Organizational behavior

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
"Organization Studies" redirects here. For the academic journal, see Organization Studies (journal).

Organizational Behavior (OB) is "the study of human behavior in organizational settings, the interface between human behavior and the organization, and the organization itself." [1]

OB can be divided into three levels.[2] The study of :

  1. individuals in organizations (micro-level),
  2. work groups (meso-level),
  3. how organizations behave (macro-level).


Chester Barnard recognized that individuals behave differently when acting in their organizational role than when acting separately from the organization.[3] OB researchers study the behavior of individuals primarily in their organizational roles. One of the main goals of organizational theorists in OB is "to revitalize organizational theory and develop a better conceptualization of organizational life"[4]

Contributing disciplines[edit]

  • Psychology
  • Sociology
  • Anthropology
  • Political Sciences
  • Management

Relation to industrial and organizational psychology[edit]

Miner (2006) pointed out that "there is a certain arbitrariness" in identifying "a point at which organizational behavior became established as a distinct discipline" (p. 56), suggesting that it could have emerged in the 1940s or 1950s.[5] He also underlined the fact that the industrial psychology division of the American Psychological Association did not add "organizational" to its name until 1970, "long after organizational behavior had clearly come into existence" (p. 56), noting that a similar situation arose in sociology. Although there are similarities and differences between the two disciplines, there is still much confusion as to the nature of differences between organizational behavior and organizational psychology.[6]


The Hawthorne studies stimulated OB researchers to study the impact of psychological factors on organizations.[5] In his 1931 book, Human Problems of an Industrial Civilization, Elton Mayo advised managers to deal with emotional needs of employees. The human relations movement, an outgrowth of the Hawthorne studies, influenced OB researchers to focus on teams, motivation, and the actualization of individuals' goals within organizations.

The Second World War prompted a shift the field, as it turned its attention to large-scale logistics and operations research. There was a renewed interest in rationalist approaches to the study of organizations.[citation needed] Herbert Simon, James G. March, and the so-called "Carnegie School" conducted influential OB research. Other prominent OB researchers include Chester Barnard, Henri Fayol, Frederick Herzberg, Abraham Maslow, David McClelland, and Victor Vroom, Douglas McGregor, Karl Weick and Mary Parker Follett.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the field became more quantitative and produced such ideas as bounded rationality, the informal organization, and resource dependence. Contingency theory, institutional theory, and organizational ecology also emerged.[citation needed]

Starting in the 1980s, cultural explanations of organizations and organizational change became areas of study. Informed by anthropology, psychology and sociology, qualitative research became more acceptable in OB.[citation needed]

Current state of the field[edit]

Research in and the teaching of OB can be found in university management departments that are generally found in colleges of business and in School of social works . Similar micro OB topics are taught in industrial and organizational psychology graduate programs.

During the last 20 years, there have been additional developments in OB research and practice:

  • Anthropology has become increasingly influential, and led to the idea that one can understand firms as communities, by introducing concepts such as organizational culture, organizational rituals, and symbolic acts.[1]
  • Leadership studies became part of OB.
  • OB researchers have shown increased interest in ethics and its importance in an organization.[citation needed]
  • OB researchers have become interested in the aesthetic sphere of organizations,[7] drawing on theories and methods from the humanities, including theater, literature, music, and art.

Methods used[edit]

A variety of methods are used in organizational behavior, many of which are found in other social sciences.

Quantitative research[edit]

Main article: Quantitative research

Statistical methods[8][9] commonly used in OB research include:

Computer simulation[edit]

Computer simulation is a prominent method in organizational behavior.[10] While there are many uses for computer simulation, most OB researchers have used computer simulation to understand how organizations or firms operate. More recently, however, researchers have also started to apply computer simulation to understand individual behavior at a micro-level, focusing on individual and interpersonal cognition and behavior[11] such as the thought processes and behaviors that make up teamwork.[12]

Qualitative research[edit]

Main article: Qualitative research

Qualitative research[8] consists of a number of methods of inquiry that generally do not involve the quantification of variables. Qualitative methods can range from the content analysis of interviews or written material to written narratives of observations. Some common methods include:


Counterproductive work behavior[edit]

Counterproductive work behavior consists of behavior by employees that harm or intended to harm organizations and people in organizations.[13]


Main article: Decision-making
  • Rational planning model
  • Normative decision-making (concerned with how decision is ordinarily made)
  • Descriptive decision-making (concerned with how a thinker arrives at a judgment)
  • Prescriptive decision-making (aims to improve decision-making)

Employee mistreatment[edit]

There are several types of mistreatment that employees endure in organizations including abusive supervision, bullying, incivility, and sexual harassment.

