension of operant conditioning is social learning theory. Social learning theory emphasizes that we can learn through observation as well as direct experience. Managers can influence an employees learning through the rewards they allocate and the examples they set. Does this advice seem equally applicable to parenting?
The behavior of individuals in groups is not the same as the sum total of all of the individuals’ behavior. Individuals often act differently in groups than when they are alone. This means that managers must also understand the elements of group behavior. This chapter describes the basic concepts of group behavior.
It is clear that the ability to understand and predict employee behavior is a powerful tool for managers. To illustrate, a movie director must often “get into the mindset” of characters in a script. Understanding a character’s perceptions and motivation can help the director guide actors toward an award-winning performance. Managers, too, can serve as a guide and coach, helping employees meet organizational goals.