THE FIELD OF ORGANISATIONAL BEHAVIOUR
The field of OB concerns itself with the study of the behaviour of individuals
and groups in the context of organisations. The following equation provides fundamental basis for understanding OB (French, Kast, & Rosenzweig, 1985, p.3): Behaviour = f (P, E)
where P refers to personal characteristics and E represents the environment. Human behaviour thus is a function of the individual’s personal characteristics and the environmental context. Our personal characteristics are based on genetic factors plus all the past learning experiences that have shaped who we are. We bring these personal characteristics into the organisational situation, which in turn, affects the way we think and act. Environmental context factors such as the organisational structure, culture, nature of the job.
DEFINITION OF ORGANISATIONAL BEHAVIOUR
“The study of the structure, functioning and performance of organisations and the behaviour of groups and individuals within them” (Pugh, 1971, p. 9)
“The field that seeks knowledge of behaviour in organisational settings by systematically studying individual, group, and organisational processes”(Greenberg & Baron, p. 6)
“A field of study that investigates the impact that individuals, groups, and structure have on behaviour within organisations, for the purpose of applying such knowledge toward improving an organisation’s effectiveness” (Robbins, Judge, & Sanghi, 2009, p. 10)
OB seeks to develop a base of knowledge using a systematic, empirical andresearch-oriented approach. A scientific approach is said to be a central defining characteristic of modern OB. Human behaviour in organisations is complex and often difficult to understand, and thus the relevance of the scientific approach. As with any science, OB practitioners seek knowledge to describe, understand, predict, and control behaviour in organisations. We shall discuss these goals in detail in the next section.
OB is scientific because of the information and methodology it represents. Its information results from inquiries carried out according to four scientific core values: accuracy, objectivity, skepticism, and open-mindedness; and its methods consist of the procedures involved in making such investigations. Concepts and theories in OB invariably arise out of extensive research. It is important to note that theories in OB are much more descriptive than prescriptive. This means that although the subject provides information that gives us a better understanding of human behaviour in organisations, no attempt is made to say what the behaviour should be.
Three Levels of Analysis: Individual, Group and Organisation
All the definitions of OB depict that the field focuses on behaviour at threedistinct levels of analysis:
Level 1: Individual. Where the focus is on processes/phenomenon such as values,attitudes, beliefs, intelligence, motivation etc. that influence how people behave as individuals.
Level 2: Group. This is more concerned with social and interpersonal aspects, such as group dynamics and leadership.
Level 3: Organisation. The main concern here is the behaviour of an organisation as a whole, for e.g. its culture, structure and processes.
OB, as a field of study, is more frequently taught to students of business and management than to anyone else, and the intention is that those who want to make their career in organisations should better understand the complexities of human behaviour. OB can be very useful to practicing managers, whatever the type of organisation. OB should help provide present and future managers (which category do you fall in?) with a sounder understanding of the problems actually encountered in managing and working with people. It should also help them realise the alternative solutions available when confronted by human relations problems within the organisation.
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