Abusive supervision[edit]

Main article: Abusive supervision

Abusive supervision is the extent to which a supervisor engages in a pattern of behavior that harms subordinates.[14]


Main article: Workplace bullying

Although definitions of workplace bullying vary, it involves a repeated pattern of harmful behaviors directed towards an individual.[15] In order for a behavior to be termed bullying, the individual or individuals doing the harm have to have either singly or jointly more power than the victim.


Main article: Workplace incivility

Workplace incivility consists of low-intensity discourteous and rude behavior with ambiguous intent to harm that violates norms governing appropriate workplace behavior.[16]

Sexual harassment[edit]

Main article: Sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is behavior that denigrates or mistreats an individual due to his or her gender, creates an offensive workplace, and interferes with an individual being able to do the job.[17]


Main article: Team

Job-related attitudes and emotions[edit]

Organizational behavior deals with employee attitudes and feelings.


Main article: Leadership

There have been a number of approaches and theories that concern leadership. Early theories focused on characteristics of leaders, while later theories focused on leader behavior, and conditions under which individuals can be effective. Some leadership approaches and theories include:

  • Contingency theory says that good leadership depends on characteristics of the leader and the situation.[21]
  • Ohio State Leadership Studies identified the dimensions of consideration (showing concern and respect for subordinates) and initiating structure (assigning tasks and setting performance goals).[23][24]
  • Path-goal theory is a contingency theory linking appropriate leader style to organizational conditions, and subordinate personality.[25]

Managerial roles[edit]

In the late 1960s Henry Mintzberg, a graduate student at MIT, carefully studied the activities of five executives. On the basis of his observations, Mintzberg arrived at three categories that subsume managerial roles: interpersonal roles; decisional roles; and informational roles.[27]


Baron and Greenberg (2008)[28] wrote that motivation involves "the set of processes that arouse, direct, and maintain human behavior toward attaining some goal."

There are several different theories of motivation relevant to OB.

National culture[edit]

National culture is thought to affect the behavior of individuals in organizations. This idea is exemplified by Hofstede's cultural dimensions theory. Hofstede surveyed a large number of cultures and identified six dimensions of national cultures that influence the behavior of individuals in organizations.[35]

  • Power distance
  • Individualism vs. collectivism
  • Uncertainty avoidance
  • Masculinity vs. femininity
  • Long-term orientation vs. short term orientation
  • Indulgence vs. restraint

Organizational citizenship behavior[edit]

Organizational citizenship behavior is behavior that goes beyond assigned tasks and contributes to the well-being of organizations.[36]

Organizational culture[edit]

Organizational culture emphasizes the culture of the organization itself. This approach presumes that organizations can be characterized by cultural dimensions such as beliefs, values, rituals, symbols, and so forth.[37] Within this approach, the approaches generally consist of either developing models for understanding organizational culture or developing typologies of organizational culture. Edgar Schein developed a model for understanding organizational culture and identified three levels of organizational culture:

  • Artifacts and Behaviors
  • Espoused Values
  • Shared Basic Assumptions

Schein argued that if any of these three levels were divergent tension would result: if, for example, espoused values or desired behaviors were not consistent with the basic assumptions of an organisation it is likely that these values or behaviors would be rejected.

Typologies of organizational culture identified specific organisational culture and related these cultures to performance[38] or effectiveness[39] of the organization.


Main article: Personality

Personality concerns consistent patterns of behavior, cognition, and emotion in individuals.[40] The study of personality in organizations has generally focused on the relation of specific traits to employee performance. There has been a particular focus on the Big Five personality traits, which refers to five overarching personality traits.

