Organisational Behaviour Introduced

Organisational Behaviour (OB)

Why Study OB?
Through the informal nature of our social relationships, we can be quick to ‘diagnose’ an individuals’ behaviour. At work, however and due to the formal environment that it induces, trying to understand why a person behaves in such a way can be more difficult to understand. The complex nature of human beings only adds to this difficulty.

An effective manager needs to be intuitively aware of what it is, that makes each individual member tick. It is a managers’ responsibility to produce top quality and top results, and this can only be achieved through the commitment of all staff. The study of OB provides managers and those training to be managers, with the necessary level of awareness in order to adopt techniques that are relevant to their particular situation and organisation, which will assist them in their pursuit of managerial and organisational effectiveness.

The Individual
Explains the impact of our actions through the different ways in which we views things through our sensory imaging. How we see things is not always the same as how others see things and this can cause conflict from lack of understanding.
How we perceive other people can be due to how we perceive ourselves. We can sometimes confuse the two and project our own image on others. This is especially relevant when incidents or situations can distort our understanding, such as with the halo effect or stereotyping. The effect of this in the work environment can be found through recruitment and selection, performance appraisals and general communication with others.

Job Related Attitudes

Attitudes are generally formed through the socialization process we all encounter from children into adulthood. These attitudes can come from the values that our carers hold, i.e. parents, teachers etc., or through certain experiences we have in life. Through time, these attitudes can become deep-rooted beliefs or values. Changing a person’s beliefs is rather like changing their mind-set – it is very difficult.

The whole process of attitudes, beliefs and values will be examined in order to identify how we can measure one’s attitudes to work and the impact one’s attitudes can have on others. The importance of understanding about job related attitudes is paramount, our lack of understanding only encourages ineffective communication, ill-health and poor working relationships.

The way in which we learn is based on how we actively interpret or assimilate information. If we prefer to learn a new method of work through actions, a step-by-step manual will have little impact on us. In the classroom for instance, some students will prefer to learn through case studies and lectures alone, whilst others will opt for a more interactive style such as role plays.

Learning in organisations has been seen to be both beneficial for the individual and the company. An individual that is actively involved in training and development and who is able to apply the learning from these events back into the workplace will generally, have an increased interest in their job and the organisation for which they are part of.

Is it money that motivates you to get out of bed on a wet, cold morning or is it the challenge you get from your job? Was it really more money that put nurses out on strike in the 1990’s or was it a deeper rooted need, such as a need for more accountability and responsibility in their jobs?

Motivation examines our internal and external drives, desires and needs. This area identifies how a manager can effectively motivate his/her workforce by being aware of individuals’ motivators. Conducting performance appraisals can be an effective time to gain a deeper insight into our understanding of effort, i.e. how much or how little an individual puts into their job, and why?

Stress and Health
Examines the differences between pressure at work and the physiological factors that can lead to stress. This area highlights how we can assess possible stress factors in others and how to effectively assist individuals in overcoming stress and ill health.

A stressor on the other hand, is some feature of the individuals’ environment that could be seen as threatening or dangerous. Stressors can be mainly physical in origin, e.g. excessive heat, noise, vibration, or mainly psychosocial in origin, e.g. poor management, disrespectful colleagues etc. If an individual experiences strain as a reaction to a stressor then this will result in a negative effect. These negative effects can manifest themselves in physical symptoms such as insomnia, excessive fatigue, gastrointestinal disorders, headaches, and serious disease, e.g., cardiovascular complaints. Or the effects may be psychological, such as depression and anxiety.

The Group
The theory behind group development is fascinating to observe (See Exercise 1: Group Development) and properly acknowledged, can provide accurate indicators for managers to manage. To fully gain the maximum involvement from all members of a group, a manager needs to be supportive and ready to either lend advice or more resources etc, or to delegate and invite the leader/chairperson to take control.

A general rule of thumb, with regard to the differences between groups and teams, is that teams are set up to achieve a specific task/project. Whereas, a group can have an indefinite life span, such as quality circles.
Team working is now common practice in many organisations and the benefits to the individual and organisation will be examined in this element of the module. In order to achieve a task or complete a project, team effectiveness is crucial. What are the components that contribute towards team effectiveness and leadership.

