Explore the underlying principles and theories of organizational behavior and learn how understanding these concepts can help organizations improve their performance, create a positive work environment, and manage change effectively. Discover the science behind organizational behavior today.
What is Organizational Behavior?
Organizational behavior is a field of study that focuses on understanding and predicting the behavior of individuals and groups within organizations. It encompasses a wide range of topics, including motivation, leadership, communication, decision-making, and group dynamics.
What is the Science Behind Organizational Behavior?
The science behind organizational behavior draws on several disciplines, including psychology, sociology, economics, and management, and it has produced a wealth of research, theories, and strategies aimed at improving the effectiveness of organizations.
Let’s dive deeper into disciplines, theories and strategies:
Disciplines in the science of organizational behavior
Psychology plays a crucial role in understanding organizational behavior. This field provides insight into the ways in which people think, feel, and behave. For example, psychologists have studied motivation and have identified various factors that influence an individual’s behavior, such as needs, goals, and values. They have also explored how people make decisions, including how they process information, weigh the pros and cons of different options, and reach a conclusion.
Sociology provides a broader perspective on organizational behavior by looking at the social structures and cultural norms that shape behavior in organizations. This includes the study of how power and status are distributed within organizations and how they impact decision making and communication. Sociologists have also studied how groups form and how they interact with one another, including how group dynamics can lead to both cooperation and conflict.
Economics is concerned with understanding the incentives and trade-offs that influence behavior in organizations. For example, economists have studied how individuals respond to incentives and how organizations can use incentives to motivate their employees. They have also explored how organizations can design compensation systems that are both fair and effective in motivating employees.
The science behind organizational behavior also draws on other disciplines, such as anthropology and management.
For example, anthropologists have studied the ways in which culture and values impact behavior in organizations, while management experts have focused on developing theories and practices for leading and managing people in organizations.
Theories in the science of organizational behavior
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs
One of the most fundamental theories in the science of organizational behavior is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which suggests that individuals have basic physiological and safety needs that must be met before they can focus on higher-level needs such as self-esteem and self-actualization (Maslow, 1943).
This theory has been widely used to understand and predict employee behavior, and it has been applied to the design of motivation programs in organizations.
The theory of expectancy is a motivation theory that suggests that individuals are motivated by their belief that their effort will lead to desired outcomes, and that these outcomes are valuable to them.
The theory was first proposed by Victor Vroom in 1964 and has since been widely studied and applied in organizations and businesses.
According to the theory of expectancy, individuals make decisions about their behavior based on three key factors:
Expectancy refers to the individual’s belief that increased effort will lead to improved performance. Instrumentality refers to the belief that improved performance will lead to the attainment of desired outcomes. Valence refers to the value an individual places on these desired outcomes.
For example, an employee who believes that putting in extra effort will lead to better performance (expectancy), and that better performance will result in a promotion (instrumentality), and that a promotion is valuable to them (valence), is likely to be highly motivated to put in extra effort.
On the other hand, an employee who does not believe that increased effort will lead to improved performance, or that improved performance will lead to the attainment of desired outcomes, is likely to be less motivated.
The theory of expectancy has several implications for organizations. For example, it suggests that organizations can increase employee motivation by clearly linking effort to desired outcomes, and by making sure that employees believe that these outcomes are attainable.
Additionally, organizations can increase employee motivation by ensuring that desired outcomes are seen as valuable and relevant to employees.
The science of organizational behavior has also produced several theories of leadership, including transformational leadership, situational leadership, and contingency theory. Transformational leadership, for example, focuses on the leader’s ability to inspire and motivate followers, while situational leadership proposes that the best leadership style depends on the maturity and competence of the followers (Bass & Riggio, 2006).
Contingency theory suggests that the most effective leadership style depends on the situation, including factors such as the leader’s personality, the followers’ characteristics, and the task being performed (Fiedler, 1967).
Strategies aimed at improving the effectiveness of organizations
In addition to theories, the science of organizational behavior has produced a wide range of strategies aimed at improving the effectiveness of organizations.
Effective communication systems
One of the most important is the design of effective communication systems, which can help organizations to improve information flow, reduce misunderstandings, and increase collaboration and teamwork.
Incentives and rewards
Another important strategy is the use of incentives and rewards, which can be used to align employee behavior with organizational goals and increase motivation.
Study of group dynamics
Key area of the science of organizational behavior is the study of group dynamics, including the ways in which individuals interact in groups and the impact of group behavior on decision-making and performance. This area of study has produced several theories and models, including social exchange theory, which proposes that individuals engage in behavior based on the perceived costs and benefits of that behavior (Blau, 1964), and social learning theory, which suggests that individuals learn from observing the behavior of others (Bandura, 1977).
Improving the decision-making process within organizations
The science of organizational behavior has also produced several strategies aimed at improving the decision-making process within organizations. One of these is the use of decision-making frameworks, such as the SWOT analysis, which helps organizations to identify their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, and to make informed decisions.
A very important strategy is the use of collaboration tools, such as brainstorming and group decision-making techniques, which can help organizations to tap into the collective intelligence of their employees and to make better decisions.
We must understand, the science of organizational behavior is a rich and interdisciplinary field that has produced a wealth of theories, research, and strategies aimed at improving the effectiveness of organizations.
By understanding the behavior of individuals and groups within organizations, organizations can design policies and practices that are more effective in achieving their goals and in improving the well-being of their employees.
- Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
- Bass, B. M., & Riggio, R. E. (2006). Transformational leadership (2nd ed.). Psychology Press.
- Blau, P. M. (1964). Exchange and power in social life. New York: Wiley.
- Fiedler, F. E. (1967). A theory of leadership effectiveness. New York: McGraw-Hill.
- Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50(4), 370-396.
- Vroom, V. H. (1964). Work and motivation. New York: Wiley.