Occupational stress[edit]

Main article: Occupational stress

There are number of ways to characterize occupational stress. One way of characterizing it is to term it an imbalance between job demands (aspects of the job that require mental or physical effort) and resources that help manage the demands.[41]


Main article: Work-family conflict

Chester Barnard recognized that individuals behave differently when acting in their work role than when acting in roles outside their work role.[42] Work-family conflict occurs when the demands of family and work roles are incompatible, and the demands of at least one role interfere with the discharge of the demands of the other.[43]

Organization theory[edit]

Main article: Organization theory

Organization theory is concerned with explaining the organization as a whole or populations of organizations. The focus of organizational theory is to understand the structure and processes of organizations and how organizations interact with industries and societies. Within business schools, organization theory or OT is considered a separate specialization in management from OB.[citation needed]


Main article: Bureaucracy

Max Weber argued that bureaucracy involved the application of rational-legal authority to the organization of work, making bureaucracy the most technically efficient form of organization.[44] Charles Perrow extended Weber's work, arguing that all organizations can be understood in terms of bureaucracy and that organizational failures are more often a result of insufficient application of bureaucratic principles.[45]

Weber's principles of bureaucratic organization:

  • A formal organizational hierarchy
  • Management by rules
  • Organization by functional specialty and selecting people based on their skills and technical qualifications
  • An "up-focused" (to organization's board or shareholders) or "in-focused" (to the organization itself) mission
  • Purposefully impersonal, applying the same rules and structures to all members of the organization

Economic theories of organization[edit]

Institutional theory[edit]

Main article: Institutional theory

Organizational ecology[edit]

Organizational ecology models apply concepts from evolutionary theory to the study of populations of organisations, focusing on birth (founding), growth and change, and death (firm mortality). In this view, organizations are 'selected' based on their fit with their operating environment.

Organization structures and dynamics[edit]

Scientific management[edit]

Main article: Scientific management

Scientific management refers to an approach to management based on principles of engineering. It focuses on incentives and other practices empirically shown to improve productivity.

Systems theory[edit]