Effective communication is central to OB as a whole and although this area is predominately associated under the umbrella of Groups, its use and your understanding of it should be encouraged to be displayed throughout the whole module.

Understanding the complexity of communication can be simplified by acknowledging the type of structure found in organisations. Does the organisation of which you are part of, have a flat or tall organisational structure? How easy is it for you to observe the flow of communication in your organisation? Do you feel well informed about information and how it is communicated to you?

Identifying common barriers to communication will greatly assist you in your involvement and understanding of groups and teams. Are there effective methods in place to ensure a steady and smooth flow of communication in your place of work? Some organisations provide individuals with an internal newsletter, which keeps people up to date on professional and social matters. Are such methods of communication effective?

With your knowledge of group development and team effectiveness combined, your understanding of effective and ineffective communication will equip you with the basics needed in order to manage behaviour within groups, effectively.

The Organisation
Generally, when asked to think of a leader individuals will relate to people such as Adolf Hitler, Nelson Mandela or The Taoiseach. What is it that leads people to this conclusion? Is it the powerful position that these leaders hold, or can it be attributed towards certain characteristics that they hold?

To understand Leadership, you will need to grasp the historical approaches to this subject first. Firstly, is leadership innate – are we born leaders? Secondly, is the behaviour that is projected by the leader reflective towards the needs of the followers? Finally, can we distinguish the leader because they appear to know best what to do and is seen by the group as the most suitable leader in the particular situation?

Next we need to address the similarities and limitations of both leaders and managers. Is leadership reserved for only powerful and influential figures or is your or a previous manager, a leader? One of the most important findings to come out of the theory of leadership in recent times is the acknowledgement of the role of ‘followers’ within the discipline of Leadership. A ‘follower’ is an individual that is led by a leader. This area is particularly relevant when understanding leadership styles and how the willingness or readiness of the follower can have an affect on the effectiveness of a leader. After all, if a leader has no followers then he or she is effectively not leading. We also address the issue of power in organisations.

Organisational Change and Development
To fully identify with the area of organisational change try to think about how easy or difficult change is to you in your personal life. The manner in which change is embraced will have a large impact on how either an individual or an organisation views the need for such a change. A common response from some individuals towards change is "what was wrong with the way things were?" For organisations, the process of change whether planned or not, will be costly and time consuming but normally always necessary.

When you understand the influences that the internal and external environments have upon an organisation, this will greatly assist you in the understanding of the necessity for organisational change.

Look at a particular external environmental condition that is relevant to your organisation e.g. government legislation, and follow through the effect a change in this condition, can have on the organisation and hence the possible need for the organisation to change in response. Continue this through to the internal environment – what are the changes that you can envisage for customers, managers, individuals, groups etc. This should provide you with a sound understanding of the necessity for change. The following components in the area will address how to manage organisational change successfully.

Organisational Development (OD) addresses the company through and after the change with techniques such as team building. An interesting identification is the effect all of this change has on the culture of the organisation, the structure of the organisation and the issue of management development and organisational effectiveness.

Resolving Conflicts with Colleagues
Think of a colleague/subordinate with whom you have an acknowledged conflict and analyse the situation using the following 4 Step process:

Step 1 Recognise the problem
• Is the problem important enough to acknowledge?

Step 2 Try to understand each other’s position
• Write down your own thoughts and feelings about the conflict.
• Try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and write down your perception of how the other person thinks and feels about the conflict and what thoughts or feelings he or she attributes to you.

Step 3 Discuss the problem
• How would you define the problem? Would the other person’s definition of the problem differ? If so, how?
• How do you think the other person perceives his or her own contribution, if any, to the conflict?
• What is your perception of your own, if any, contributions to the problem?
• Is there a hidden agenda? What do you think it is?
• Is there any common ground between you? What is it?

Step 4 Resolve the problem
• What is your preferred solution to the problem?
• What are the advantages and disadvantages of your solution?
• How would your solution be implemented? Would you use a third party?

Please See related articles and links on the main page for further information.


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