Globalisation, Organisational Behaviour And Organisational Development

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The modern world is smaller yet global market that undergoes rapid change. Today, we are confronted with the scenario of a changing workforce that is multicultural and diverse in beliefs, ethnicities and behaviours. For instance, in the United States one-quarter of the American workforce is represented by minorities with this figure expected to grow in the future. Also, women account for fifty percent of the paid workforce in the United States.

This diversity presents organisations with both opportunities and unique challenges. A diverse workforce in a global market is great advantage, but while the benefits are obvious, there are also various issues that diversity throws up, these issues need attention for work to take place in peaceful and efficient manner.

In this modern world that has been shrunk through transport and communication it is paramount for work teams to consist of employees with different traits and behaviours. It is the job of a manager to effectively manage these varied individuals and mould the behaviours to bring about harmony and benefit the organisation keeping in mind the company's core values and business aims.

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Organisational Behaviour is defined as, "Actions and attitudes of individuals and groups toward one another and towards the organization as a whole, and its effect on the organization's functioning and performance."

While Organisational Development is stated to be, "Theory and practice of planned systematic change in the attitudes, beliefs, and values of the employees through creation and reinforcement of long-term training programs. Its objective is to enable the organization in adopting-better to the fast-changing external environment of new markets, regulations, and technologies.

Both Organisational Behaviour and Development are interwoven and their concepts are capable of acting mutually. Some of the areas where they are used together could be in trust building exercises, team-work strategies, critical listening, cultural exchange and also behaviour modification.

What is Behavioural Modification?

All organisations are set up with particular core goals and aims in mind. Various resources including money, machines and manpower are utilised to achieve these goals. Modern businesses often refer to their Human Resources (manpower) as their biggest and most important asset and it is widely understood that this single resource plays a vital and irreplaceable role in the attainment of success and the achievement of an organisation's objectives. Thus, human behaviour at work plays an essential role in the smooth functioning of day to day activities as well the targeted long term goals. It is essential for a manager to posses the skills to identify and predict undesired behaviour and bring about required changes in order to make human behaviour at work productive and supportive to the organisation's goals.

In business language the art of modifying and moulding human behaviour is known as behavioural modification. It is a conscious effort on behalf of a supervisor or manager to reinforce each successive step that moves an individual towards or away from a desired or undesired behaviour in the work environment.

Behavioural modification is rooted to the fact that behaviour depends on consequence and is concerned with inducing new behavioural patterns in an individual that would benefit the organisation.

What is Reinforcement?

Reinforcement is a term that is heard often when discussing behaviour modification and is essential to conditioning. In such a context it refers to anything an individual might find rewarding. Reinforcement is related to the psychological process of motivation and is environmentally based. Reinforcers are external environmental events that follow a desired behaviour. Reinforcement could be either positive or negative and is likely to strengthen the response and increase the probability of repetition.

Burrhus Frederic Skinner and his contribution to the field of Behavioural Modification

B.F. Skinner, an American psychologist and professor at Harvard University is considered to be one of the pioneers of behavioural modification. Most modern day behavioural modification concepts are a result of Skinner's work and his most renowned theory is the Reinforcement Theory.

Skinner's theory is based on the Law of Effect which states that an individual is highly likely to repeat behaviour when followed by favourable consequences (reinforcement) and tends not to repeat a particular behaviour when it is followed by an unfavourable consequence.

The Reinforcement Theory

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Professor B.F. Skinner articulated the major theoretical constructs of the Reinforcement Theory. Skinner was of the opinion that internal requirements and drive of an individual are inconsequential and that individuals can be taught to exhibit behaviours based on events that follow the behaviour.

The theory focuses on overriding unwanted behaviour and influencing required behaviour aided by the use of rewards and punishment that are dealt out as a consequence of the behaviour. This method of behaviour change is commonly known as operant conditioning.

There are two essential prerequisites for the effective application of the Reinforcement Theory in real life scenarios, they can be found below.

Managers must be able to find a consequence that is strong enough to have an impact on the targeted employee.

Managers must be able administer a consequence in such a manner that it is easy for the employee to understand the relation between the behaviour that is targeted for change and the resulting consequence.

According to the theory managers must know if they are required to increase or decrease the probability of an event. Once this has been decided a manager must then determine if the use of a positive or negative consequence is appropriate. Finally, a manager must consider if it is correct to apply or withhold the consequence to gain a desired behavioural change. The answer to these dilemmas is answered through four unique alternative consequences: Positive Reinforcement, Negative Reinforcement, Punishment and Extinction. They have been explained in greater detail below:

Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement encourages behaviour by following a response with a favourable consequence. An employee who receives recognition or any other reward is likely to repeat the behaviour. It is advisable for management to have a dedicated program for positive reinforcement as it has been documented to increase job performance and satisfaction

Negative Reinforcement

Negative Reinforcement is often confused with punishment. While punishment is aimed at decreasing the probability of an undesirable act, negative reinforcement is the termination or withdrawal of an unpleasant consequence following a desired behaviour. Negative reinforcement strengthens and increases the repetition of the behaviour.

Punishment

The use of punishment as a managerial strategy is becoming more common. It is applied by confronting an undesired behaviour with an unwanted or uncomfortable consequence and it is meant to discourage repetition of the behaviour in question. Punishment discourages certain behaviour but does no have a direct impact on enforcing a positive behaviour either. Punishment has the potential to sour work relationships and thus must be used with caution after evaluation of all relevant aspects of the situation.

