Questions on the Factors influencing Human Behaviour


Q. (a) how do individual differences and environmental factors influence human behavior in an organization? Justify your answer with examples.

(b) A manufacturing company making automotive parts finds that workers working on the assembly line have poor attendance, leave for home early and are generally unproductive. They are fully unionized and resist any attempts by management to discipline them. If you are the HR Manager of such a company, what would you do? Discuss with reference to theories of motivation, leadership, participative management and quality circles.

Organizational Behaviour:

Is a field of study which explores the impact that individuals, groups and structures have on behaviour within organizations for the purpose of applying such knowledge towards improving organization's effectiveness.

Importance of Organization behaviour:

OB is going to explain the cause-and effect relationship to modify behaviour for organizational needs. Here no two human beings will behave in an identical manner. OB seeds to explore certain consistencies in behaviour, in order to promote a rational understanding of behaviour and some degree of predictability.

Approaches in Organizational Behaviour:

Factors Influencing Human Behavior

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In order to address human factors in workplace safety settings, peoples' capabilities and limitations must first be understood. The modern working environment is very different to the settings that humans have evolved to deal with. The following human characteristics that can lead to difficulties interacting with the working environment.

Attention -The modern workplace can 'overload' human attention with enormous amounts of information, far in excess of that encountered in the natural world. The way in which we learn information can help reduce demands on our attention, but can sometimes create further problems

Perception -In order to interact safely with the world, we must correctly perceive it and the dangers it holds. Work environments often challenge human perception systems and information can be misinterpreted.      

Memory -Our capacity for remembering things and the methods we impose upon ourselves to access information often put undue pressure on us. Increasing knowledge about a subject or process allows us to retain more information relating to it.


Logical reasoning -Failures in reasoning and decision making can have severe implications for complex systems such as chemical plants, and for tasks like maintenance and planning.


Environmental, organizational and job factors, in brief, influence the behavior at work in a way which can affect health and safety. A simple way to view human factors is to think about three aspects: the individual, the job and the organization and their impact on people's health and safety-related behavior.

Following figures shows that all three are interlinked and have mutual influence

The typical examples of immediate causes and contributing factors for human failures are given below:

Individual factors

low skill and competence level

tired staff

bored or disheartened staff

individual medical problems

Job factors

illogical design of equipment and instruments

constant disturbances and interruptions

missing or unclear instructions

poorly maintained equipment

high workload

noisy and unpleasant working conditions

Organisation and management factors

poor work planning, leading to high work pressure

lack of safety systems and barriers

inadequate responses to previous incident

management based on one-way communications

deficient co-ordination and responsibilities

poor management of health and safety

Poor health and safety culture.

It is concluded that the performance of human is being strongly influenced by organizational, regulatory, cultural and environmental factors affecting the workplace.

For example, organizational processes constitute the breeding grounds for many predictable human errors, including inadequate communication facilities, ambiguous procedures, unsatisfactory scheduling, insufficient resources, and unrealistic budgeting in fact, all processes that the organization can control.

Following figure summarizes some of the factors contributing to human errors and to accidents

What is Perception?

How we view and interpret the events and situations in the world about us.


Perception is influenced by mainly three sets of factors:

i) Factors in the perceiver (perceiver variables);

ii) Factors in the target (subject characteristics);

iii) Factors in the situation (situational variables).

Factors in the perceiver include following issues:

• Self-concept of the perceiver; • Attitudes of the perceiver;

• Motives of the perceiver; • Interests of the perceiver;

• Experience of the perceiver; • Expectations of the perceiver.

Factors in the target include following issues:

• Physical appearance; • Verbal and Nonverbal Communication;

• Status; • Occupations;

• Personal characteristics; • Novelty of the target;

• Motion of the target; • Sounds of the target;

• Size of the target; • Background of the target;

Factors in the situation include following issues:

• Social context; • Organisational role;

• Work setting; • Location of event;

• Time.

Collectively, these three sets of factors determine our perceptions about others.


A manufacturing company making automotive parts finds that workers working on the assembly line have poor attendance, leave for home early and are generally unproductive. They are fully unionized and resist any attempts by management to discipline them. If you are the HR Manager of such a company, what would you do? Discuss with reference to theories of motivation, leadership, participative management and quality circles.


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The process that account for an individual's intensity, direction and persistence of efforts towards attaining a goal.

Needs + Droves + Incentives

Types of motives:

Primary motives:

Some motives are un learned physiologically based such motives are termed as physiological, biological, un learned or primary motives.

Ex: Hunger, Thirst, Sleep, Sex, Avoidance of Pain, Maternal Concern

General Motives:

Number of motives, which can neither, be classified as primary, or secondary that can be referred to as general motives. Motive must be unlearned but not physiologically oriented.

Ex: Curiosity, Manipulations, Activity Motives, Affection motives, Love, Concern, Feelings.

Secondary Motives:

Quite a few important human motives fall in this category. The important motives of Power, achievement, and affiliation are all secondary motives.


Leadership can be defined as the ability to influence a group towards, the attainment of pre-determined goals.

Traditional Theories of Leadership:

Trait Theories

Differentiate leaders from non-leaders by focusing on personal qualities and characteristics

Extraversion has strongest relation to leadership

Conscientiousness and Openness to Experience also strongly related to leadership

Agreeableness and Emotional Stability are not correlated with leadership.

Behavioral Theories:

Behaviors can be taught - traits cannot

Leaders are trained - not born

Maslow's Need Hierarchy

Selfactualization Needs

Self-esteem Needs

Social Needs or Belonging and love and affection needs

Security Needs

Physiological Need or Basic Needs

According to Maslow, certain concepts are relevant for understanding the needs. They are pre-potency,

Deprivation, domination, gratification and activation. Pre-potency is the strength associated with the needs.

