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How organizational behaviour helps manager solve practical problems at the individual level of analysis:

Organizational Behaviour

Organizational Behaviour (OB) is the study and application of knowledge about how people, individuals, and groups act in organizations. It does this by taking a system approach. That is, it interprets people-organization relationships in terms of the whole person, whole group, whole organization, and whole social system. Its purpose is to build better relationships by achieving human objectives, organizational objectives, and social objectives.

Elements of Organizational Behaviour

The organization's base rests on management's philosophy, values, vision and goals. This in turn drives the organizational culture which is composed of the formal organization, informal organization, and the social environment. The culture determines the type of leadership, communication, and group dynamics within the organization. The workers perceive this as the quality of work life which directs their degree of motivation. The final outcomes are performance, individual satisfaction, and personal growth and development. All these elements combine to build the model or framework that the organization operates from.

Managerial Duties

Managers perform a broad range of activities like allocating resources, making decisions directing the attitudes of others to achieve goals. Organizational Behaviour helps managers to gain the following outcomes by replacing intuition with systematic study:

Increasing Productivity

A manager’s main objective should be increasing productivity continuously by changing employee behavior by applying motivation theories and learning concepts. By doing so the manager can help the organization to achieve its goals.

An organization is productive if it achieves its goals and does so by transferring inputs to outputs at the lowest cost. As such, Productivity implies a concern for both effectiveness and efficiency. For example, a hospital is effective when it successfully meets the needs of its clientele. It is efficient when it can do so at a low cost. A business firm is effective when it attains its sales or market share goals, but its productivity also depends on achieving those


goals efficiency include return on investment, profit per dollar of sales, and output per hour labor.

Reducing Turnover

Organizational Behavior Studies helps managers to reduce employee turnover rate. Reducing turnover is one of the main management issues because organizations don’t want their experienced and skilled workers to lose.

Turnover is the voluntary and permanent withdrawal form an organization. A high turnover rate results in increased recruiting, selection, and training costs. A high rate of turnover can also disrupt the efficient running of an organization when knowledgeable and experienced personal leave and replacements must be found and prepared to assume positions of responsibility. All organizations, of course, have some turnover. Infect if the “right” people are leaving the organization-the marginal and sub marginal employee’s turnover can be positive. But turnover often involves the loss of people the organization does not want to lose.

Increasing Job satisfaction

Job satisfaction is the difference between the amount of rewards worker receive and the amount they believe they should receive and the amount they believe they should receive. Job satisfaction represents an attitude rather than a behavior. The belief that satisfied employees are productive then dissatisfied employees has been a basic tenet among managers for years. Although much evidence questions that assumed causal relationship, it can be argued that advanced societies should be concerned not only with the quantity of life- that is, Concerns such as productivity and material acquisitions –but also with its quality. Those researchers with strong humanistic values argue that satisfaction is a legitimate objective of an organization.

Reduce Absenteeism

Absenteeism is the failure to report to work. Its annual cost has been estimated at over $40 billion for U.S. organizations and $12 billion for Canadian firms. It is obviously difficult for an organization to operate smoothly and to attain its objectives if employees fail to report to their jobs. The work flow is disrupted, and the often important decisions must be delayed. In organization they are rely heavily upon assembly-line production, absenteeism can be


considerably more than a disruption, It can result in a drastic reduction in quality of output, and in some cases, it can bring about a complete shutdown of the production facility. But levels of absenteeism beyond the normal range in any organization have a direct impact on that organizations effectiveness and efficiency.

Establishing Organizational citizenship

Organization citizenship is discretionary behavior that is not part of an employee’s formal job requirements, but that nevertheless promotes the effective functioning of the organization. Successful organizations need employees who will do more than their usual job duties and provide performance that is beyond expectations. Into days dynamic workplace, where tasks are increasingly done in teams and where flexibility is critical, organizations need employees who will engage in “good citizenship” behaviors such as making constructive statement about their work group and the organization, helping others on their team, volunteering for extra job activities, avoiding unnecessary conflicts, showing care for organizational property, \respecting the spirit as well as the letter of rules and regulations, and gracefully tolerating the occasional work-related impositions and nuisances.

Changing Individual Behaviour

Managers shape individuals behaviour by enforcing learning concepts to solve individual level of problems.

Operant Conditioning: Operant conditioning is the use of consequences to modify the occurrence and form of behaviour. Operant conditioning is distinguished from classical conditioning (also called respondent conditioning, or Pavlovian conditioning) in that operant conditioning deals with the modification of "voluntary behaviour" or operant behaviour. Operant behaviour "operates" on the environment and is maintained by its consequences.