Main article: Systems theory

The systems framework is also fundamental to organizational theory. Organizations are complex, goal-oriented entities.[47] Alexander Bogdanov, an early thinker in the field, developed his tectology, a theory widely considered a precursor of Bertalanffy's general systems theory. One of the aims of general systems theory was to model human organizations. Kurt Lewin, a social psychologist, was influential in developing a systems perspective with regard to organizations. He coined the term "systems of ideology," partly based on his frustration with behaviorist psychology, which he believed to be an obstacle to sustainable work in psychology (see Ash 1992: 198-207). Niklas Luhmann, a sociologist, developed a sociological systems theory.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Moorhead, G., & Griffin, R. W. (1995). Organizational behavior: Managing people and organizations (5th edition). Boston. Houghton Mifflin, (p.4)
  2. ^ Wagner, J. A., & Hollenbeck, J. R. (2010). Organizational behavior: Securing competitive advantage. New York: Routledge.
  3. ^ Barnard, C.I. (1938), The Functions of the Executive, Cambridge: Harvard University Press
  4. ^ Simms, L.M., Price, S.A., & Ervin, N.E. (1994). The professional practice of nursing administration.Albany, NY: Delmar Publishers. (p. 121)
  5. ^ a b Miner, J.B. (2006). Organizational behavior, Vol. 3: Historical origins, theoretical foundations, and the future. Armonk, NY and London: M.E. Sharpe.
  6. ^ Jex, S. & Britt, T. (2008). Organizational psychology: A scientist-practitioner approach. 2nd ed. New York: Wiley.
  7. ^ Taylor, S. & Hansen, H. (2005). Finding form: Looking at the field of organizational aesthetics. Journal of Management Studies, 42(6), 1211–1231
  8. ^ a b Brewerton, P.M., & Millward, L.J. (2010). Organizational research methods: A guide for students and researchers. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  9. ^ Organizational Research Methods
  10. ^ Harrison, Lin, Carroll, & Carley, 2007
  11. ^ Hughes, H. P. N., Clegg, C. W., Robinson, M. A., & Crowder, R. M. (2012). "Agent-based modelling and simulation: The potential contribution to organizational psychology". Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 85(3), 487–502.
  12. ^ Crowder, R. M., Robinson, M. A., Hughes, H. P. N., & Sim, Y. W. (2012). The development of an agent-based modeling framework for simulating engineering team work. IEEE Transactions on Systems, Man, and Cybernetics – Part A: Systems and Humans, 42(6), 1425–1439.
  13. ^ Spector, P. E., & Fox, S. (2005). The Stressor-Emotion Model of Counterproductive Work Behavior. In S. Fox, P. E. Spector (Eds.) , Counterproductive work behavior: Investigations of actors and targets (pp. 151-174). Washington, DC, US: American Psychological Association. doi:10.1037/10893-007
  14. ^ Tepper, B. J. (2000). "Consequences of abusive supervision". Academy of Management Journal, 43(2), 178-190. doi:
  15. ^ Rayner, C., & Keashly, L. (2005). Bullying at Work: A Perspective From Britain and North America. In S. Fox & P. E. Spector (Eds.), Counterproductive work behavior: Investigations of actors and targets. (pp. 271-296). Washington, DC, US: American Psychological Association.
  16. ^ Andersson, L. M., & Pearson, C. M. (1999). "Tit for tat? The spiraling effect of incivility in the workplace". Academy of Management Review, 74, 452-471.
  17. ^ Rospenda, K. M., & Richman, J. A. (2005). Harassment and discrimination. In J. Barling, E. K. Kelloway & M. R. Frone (Eds.), Handbook of work stress (pp. 149-188). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  18. ^ Balzer, W. K. & Gillespie, J. Z. (2007). Job satisfaction. In Rogelberg, S. G. (Ed.). Encyclopedia of industrial and organizational psychology Vol. 1 (pp. 406-413). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  19. ^ Allen, N. J. Organizational commitment. In Rogelberg, S. G. (Ed.). Encyclopedia of industrial and organizational psychology Vol. 2 (pp. 548-551). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  20. ^ Ashkanasy, N. M., Härtel, C. E. J., & Daus, C. S. (2002). "Diversity and emotion: The new frontiers in organizational behavior research". Journal of Management, 28(3), 307-338.
  21. ^ Fiedler, F. E. (1978). The contingency model and the dynamics of the leadership process. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (pp. 59-112). New York: Academic Press.
  22. ^ Graen, G. B., Novak, M. A., & Sommerkamp, P. (1982). "The effects of leader-member exchange and job design on productivity and satisfaction: Testing a dual attachment model". Organizational Behavior & Human Performance, 30(1), 109-131. doi:
  23. ^ Fleishman, E. A., & Harris, E. F. (1962). Patterns of leadership behavior related to employee grievances and turnover. Personnel Psychology, 15, 43-56.
  24. ^ Levy, P. E. (2006). Industrial/organizational psychology: Understanding the workplace. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
  25. ^ House, R. J., & Mitchell, T. R. (1974). Path-goal theory of leadership. Contemporary business, 3, 81-98.
  26. ^ Bass, B. M., Avolio, B. J., & Atwater, L. E. (1996). The transformational and transactional leadership of men and women. Applied Psychology: An International Review, 45, 5-34.
  27. ^ Robbins, S. P. (2009). Organizational behaviour. Cape Town, Pearson.
  28. ^ Baron, Robert A., and Greenberg, Jerald. Behavior in organizations – 9th edition. Pearson Education Inc., New Jersey: 2008. p.248
  29. ^ Adams, J. S. (1965). Inequity in social exchange. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (pp. 276-299). New York: Academic Press.
  30. ^ Vroom, V. H. (1964). Work and motivation. New York: John Wiley.
  31. ^ Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50, 370-396.
  32. ^ Greenberg, J. (1987). A taxonomy of organizational justice theories. Academy of Management Review, 12, 9–22.
  33. ^ Herzberg, F. (1968, January/February). One more time: How do you motivate employees? Harvard Business Review, 52-62.
  34. ^ McGregor, D. M. (1960). The human side of enterprise. New York: McGraw-Hill.
  35. ^ Hofstede, Geert, Gert Jan Hofstede and Michael Minkov.Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind, 3rd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill. 2010
  36. ^ Organ, D. W. (1988). Organizational citizenship behavior: The good soldier syndrome. Lexington, MA, England: Lexington Books/D C Heath and Com.f
  37. ^ Shein, Edgar (1992). Organizational Culture and Leadership: A Dynamic View. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  38. ^ Kotter, John and Heskett, James L. (1992) Corporate Culture and Performance, Free Press; ISBN 0-02-918467-3
  39. ^ Denison, Daniel R. (1990) Corporate culture and organizational effectiveness, Wiley.
  40. ^ Michel, W., Shoda, Y., & Smith, R. E. (2004). Introduction to personality: Toward an integration. New York: Wiley
  41. ^ Demerouti, E., Bakker, A. B., Nachreiner, F., & Schaufeli, W. B. (2001). The job demands-resources model of burnout. Journal of Applied Psychology, 86(3), 499-512. doi:
  42. ^ Barnard, C.I. (1938). The functions of the executive. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  43. ^ Greenhaus, J. H., & Beutell, N. J. (1985). Sources and conflict between work and family roles. Academy of Management Review, 10(1), 76-88.
  44. ^ Weber, Max. The Theory of Social and Economic Organization. Translated by A.M. Henderson and Talcott Parsons. London: Collier Macmillan Publishers, 1947.
  45. ^ Perrow, C. (1986). Complex organizations: A critical essay (3rd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.
  46. ^ French, J. R. P., Jr., & Raven, B. (1959). The bases of social power. In D. Cartwright (Ed.), Studies in social power (pp. 150-167). Ann Arbor, MI: Institute for Social Research.
  47. ^ Katz, D., & Kahn, R. L. (1978). The social psychology of organizations (2 ed.). New York: Wiley.
  48. ^
  49. ^
  50. ^
  51. ^
  52. ^
  53. ^
  54. ^