Physiological needs have greater pre-potency. Deprivation is the perception of an obstacle for satisfaction of a need. Thus, deprived need has high pre-potency. Domination is attaching importance to a need. A deprived need dominates the individual. In order to reduce dissonance associated with the deprivation, individuals try to gratify by undertaking some action. Therefore, gratification is the satisfaction of the need. Gratified need does not dominate. At the end, activation of need determine motivation. Need satisfaction activates the needs from one level to next higher levels. Maslow believes that these repeat as a cycle until the highest level need is satisfied. Based on the concept Maslow identified five categories of needs and their role in motivating individuals. They are described below:

1) Physiological Needs:

Basic and primary needs required for human existence are physiological needs. They relate to biological and are required for preservation of basic human life. These needs are Identified to the human organ in the body. They are finite needs. They must be satisfied repeatedly until human beings die. They are not associated with money alone. They are hunger, thirst, sleep, shelter, sex, and other bodily needs. The proposition relating to the basic needs is that they are primary motivators to any individual and once they are satisfied, they no longer motivate. The next level need becomes important for satisfaction until the basic need is dormant. Provision of adequate monetary rewards to satisfy these needs motivate employees in organisations.

2) Safety Needs:

Individuals seek protection from natural environment, biological danger, economic deprivation and emotional threat from other beings and animals. For this purpose, he wishes security for himself. The protection may be in the form of seeking a shelter and forming into primary groups to combat threat from the natural beings. The motivational proposition are that the safety needs dominate as soon as physiological needs are satisfied, and after individual seeks to satisfy fairly the security needs they do not motivate him. In order to motivate employees, organisations provide fringe benefits, health and accident insurance, housing loans, etc.

3) Social Needs:

Basically individual is a social being. He cannot live in isolation and silence. Thus, he intends to establish relationship with other human beings and some times wish to rear animals. Social needs emerge from the basic urge of individuals to associate, belong with others, make friendship, make companionship, desire to be accepted by others and seek affection. These needs are secondary in nature. The propositions relating to social needs are that these needs are satisfied by symbolic behaviour and through physic and psychic contact with others in the society. They are substantially infinite and exist until the end of human life. Organisations should provide scope for formation of informal groups, encourage working in teams, and provide scope for interpersonal communication, interpersonal relationships and interpersonal understanding to motivate employees.

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4) Esteem Needs:

Maslow believes that people seek growth. They have natural desire to be identified and respected by others. This instinct is called as esteem. Esteem needs are associated with self-esteem and esteem from others. The need for power, self respect, autonomy, self confidence, achievement, recognition of competence, knowledge, desire to have freedom, status and secure attention of others, appreciation are some of the esteem needs individual wishes to satisfy. Maslow identified them, as higher order needs. The nature of esteem needs is that they are dormant until basic, security and social needs are fairly satisfied. Satisfaction of esteem needs produce a feeling of self-confidence, strength, capability and adequacy in the individuals.

5) Self-actualization Needs:

Self-actualization is transformation of perception and dream into reality. Individuals have inner potential to do something different from others. Realising the full inner potential, one wishes to become what he is capable of becoming. Attaining to the level of fulfilment of selfactualization needs is a difficult task as individuals are not clear about their inner potentials until an opportunity is perceived. Moreover these needs change with a change in human life. The intensity of self-actualization changes over life cycle, vary from person to person and environment.

The following propositions are made about the motivation of individuals based on the Maslow hierarchy of needs.

i) Five needs are classified into lower order needs and higher order needs. While physiological, safety and security needs are lower order needs, esteem and self actualization needs are higher order needs.

ii) Lower order needs are satisfied externally and higher needs are satisfied internally.

iii) Individuals start satisfying lower order needs first and proceed to satisfy higher order needs later.

iv) No need is fully satisfied during the life period of individuals. A need substantially satisfied no longer motivates.

v) A need when substantially satisfied produces satisfaction and it becomes dormant. Immediately the next level need becomes active. So Individual is continuously motivated to satisfy unsatisfied needs. So, motivation is a continuous process.

vi) Satisfaction of lower order needs does not produce contentment. In fact, they produce discontentment to satisfy other needs.

vii) Not all individuals have the same priority to satisfy the needs. Priorities differ from country to country and from situation to situation.

viii) Individuals are aggressive in the satisfaction of basic needs and unconsciousness demands the satisfaction. However, they use social consciousness in the satisfaction of other needs.

Maslow's need hierarchy theory of motivation was considered logical and simple to understand human motivation. The theory has received attention of practicing managers as they feel that identification of needs of employees provides an insight to motivate them. This theory suggested that giving same reward more than individuals' desire will have diminishing marginal utility. This has specific significance to the practicing manager.

Maslow Hierarchy of Needs

Leadership & Human Behavior

As a leader, you need to interact with your followers, peers, seniors, and others; whose support you need in order to accomplish your goals. To gain their support, you must be able to understand and motivate them. To understand and motivate people, you must know human nature. Human nature is the common qualities of all human beings. People behave according to certain principles of human nature.

Human needs are an important part of human nature. Values, beliefs, and customs differ from country to country and even within group to group, but in general, all people have a few basic needs. As a leader you must understand these needs because they can be powerful motivators.

Characteristics of self-actualizing people:

Have better perceptions of reality and are comfortable with it.

Accept themselves and their own natures.

Lack of artificiality.

They focus on problems outside themselves and are concerned with basic issues and eternal questions.

They like privacy and tend to be detached.

Rely on their own development and continued growth.