Research in organizational behavior


Purposes of Research

Research is concerned with the systematic gathering of information. Its purpose is to help us in our search for the truth. Although we will never find ultimate truth in the context of research to know precisely about the reasons of any person or group would behave in any organization. The ongoing research adds to our OB knowledge by supporting some theories, contradicting others, and suggesting new theories to replace those that fail to gain support.

Research Terminology

Researchers have their own vocabulary for communicating among themselves and with outsiders. The following briefly defines some of the more popular terms you’re likely to encounter in behavioral science studies.


A variable is any general characteristic that can be measured and that changes in amplitude, intensity, or both. Some examples of OB variables found in this textbook are job satisfaction, employee productivity, work stress, ability, personality, and group norms.


A tentative explanation of the relationship between two or more variables is called a hypothesis. My friend’s statement that participation in college athletics leads to top executive position in a large corporation is an example of a hypothesis. Until confirmed by empirical research, a hypothesis remains only a tentative explanation.

Dependent Variable

A dependent variable is a response that is affected by an independent variable. In terms of the hypothesis it is the variable that the researcher is interested in explaining. Referring back too our opening example, the dependent variables in my friend’s hypothesis was executive succession. In organizational behavior research, the most popular dependent variables are productivity, absenteeism, turnover, job satisfaction and organizational commitment.

Independent Variable

An independent variable is the presumed cause of some change in the dependent variable. Participating in varsity athletics was the independent variables in my friend’s hypothesis. Popular independent variables studied by OB researchers include intelligence, personality, job satisfaction, experience, motivation, reinforcement patterns, leadership styles, reward allocations, selection methods, and organization design.

You may have noticed we said that job satisfaction is frequently used by OB researchers as both a dependent and an independent variable. This is not an error. It merely reflects that the label given to a variable depends on its place in the hypothesis. In the statement “Increases in Job satisfaction lead to reduced turnover�, job satisfaction is an independent variable. However, in the statement “Increases in money lead to higher job satisfaction�, job satisfaction becomes a dependent variable.

Moderating Variable

A moderating variable abates the effect of the independent variable on the dependent variable. It might also be thought of as the contingency variable: If X (independent variable), then Y (dependent variable) will occur, but only under conditions Z (moderating variables). To translate this into a real-life example, we might say that if we increase the amount of direct supervision in the work area (X), then there will be a change in worker productivity (Y), but this effect will be moderated by the complexity of the tasks being performed.