Further reading[edit]

  • Ash, M.G. (1992). "Cultural Contexts and Scientific Change in Psychology: Kurt Lewin in Iowa." American Psychologist, Vol. 47, No. 2, pp. 198–207.
  • Hatch, M.J. (2006), "Organization Theory: Modern, symbolic, and postmodern perspectives." 2nd Ed. Oxford University Press ISBN 0-19-926021-4.
  • Helge H, Sheehan MJ, Cooper CL, Einarsen S “Organisational Effects of Workplace Bullying” in Bullying and Harassment in the Workplace: Developments in Theory, Research, and Practice (2010)
  • Jones, Ishmael (2008), The Human Factor: Inside the CIA's Dysfunctional Intelligence Culture. New York: Encounter Books ISBN 978-1-59403-382-7.
  • Richmond, Lewis (2000), Work as a Spiritual Practice: A Practical Buddhist Approach to Inner Growth and Satisfaction on the Job, Broadway
  • Robbins, Stephen P. (2004) Organizational Behavior - Concepts, Controversies, Applications. 4th Ed. Prentice Hall ISBN 0-13-170901-1.
  • Robbins, S. P. (2003). Organisational behaviour: global and Southern African perspectives. Cape Town, Pearson Education South Africa.
  • Salin D, Helge H “Organizational Causes of Workplace Bullying” in Bullying and Harassment in the Workplace: Developments in Theory, Research, and Practice (2010)
  • Scott, W. Richard (2007). Organizations and Organizing: Rational, Natural, and Open Systems Perspectives. Pearson Prentice Hall ISBN 0-13-195893-3.
  • Weick, Karl E. (1979). The Social Psychology of Organizing 2nd Ed. McGraw Hill ISBN 0-07-554808-9.
  • Simon, Herbert A. (1997) Administrative Behavior: A Study of Decision-Making Processes in Administrative Organizations, 4th ed., The Free Press.
  • Tompkins, Jonathan R. (2005) "Organization Theory and Public Management".Thompson Wadsworth ISBN 978-0-534-17468-2
  • Kanigel, R. (1997). The One Best Way, Frederick Winslow Taylor and the Enigma of Efficiency. London: Brown and Co.
  • Morgan, Gareth (1986) Images of Organization Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications