HOW COULD STUDYING ORGANIZATIONAL BEHAVIOR BENEFIT BOTH MANAGERS AND ORGANIZATIONS?
Organizational behavior refers to the study of circumstances, factors, and influences that affect the behavioral patterns, attitudes, and relationships of people and teams within organizations (Shafritz, Ott and Jang, 2015). An understanding of organizational behavior is important as it defines the approaches leaders and managers adopt and implement to successfully or effectively supervise, control, and influence people within organizational settings (Hatch and Cunliffe, 2013). It is argued that since attitudes and behavior of people within an organization influence their productivity and performance organizational behavior should be the most important consideration in the implementation of educational and training programs for managers (Champoux, 2010). Furthermore, studying organizational behavior is the prerequisite to the successful implementation of managerial roles of helping employees to be effective members of work teams (Shafritz, Ott and Jang, 2015). It is however notable that the competence of employees goes beyond the influence of attitudes and behaviors. This is because the level of productivity and performance exhibited by employees is also influenced by their skills, prior experiences, and knowledge. On the basis of this understanding, this paper presents a critical evaluation of how studying organizational behavior is beneficial to managers and organizations.
Studying Organization Behavior Theories
Scientific management is one of the theories studied in organizational management. This theory was postulated by Frederick Taylor and provides that managers should apply scientific methods in the execution of their roles, such as decision making and coordination in their efforts to improve performance (Bell and Martin, 2012). However, Thompson (2012) demonstrates that scientific methods alone are not effective in managing large organizations. This is attributed to the fact that large organizations are complex systems that require the application of multiple approaches in management. Therefore, studying scientific management does not adequately prepare managers to be effective in managing large organizations. In addition, the scientific methods taught in organizational behavior, such as Taylor’s mechanical approaches are not appropriate for modern organizations. This is because Taylor’s mechanical approaches excessively focus on the element of efficiency and tend to neglect the needs of employees (Bell and Martin, 2012). Since modern organizations are people-oriented, it is argued that studying scientific management in organizational behavior courses is not sufficiently beneficial for managers within contemporary work environments.
Regardless of criticisms directed at scientific management theory in organizational behavior, it is notable that there are specific elements of this theory that would be useful to modern organizations. Thompson (2012) illustrates that studying scientific management theory allows managers to appreciate the importance of achieving excellence through proper organization of work schedules and division of labor. Therefore, if scientific management methods are effectively implemented within modern organizations, they would contribute towards the achievement of desired outcomes in the contexts of productivity and performance. For this reason, managers studying scientific management theory and its methods should apply it with an understanding that modern organizations are complex and diverse. Goetsch and Davis (2014) explain that it is through an understanding of the characteristics of modern organizations that managers will be able to apply the seemingly narrow provisions of scientific management to meet the divergent needs of employees within large organizations, such as flexible work schedules and delegation of decision-making processes.
An analysis of the scientific management methods and approaches indicates that they are more beneficial to modern organizations than they are to managers who apply them. Shafritz, Ott and Jang (2015) demonstrate that scientific management methods, such as standardization of work and cost reduction, are aligned with the objectives of modern organizations pertaining to quality and profitability. However, managers who strictly apply the theory of scientific management, as taught in management education and training programs, are likely to become unpopular in today’s work environments. Bell and Martin (2012) argue that scientific management methods provide for the application of the best strategies and methods in doing work but fail to appreciate individual differences in approaching specific work-related tasks. Therefore, studying scientific management is likely to enable organizations to achieve desired profitability goals at the expense of the needs of employees. For this reason, effective managers can be described as those who are able to study and apply scientific management approaches and methods in the context of the needs of employees within modern organizations, such as engagement, constructive feedback, and convenience (Hatch and Cunliffe, 2013).