Reinforcement and punishment, the core tools of operant conditioning, are either positive (delivered following a response), or negative (withdrawn following a response). This creates a total of four basic consequences, with the addition of a fifth procedure known as extinction (i.e. no change in consequences following a response).

Reinforcement is a consequence that causes behaviour to occur with greater frequency.


Punishment is a consequence that causes behaviour to occur with less frequency.

Extinction is the lack of any consequence following a response. When a response is inconsequential, producing neither favourable nor unfavourable consequences, it will occur with less frequency.

Positive reinforcement occurs when behaviour (response) is followed by a favourable stimulus (commonly seen as pleasant) that increases the frequency of that behaviour. In the Skinner box experiment, a stimulus such as food or sugar solution can be delivered when the rat engages in target behaviour, such as pressing a lever.

Negative reinforcement occurs when a behaviour (response) is followed by the removal of an aversive stimulus (commonly seen as unpleasant) thereby increasing that behaviour’s frequency. In the Skinner box experiment, negative reinforcement can be a loud noise continuously sounding inside the rat's cage until it engages in the target behaviour, such as pressing a lever, upon which the loud noise is removed.

Positive punishment (also called "Punishment by contingent stimulation") occurs when behaviour (response) is followed by an aversive stimulus, such as introducing a shock or loud noise, resulting in a decrease in that behaviour.

Negative punishment (also called "Punishment by contingent withdrawal") occurs when a behaviour (response) is followed by the removal of a favourable stimulus, such as taking away a child's toy following an undesired behaviour, resulting in a decrease in that behaviour


Outcome of Conditioning

Increase Behaviour

Decrease Behaviour





(add stimulus)

Response Cost

(remove stimulus)





(remove stimulus)


(add stimulus)

Examples of Operant Conditioning

We can find examples of operant conditioning at work all around us, such as children completing homework to earn a reward from a parent or teacher or employees finishing projects to receive praise or promotions. In these examples, the promise or possibility of rewards causes an increase in behaviour, but operant conditioning can also be used to decrease behaviour. The removal of an undesirable outcome or the use of punishment can be used to decrease or prevent undesirable behaviours. For example, a child may be told they will lose recess privileges if they talk out of turn in class. This potential for punishment may lead to a decrease in disruptive behaviours.

Classical Conditioning

Also Pavlovian or Respondent Conditioning is a form of associative learning that was first demonstrated by Ivan Pavlov. The typical procedure for inducing classical conditioning involves presentations of a neutral stimulus along with a stimulus of some significance. The neutral stimulus could be any event that does not result in an overt behavioral response from the organism under investigation. Pavlov referred to this as a Conditioned Stimulus (CS). Conversely, presentation of the significant stimulus necessarily evokes an innate, often reflexive, response. Pavlov called these the Unconditioned Stimulus (US) and Unconditioned Response (UR), respectively. If the CS and the US are repeatedly paired, eventually the two


stimuli become associated and the organism begins to produce a behavioral response to the CS. Pavlov called this the Conditioned Response (CR).

Behaviour Analysis

Behaviour analysis is a science concerned with the behaviour of people, what people do and say, and the behaviour of animals. It attempts to understand, explain, describe and predict behaviour.

Behaviour analysis differs from most psychological attempts to understand behaviour. Psychological theories study entities such as “the mind” or “the personality” or “cognitive structure"” or “self-concept” or “drives.” These are usually viewed as the basic subject matter of psychology; they are causal and behaviour is merely a derivative of them. Unfortunately, these assumed entities do not exist in the natural world of the other sciences; they do not reside in the same physical natural science realm as electrons, atoms, magnetism, cells, and so forth. Where they actually exist is unclear, perhaps in some “mental” or “hypothetical” universe. As a result, it is difficult to define and measure them unambiguously and even harder to understand how they re

Behavioral Problem Solving

Whether we are managers are not, we all solve behavioral problems every day. Whenever we attempt to intervene or change the behavior of others, we use some type of behavioral problem solving process. Managers in organizations confront behavioral problems on a daily basis. Oftentimes they are dealing with behavior of a single individual, making a quick decision as to what to do. In other cases, organizations attempt to change behavioral patterns of hundreds of employees.

Stages of the Behavioral Problem Solving Process

Problem Identification- Behavioral problem solving begins with the identification of the specific behaviour that is either dysfunctional or that you wish to change. It identifies the specific group of employees whose behaviour is in question, and justifies the importance of changing that behaviour. It is generally helpful to relate the desired behaviour to the organization's competitive advantage. The key outcome of the Problem Identification Stage is the specification of the Behavioral Gap (also called the Performance Gap), which is the


difference between expected/desired employee behaviour and actual/observed employee behaviour.

