Defining Organizational Behaviour (OB)

With a rich historical background such as the Hawthorne studies and an accepted scientific methodology as briefly outlined above, the field of organizational behaviour is now an accepted academic discipline. As with any other relatively new academic endeavour. However, there have been some rough spots and side tracks along the way. Besides the healthy academic controversies over theoretical approach or research findings, perhaps the biggest problem that OB has had to face is an identity crisis. Exactly what is meant by OB? Is it an attempt to replace all management with behavioural science concepts and techniques? How, if at all, does it differ from good old applied or industrial psychology? Fortunately these questions have now largely been answered to the satisfaction of most management academicians, behavioural scientists and management practitioners.

In very general terms the relationships between and emphasis of OB and the related disciplines of organization theory (OT), organization development (OD), and human resource management (HRM),  OB tends to be more theoretically oriented and at the micro level of analysis. Specifically, OB draws for many theoretical frameworks of the behavioural sciences that are focused on understanding and explaining individual and group behaviour in organizations.   As with other sciences, OB accumulates knowledge and test theories by accepted scientific methods of research. In summary, OB can be defined as the understanding prediction and management of human behaviour in organizations.

Although it is not intended to portray mutually exclusive  domains for the related  fields, because the lines are becoming increasingly blurred and there is not any universal agreement of what belongs to what  area of academics or practitioners ,most people in the field would generally agree with what is shown. Organization theory tends to be more macro oriented than OB and is concerned primarily with organization structure and design. Yet, as seen, OT topics are included in the study and application of OB. Organization development   on the other hand, tends to be both more macro and more applied than OB. But also like OT, as in the text, OD topics are included in the study and application of OB. Finally, as shown, HRM tends to have a more applied focus than OB. The human resource management function is a part of practicing organizations as much as the marketing finance or operations functions are.

HR managers are hired and found with this title in practicing organizations; organizational behaviourists are not. Yet, somewhat confusingly those managers who apply and draw from the field of OB (whether they are marketing managers, finance managers hospital administrators operations managers, store managers academic administrators, office managers, or human resource managers) are called HR managers.  They are called HR managers and have a human resource management role (in addition to their other technical functional role) because they all manage people. Thus all managers regardless of their technical function, are HR managers in their view because they deal with human behaviour in organizations. All managers need to have an understanding and perspective of OB.

OB represents the human side of management, not the whole of management. Other recognized approaches to management include the process, quantitative, systems, knowledge and contingency approaches. In other words, OB does not intend to portray the whole of management. The charge that old wine (Organizational Psychology) has merely been poured into a new bottle (organizational Behaviour) has proved to be groundless. Although it is certainly true that all behavioural sciences (anthropology, Sociology and especially psychology) make a significant contribution to both the theoretical   and the research foundations   of OB, it is equally true that organizational psychology should not be equated with OB. For example, organization structure and management processes play an integral, direct role in OB, as in this text, but have at most an indirect role in organizational psychology. The same is true of many important dynamics and applications of OB. Although there will probably never be total agreement on the exact meaning or domain of OB which is not necessarily bad, because it makes the field more dynamic and exciting  there is little doubt that OB has come into its own as a field of study, research and application.

In this text OB attempts to provide the specific, necessary background and skills to make the managers of today and tomorrow as effective with the conceptual and human dimensions of management as they have been in the past with its technical, functional dimensions.

  • Valan

    Good Article .