Studying Systems Theory
The systems theory in organizational behavior was proposed in 1928 by Ludwig von Bertalanffy. Rice (2013) reveals that regardless of the fact that systems theory is several decades old, its application within organizations is recent. The theory postulates that organizations are made of interrelated parts or components (Shafritz, Ott and Jang, 2015). Studying systems theory is appropriate for modern managers because organizations of today are characterized by a high level of interrelatedness. This is depicted by the cultural climate of successful organizations, such as teamwork, emphasis on communication, use of collaborative technologies, and shift of focus from work methods to professional relationships (Bell and Martin, 2012). Rice (2013) argues that studying system theory allows managers to develop a realistic view of organizational behavior. This argument is reasonable since the system theory describes organizations as open systems that engage in constant interaction with their surroundings (DuBrin, 2013). Notably, managers who apply the principles of system theory are able to understand and appreciate factors within the business environment that influence organizational behavior, such as workers’ unions, employment legislation, and advances in technology. This is unlike scientific management theory which focuses more on improving the design of the internal working environment and methods (Lussier and Achua, 2015). On the basis of this understanding, one can objectively argue that studying systems theory is more beneficial to managers and organizations than studying scientific management.
Rice (2013) asserts that the systems theory is applicable in modern organizations in managerial processes such as measuring employee performance and controlling interactions between teams and departments. This assertion is justified because the systems theory provides for demarcation and communication between an organization's systems and subsystems (Alvesson and Sveningsson, 2015). Therefore, measuring the performance of each department or team is made easier when managers apply the concepts of systems theory learned in organizational behavior education or training. Notably, the benefits the systems theory provides to both managers and their organizations are depicted by its main tenets, such as goal orientation, communication, and alignment of the needs of the system with those of its subsystems (Lussier, 2011). For instance, Thompson (2012) presents a convincing argument that the alignment of the systems theory with the needs of modern organizations is based on the inclusion of the element of subsystems and the environment in its main provisions. This can be demonstrated by the fact that a systems view allows managers to implement business strategies that allow their organizations to survive in modern business environments that are characterized by a high level of market rivalry, rapid technological obsolescence, and challenges in maintaining innovative talent (Shafritz, Ott and Jang, 2015). These illustrations lead to a logical conclusion that the application of the systems theory in managing modern organizations is appropriate over scientific management.
Studying Theories of Motivation
Motivation is argued to be one of the most important aspects of organization behavior studied in management education and training programs (Petri and Govern, 2012). This argument is supported by vast research literature on employee motivation and numerous recommendations therein on how managers and organizations can motivate their employees. Managers study a wide range of motivation theories, including Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, Herzberg two-factor theory, reinforcement theory, and equity theory (Nahavandi et al., 2013). Regardless of the divergent approaches in employee motivation, it is notable that the goals of theorists in this aspect of organizational behavior are similar. Notably, theorists in motivation seek to help managers and organizations to meet the needs of employees, to enhance morale and job satisfaction, and to influence positive behavior towards work (Shafritz, Ott and Jang, 2015). This justifies Vroom's expectancy theory, which integrates the main elements of different motivation theories. The benefits of a motivated workforce, such as enhanced financial performance, lead to an objective argument that studying motivation theory should be among the core objectives of management education and training programs. This argument is also informed by the fact that motivation influences almost all aspects of organization behavior, including corporate culture, organizational change, teamwork, management of conflict and office politics. Rice (2013) concisely notes that positive organization behavior is associated with a motivated workforce. Therefore, the competence of managers, such as their ability to apply learned skills and knowledge to advance organizational objectives can be measured in the context of their ability to motivate subordinates.
According to Petri and Govern (2012), studying and applying Maslow’s theory of needs allows managers to appreciate the needs of employees, including physiological needs, esteem needs, safety needs, and social needs. Notably, the needs theory is wide in scope as it describes various organizational influences affecting the motivation of employees. However, managers are not directly responsible for meeting the specific needs of employees as postulated by Maslow’s theory needs. Pinder (2014) asserts that managers may not be directly responsible for meeting the physiological needs of employees. Nonetheless, studying Maslow’s theory enables managers to be the champions of positive organization culture, which promotes communication, respect, and diversity with the goal of meeting the esteem and psychological needs of employees. Petri and Govern (2012) argue that the equity theory gives managers a limited view of the factors that influence the motivation of employees and positive organizations behaviors. This is due to the fact that the equity theory focuses on equitable compensation and benefits and fails to address specific aspects of organizations behavior in the context of diversity. Thompson (2012) demonstrates the logic behind these arguments by illustrating that conflicts within an organization are associated with a wide range of factors beyond equitable compensation. For instance, clashes in personality among employees often contribute to conflicts even when their needs for equity are met. Nonetheless, managers can overcome the limitations of some of the motivation theories they study through the utilization of the strengths of other theories to motivate desired organization behavior and performance outcomes.