It is important to refrain from the attribution of causes of the Behavioral Gap in this stage of the problem solving process. Likewise, these problems should not be defined in terms of attitudes, personality, or other variables that you believe are causing the Behavioral Gap

Diagnosis- In the diagnosis stage, the problem solver identifies what he or she believes to be causes of the Behavioral Gap. This process starts with a First Level Diagnosis. This level of diagnosis is used to determine which of the four fundamental causes of performance is attributable to the performance problem (Motivation, Skills, Role Perception, or Resources). This diagnosis may reveal that the Behavioral Gap is a function of more than one of these fundamental causes.

The Second Level Diagnosis attempts to uncover the root causes of the first level cause. For example, if it is determined that the first level cause of the Behavioral Gap is low motivation, than the second level diagnoses would attempt to determine the root causes of low motivation. Most successful managers use complex theories of motivation to help them with this part of the analysis. Solution Generation- In this stage process, we list a number of potential solutions to our behavioral problem. These potential solutions should be aimed directly at changing the behavior specified in the behavioral gap and should be consistent with the causes outlined in the diagnosis stage.

Solution Choice- In choosing among the alternative solutions, we consider cost- effectiveness, likelihood of success, ease of implementation, the level of disruption to other systems, and likely effect on other organizational stakeholders.

Solution Evaluation- An often forgotten stage of the problem solving process is the evaluation of the effectiveness of not only the solution chosen (did it eliminate the behavioral gap), but also the evaluation of the decision-making process. This is especially important if the chosen solution did not eliminate or reduce the behavioral gap. Evaluation of the process involves questions such as: Were the right people involved? Were the mental models used in our process accurate? Did the process we used have an adverse effect on the solution chosen? And what can we do next time to insure a better result?


Using Motivation theories

Organizational Behaviour helps managers providing motivation theories to motivate employees in order to:

Promote a healthy work force- satisfy employee’s physiological needs by providing incentives for mental and physical health

Provide financial security- an important safety need

go beyond traditional forms of compensation

address issue of job security, including out placement services

Promote opportunities to socialize- organize events that help to satisfy social needs

Recognize employee’s accomplishments- award programs satisfy esteem needs

Managers that utilize these tools and ideas can be successful motivators.


DiagnosisDiagnosis ofof BehavioralBehavioral ProblemsProblems

Define Expected or Desired Behaviour Described actual Behavioral Patterns
Define Expected or
Desired Behaviour
Described actual
Behavioral Patterns
GAP: What change in behaviour is desired? Why does Gap Exist? Skills/Ability/ Motivation Role Expectations
GAP: What change in
behaviour is desired?
Why does Gap Exist?
Role Expectations
Leader/Team Coaching
Orientation Process
Leader/Team Coaching
Performance Review
Training &
Development Process
Inducement SystemsSatisfaction 1 Motivation 2 RewardEquity: Perceived fairnessExpectancy:
Perceived tie between ERB and PayTaskTask VarietyConditional Task Feedback
Autonomy, Significance, Identity, ChallengeManagerialAffirmation of worthConditional Social Feedback
validating Self ConceptSocialAffirmation of worthConditional Social Feedback validating Self Concept
The extent to which expectations are met resulting in positive feelings regarding this
inducement systems. Dissatisfaction reduces membership motivation and may reduce the
motivation to exhibit Extra Role Behaviour. Removing Dissatisfaction (increasing Satisfaction)
generally does not, in itself, motivate ERB.
Motivation is a function of the extent to which individual believes increased rewards, positive
task feedback, or social feedback are a function of increased performance (ERB). See
Sources of Motivation


Behaviour generally is predictable if we know how the person perceived the situation and what is important to him or her. An observer often sees behaviour as non rational because the observer does not perceive the environment in the same way. Certainly there are differences between individuals, placed in the same situation all people don’t act exactly alike. However there are certain fundamental consistencies underlying the behaviour of all individuals that can be identified and then modified to reflect individual development. Organizational Behaviour helps managers predict employee behaviour, shape them and remove undesired behaviours. As management deals with people, Organizational Behaviour Studies helps to manage these people in a systematic way.



Stephen P. Robbins, 2001, Organizational Behavior, Prentice Hall Inc, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, 07458

Stephen P. Robbins, Mary Coulter, 2007, Management, Pearson-Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, 07458

Richard W. Scholl, Professor of Management, University of Rhode Island

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