Foundations of individual behavior in work environment

Biographic Characteristics:

Biographic characteristics are readily available to managers. For the most part, they include data that are contained in almost every employee’s personnel file. The most important conclusions we can draw after our review of the evidence are that age seems to have no relationship to productivity and older workers and those with longer tenure are less likely to resign. But what value can this information have for managers? The obvious answer is that it can help in making choices among job applicants.


Ability directly influences an employee’s level of performance and satisfaction through to ability-job fit. Given management’s desire to get a compatible fit, the action required to be taken first is an effective selection process to improve the fit. A job analysis will provide information about jobs currently being done and the abilities that individuals need to perform the jobs adequately. Applicants can then be tested, interviewed, and evaluated on the degree to which they possess the necessary abilities.

Second, promotion and transfer decisions affecting individuals already in the organization’s employ should reflect the abilities of candidates. As with new employers, care should be taken to assess critical abilities that incumbents will need in the job and to match those requirements with the organization’s human resources.

Third, the fit can be improved by fine tuning the job to better match an incumbent’s abilities. Often, modifications can be made in the job while not having a significant impact on the job’s basic activities, better adapts it to the specific talents of a given employee. Examples would be to change some of the equipment used or to reorganize tasks within a group of employees.

A final alternative is to provide training for employees. This is applicable to both new workers and job incumbents. Training can keep the abilities of incumbents current or provide new skills s times and conditions change.


Any observable change in behavior is prima facie evidence that learning has taken place.

We found that positive reinforcement is a powerful tool for modifying behavior. By identifying and rewarding performance-enhancing behaviors, management increases the likelihood that they will be repeated. Our knowledge about learning further suggests that reinforcement is a more effective tool than punishment. Although punishment eliminates undesired behavior more quickly than negative reinforcement does, punished behavior tends to be only temporarily suppressed rather than permanently changed. And punishment may produce unpleasant side effects such as lower morale and higher absenteeism or turnover. In addition, the recipients of punishment tend to become resentful of the punisher. Managers, therefore, are advised to use reinforcement rather than punishment.

Managers should also expect that employees will look to them as models. Managers who are constantly late to work, or take two hours for lunch, or help themselves to company office supplies for personal use should expect employees to read the message they are sending and model their behavior accordingly. Therefore a manager must avoid doing such improper things so that he leads his team as a role model.