Few absolutes in organizational behavior – OB

There are few, if any, simple and universal principles that explain organizational behavior. There are laws in the physical sciences chemistry, astronomy, physics that are consistent and apply in a wide range of situations. They allow scientists to generalize about the pull of gravity or to be confident about sending astronauts into space to repair satellites. But as a noted behavioral researcher aptly concluded, “God gave all the easy problems to the physicists.� Human beings are complex. Because they are not alike, our ability to make simple, accurate and sweeping generalization is limited. Two people often act very differently in the same situation, and the same person’s behavior changes in different situations. For instance, not everyone is motivated by money, and you behave differently at the temple than you did at a party the night before.

That doesn’t mean, of course that we can’t offer reasonably accurate explanations of human behavior or make valid predictions. However, it does mean that OB concepts must reflect situational, or contingency, conditions. We can say that x leads to y, but only under conditions specified in z (the contingency variables). The science of OB was developed by using general concepts and then altering their application to the particular situation. So, for example, OB scholars would avoid stating that effective leaders should always seek the ideas of their followers before making a decision. Rather, in some situations a participative style is clearly superior, but, in other situation, an autocratic decision making style is more effective. In other words effective. In other words, the effectiveness of a particular leadership style is contingent on the situation in which it’s used.

As you proceed through this article, you will encounter a wealth of research based theories about how people behave in organizations. But don’t expect to find a lot of straight forward cause-and effect relationships. There aren’t many Organizational behavior theories mirror the subject matter with which they deal. People are complex and complicated, and so too must be the theories developed to explain their actions.

Challenges and opportunities for OB

Understanding organizational behavior has never been more important for angers. A quick look at a few of the dramatic changes now taking place in organizations supports this claim. For instance, the typical employee is getting older; more and more women and people of color are in the work place; corporate downsizing and the heavy use of temporary workers are severing the bonds of loyalty that historically tied many employees to their employers; and global competition is requiring employees to become more flexible and to learn to cope with rapid change.

In short, there are a lot of challenges and opportunities today for managers to use OB concepts.

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