Extinction

Extinction is the act of withholding positive reinforcement with the aim of decline and eventual cessation of an unwanted behaviour. Extinction is equally capable of ending good/acceptable behaviour as well if the manager unknowingly fails to recognise an employee's contribution over time. The most common example of unwanted extinction is when an employee's suggestions and inputs are ignored by a superior, it often leads to the employee holding back his/her opinions in the future and the chance that a helpful input will never see the light of day increases.

 

Something Wanted

Something Unwanted

Something Given

is a reward and a positive reinforcement

is punishment

Something Denied

is punishment

is a reward and a negative reinforcement

Reinforcement Schedules

The timing of reinforcement is paramount to its success, in professional and academic circles the timing of reinforcement is referred to as reinforcement scheduling. In real life work settings it is next to impossible to continually reinforce desired behaviour.

Since continuous reinforcement is not practically viable, reinforcement is commonly run according to an intermittent schedule. C.B. Ferster along with B.F. Skinner developed an intermittent system with the following four schedules;

1) Fixed Interval - A reinforcer is applied after the passage of a certain period of time post the occurrence of the desired behaviour.

e.g. - A manager praises individuals in his team only once a week at the Monday morning meeting. In this case the interval is one week and the employee receives recognition for any amount of work done in that specific seven day span.

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2) Variable Interval - A reinforcer is applied at a random stage with no identifiable or definite period of time.

e.g. - The management team promotes an employee to position of higher authority after an eight month period after recognising his contribution and consistent performance over an unrelated period of time.

3) Fixed Ratio - A reinforcer is applied only after a fixed number of desired events have passed.

e.g. - A sales executive receiving a bonus after he's achieved a certain targeted number of sales

4) Variable Ratio - A reinforcer is applied only after a certain number of desired results, however, the number of desired results changes from time to time or with different situations.

e.g. - An employee receives time-off with pay or an award

The above four schedules are referred to as methods of Partial Reinforcement, where responses are reinforced only part of the time.

Reinforcement schedules and their effects on behaviour are explained further with the table below.

Schedule

Description

When applied to Individual

When Removed by Manager

Organizational Example

Continuous Reinforcement

Reinforcer follows every response

Fast method for establishing new behaviour

Faster method to cause extinction of new behaviour

Praise and recognition immediate to every response

Partial Reinforcement

Fixed Interval

Response after specific time period is reinforced

Some inconsistency in response frequencies

Faster extinction of motivated behaviour than variable schedules

Daily, weekly or monthly pay check

Variable Interval

Response after varying period of time (an average) is reinforced

Produces high rate of steady responses

Slower extinction of motivated behaviour than fixed schedules

Promotion, Recognition, Transfer

Fixed Ratio

A fixed number of responses must occur before reinforcement

Some inconsistency in response frequencies

Faster extinction of motivated behaviour than variable schedules

Piece rate, Commission on sales

Variable Ratio

A varying number (average) of responses must occur before reinforcement

Can produce high rate of responses that is steady and resists extinction

Slower extinction of motivated behaviour than fixed schedules

Awards, Bonus, Time-off

Source (Table): O.Behling, C.Schriesheim and J.Tolliver - Present Theories and New Directions in Theories of Work Effort - Journal of Supplement Abstract Service of the American Psychological Association - 1974

A run of the mill behavioural modification technique consists of the following four steps:

Stating the desired behaviour as objectively as possible

Measuring the current incidence of desired behaviour

Providing the correct consequence to reinforce the desired behaviour

Maintain a systematic assessment of behavioural change post the behavioural modification program

While the Reinforcement Theory is often criticised, the insights the theory provides into individual learning and motivation will always be of importance.

Criticisms & Limitations of Reinforcement Theory

There are many criticisms levelled against the Reinforcement Theory, the strongest accusing the system of completely ignoring cognition amongst human beings. It has been argued that a purely theoretical approach fails to address the impact that any alternate motivations might have on human behaviour. The Reinforcement Theory also fails to explain altruism (selfless deeds) whose sole aim is to help another person.

Looking past these criticisms the Reinforcement Theory does still have further limitations in practice, a few which are listed below.

Limitations of the Reinforcement Theory

1) Reward and punishment are bound to alter from person to person based on personal preferences and also based on the circumstances under which they are dealt out. Rewards might vary in their attractiveness from one employee to the next and likewise punishment too can have a range of reactions from rage to total indifference.

2) Managers are often confronted with situations that require them to re-think their reward and punishment strategy as it is quite common for reinforcers to lose their value/effect as time goes by. Human nature, be it a child or grown professional causes us to lose interest or become oblivious to receiving rewards and reprimands once they are seen as a norm. Just like a child loses interest in candy as a reward, a professional isn't always driven by just the promise of a bonus or a few extra days of paid leave and can often be seen to expect it as part of normal procedure and not an incentive.

3) It is difficult for the manager to be in complete control of all sources of reinforcement. It is very common for an employee's peer group to be a stronger reinforcer than any kind of punishment.

4) The system of rewards does not always bring about an internal change, the desired change is just a response to the reward offered. Once the reward is withdrawn, the likelihood of the employee reverting to old behavioural patterns is high.

5) Punishment is not always easy to deliver. It is an instrument that must be used with care. Punishment must be consistent and unavoidable, it must follow the undesired act closely (i.e. it must be immediate) and must also be firm.

6) Punishment can lead to anger, fear and a range of other negative emotions that are undesirable at work. These emotions will be associated with the manager or superior who inflicts punishment.

Conclusion

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