WHY STUDY ORGANIZATIONAL BEHAVIOR?
Organizations are essential and dominant influences on life in our modern world. They are the principle means by which we achieve goals beyond the capability of individuals acting alone.[i] More formally, organizations are “social structures created by individuals to support the collaborative pursuit of specific goals.”[ii] Commodity wholesalers and grocery stores gather and distribute food, schools and universities educate and socialize children and adults, factories manufacture goods, hospitality and consulting businesses offer services, government agencies and hospitals dispense assistance, coffee houses and internet bookstores sell products, and social networking and dating sites connect people. Yet, despite the fact that some organizations (such as corporations) are given legal status as persons, organizations do not exist, operate, or influence society without people. It is more accurate to say that people acting collectively accomplish much.
Organizational behavior (OB) is the discipline that sets out to explain human behavior in organizations by examining the behavior of individuals, groups, or all the members of an organization as a whole. This examination relies on the science of identifying cause and effect relationships, making explicit the factors influencing decisions and behavior, and taking into account the specifics of various situations.[iii] It also calls upon developing theory that takes into account empirical research and that helps to set the agenda for future research. Together, OB theory and science explain what influences individual and collective behavior, when these influences operate and have their greatest impact, and how people’s behavior shapes the internal and external organizational environment. Simply put, the focus of this book is on understanding people and their essential role in enabling organizations to serve society.
It is impossible to escape, avoid, or eliminate the influence of organizations. Given that organizations are part of our everyday life, every person reading this book either has experienced or will experience many of the principles and situations we will explore. You can thus expect to benefit from understanding and applying the concepts discussed in this book in your daily life. More specifically, there are at least three reasons to keep reading (see Fig. 1-1).
[i] Parsons, T. (1960). Structure and process in modern societies. Glencoe, IL: Free Press.
[ii] Scott, W. R. (1998). Organizations: Rational, natural, and open systems. (4th Ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
[iii] Rousseau, D. M., & McCarthy, S. (2007). Educating managers from an evidence-based perspective. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 6(1), 84-101.
First, studying OB helps you to understand yourself. By understanding OB, you can get a better sense of the values and forces that influence your attitudes, feelings, and behavior. This will not only make your work experience less stressful and more enjoyable; it should also help you understand how people respond to you.
Second, understanding OB can improve the interactions you have with others by providing practical suggestions for influencing and collaborating with them, working in teams, and leading organizations. It also will help you understand the behavior of your managers, the people you manage, and those who work alongside you in teams or on projects.
Third, a strong grasp of OB will allow you to increase your contribution to an organization and prepare you to serve in a management or leadership role, a challenge to which we give particular attention throughout this book. According to prominent management philosopher and scholar Peter Drucker, the work of managers and leaders is a great responsibility; because it “deals with people, their values, and their personal development … management is deeply involved in moral concerns.”[i] Fulfilling this responsibility will require technical skills or expertise in areas like marketing or accounting or finance or human resources, strong relational skills that help you get along with and motivate people, and strong conceptual skills thatinclude the ability to understand complex issues, underlying causes, and problems with broad implications. Our discussion of OB in this book is primarily focused on improving your relational and conceptual skills.
[i] Pages 12-13 in Drucker, P. F. (2001) The essential Drucker. New York, NY: Harper Collins.