Over the holidays and at the end of the year, many people find themselves with family and friends catching up and discussing what has happened over the past year. I have been asked, “What is a degree in Organizational Behavior?” With that in mind I would like to describe what Organizational Behavior is and why it is important in today’s business world.
Organizational Behavior: A Definition
Organizational Behavior is the multidisciplinary field that seeks knowledge of behavior in organizational settings by systematically studying the individual, group, and organizational processes (Greenberg, 2005).
Why Does Organizational Behavior Matter?
First, I would like to pose a question question that asks you to draw on your personal experiences: Have you ever had a job where people didn’t get along, nobody knew what to do, everyone goofed off, and your boss was, well, unpleasant?
If you have, I can’t imagine that you liked working in that company at all. Now, think of another position in which everyone was friendly. In such a situation, you are likely to be interested in going to work, doing your best, and taking pride in what you do. At the heart of these differences are all issues that are of great concern to Organizational Behavior scientists and practitioners – and, as a result, they are the ones that are covered in this blog.
“Okay,” you may be asking, “in some companies things are nice and smooth, but in others, relationships are rocky – does it really matter?” As you can see throughout this blog, the answer is a resounding yes!
Here are a few highlights of specific ways in which Organizational Behavior matters to people and the organizations in which they work.
- Companies whose managers accurately appraise the work of their subordinates enjoy lower costs and higher productivity than those that handle their appraisals less accurately (Risher, 1999; Greenberg, 2005).
- People who are satisfied with the way they are treated on the job are generally more pleasant to their co-workers and bosses and are less likely to quit than those who are dissatisfied with the way others treat them (Judge & Church, 2000; Greenberg, 2005).
- People who are carefully trained to work together in teams tend to be happier and more productive than those who are simply thrown together without any definite organizational support (Hackman, Wageman, Ruddy, & Ray, 2000; Greenberg, 2005).
- Employees who believe they have been treated unfairly on the job are more likely to steal from their employers and reject the policies of their organizations than those who believe they have been fairly treated (Greenberg, 2001).
- People who are mistreated by their supervisors on the job experience more mental and physical illness than those who are treated with kindness, dignity, and respect (Benavides, Benach, Diez-Roux, & Roman, 2000; Greenberg, 2005).
- Companies that offer good employee benefits and that have friendly conditions are more profitable than those who are less people oriented (Bollinger, 1996; Greenberg, 2005).
By now, you might be asking yourself: Who is responsible for Organizational Behavior in an organization? In a sense, the answer is everyone! Although Organizational Behavior is an area of study, it cuts across all areas of organizational functioning and can many times be housed in Human Resources and Organizational Development.
However, managers in all departments have to know how to motivate their employees, how to keep people satisfied with their jobs, how to communicate fairly, how to make teams function effectively, and how to design jobs most effectively. In short, dealing with people at work is everybody’s responsibility on the job. So, no matter what job you do in a company knowing something about Organizational Behavior is sure to help you do it better.
Benavides, F. G., Benach, J., Diez-Roux, A.V., & Roman, C. (2000). How do types of employment relate to health indicators? Findings from the Second European Survey on working conditions. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, 54, 494-501.
Greenberg, J. (2001). Promote procedural justice to enhance acceptance of work outcomes. In E. A. Locke (Ed.), A handbook of principles of organizational behavior. Malden, MA: Blackwell
Greenberg, J. (2005). Managing behavior in organizations. Pearson Prentice Hall.
Hackman, J. R., Wageman, R., Ruddy, T. M., & Ray, C. L. (2000). Team effectiveness in theory and practice. In C. A. Cooper & E. A. Locke (Eds.), Industrial and organizational psychology: Linking theory to practice (pp. 109-129). Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Judge, T. A., & Church, A. H. (2000). Job satisfaction: Research and practice. In C. A. Cooper & E. A. Locke (Eds.), Industrial and organizational psychology: Linking theory to practice (pp. 166-198). Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Risher, H. (1999). Aligning pay and results. New York: AMACOM.