Studying Concepts of Organizational Behavior
It is notable that organizational behavior is a wide concept with numerous concepts applicable in different organizational settings. This leads to the question of whether or not concepts in organizational behavior studied by managers are relevant to the management needs of modern organizations. In order to answer this question, it is important to assess the main organizational behavior concepts included in educational curricula and training programs in management. They include the nature of organizations, models of organizational behavior, and organization culture (Shafritz, Ott and Jang, 2015). Each of these concepts is critically assessed in the following sections in the context of studying management and the interests of modern organizations.
Nature of Organizations
In organizational behavior studies, managers are enabled to view organizations in the context of social systems and the practice of professional ethics (Alvesson and Sveningsson, 2015). This approach to organizational behavior is appropriate because modern working environments are typical social systems comprised of diverse individuals who share common strategic goals and objectives (DuBrin, 2013). Therefore, the success of modern organizations in achieving their vision and mission is influenced by managers’ perceptions of an organization. However, this does not prevent some managers from pursuing personal goals instead of the objectives of their organization (Petri and Govern, 2012). Therefore, the ability and willingness of managers to apply learned concepts in organization behavior influence their effectiveness in advancing the objectives of their organizations and the interests of their subordinates. Miner (2015) points out that the concept of organizational ethics has attracted significant attention in research and management practice within modern organizations due to the increasing appreciation of employee rights and advancement of equality agenda through legislative and policy frameworks. However, education and training in management would be more comprehensive through the integration of the concept of mutual interest into learning objectives. Thompson (2012) explains that the success of modern organizations is based on symbiotic relationships occurring among organizations, managers and employees. This means that managers studying organizational behavior should seek to appreciate the needs of employees in return for organizational benefits, such as innovation, active participation and increased productivity.
Models of Organizational Behavior
Lussier (2011) reveals that managers study models in organizational behavior, such as autocratic, supportive, custodial and collegial models. Studying these models is an effective way of allowing managers to determine the management orientation they should apply in specific organizational settings (Altman, Valenzi and Hodgetts, 2013). Goetsch and Davis (2014) note that supportive organizational behavior models are favored in training programs for managers. This would be attributed to the role of supportive management in motivating employees and achieving desired performance levels. Rice (2013) notes that education and training programs in management present managers with a lot of information pertaining to organizational behavior theory, some of which may be irrelevant or less appropriate for modern organizations. For instance, autocratic models of organizational behavior are not popular in modern organizations as they often result in negative effects, such as rebellion from subordinates and unwillingness to embrace change (Petri and Govern, 2012). Therefore it makes sense for studies in organizational behavior to focus on models that are more relevant to modern organizations, including collegial and system models due to their role in promoting partnerships, teamwork, and sharing of responsibilities, including decision making and problem-solving (Shafritz, Ott and Jang, 2015).
Thompson (2012) asserts that studying organizational culture is an important process that prepares managers for modern organizations. This is because the conventional behaviors workers within modern organizations exhibit are influenced by their customs, beliefs, knowledge, experiences, and practices. However, it is the effectiveness of a manager in influencing employees to assume the desired organizational culture that defines their effectiveness in managerial roles. In this regard, Miner (2015) recommends that managers should be trained to integrate the divergent values and beliefs of employees in management practices with the goal of influencing shared cultural values that best represent the interests of their organizations. According to Pinder (2014), organizational values today’s managers should focus on include innovation, teamwork, and flexibility. Notably, most management education and training programs are effective as they are aligned with the attributes of today’s organizations, such as the use of emerging technologies to promote collaboration, teamwork, communication, and flexible working environments (Alvesson and Sveningsson, 2015).
Studying organizational behavior benefits managers and organizations in several ways. For instance, it allows managers to apply organizational models that are aligned with the needs of employees within modern organizations. It also enables them to appreciate the impact of the complexity and diversity of modern organization on employee motivation and performance. Education and training programs on organization behavior allow organizations to take advantage of managerial competencies to promote teamwork, organizational change, collaboration, and innovation, which influence their competitiveness in the globalized market environment. The analysis presented in this paper identifies specific flaws and challenges in studying organizational behavior, which is related to the relevance, appropriateness, and applicability of specific theoretical frameworks in the management of modern organizations. Therefore, future research on education and training in organization behavior should focus on addressing the identified challenges.
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