Reflective Diary on Organisational behaviour in Salford schools

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I originate from France and have now lived in England for two years. While in France, I obtained a degree in English Language and worked as a teaching assistant for children with special educational needs. Since coming to England, I have been employed by Salford City Council to work as a Modern Foreign Language Assistant in three primary schools.

As my studies background was not business oriented, I have no academic knowledge of Organisational Behaviour. However I personally believe that my working experience as a teacher has allowed me to have a glance at this field. Indeed, according to a definition given in the lecture handout, organisational behaviour is "a study of individual and group behaviour in organisations and organisations themselves that aims to understand, predict and control individuals' behaviour to improve organisational performance and effectiveness ". In a way, I had to be aware of the different cultural, familial and intellectual backgrounds of my students to organise a variety of resources and adapt my teaching styles accordingly in order to improve the performance of the students and of the school as a whole.

I am a hard working individual who is willing to learn. Therefore , my main objectives to pass this module are: firstly, to attend every lectures, secondly to read as many recommended books and further readings as possible, and lastly to question every aspect treated in class and try to apply them in real life experiences. From my personal development, my objective is to go out from the strict scholar mould which consists at memorising various concepts and rewriting them during the exam in favour of broadening my knowledge by scrutinising the current environment and actualities in order to discern how theories learnt in class may be applicable or rejected.

Part two: Learning experience in Organisational Behaviour module.

Week one, 01,Oct 2010 : Introduction to OB

The first session was aimed at giving students knowledge of what is organisational behaviour. Organisational behaviour is a field that requires applying different theories and putting them into practices in order to better understand the behaviours of the individuals working in an organisation. The lecture has underlined the importance of theories and experiences. Indeed, they give an overall understanding of people's behaviour and allow managers to respond effectively and with more flexibility in order to improve the company's performance.

I personally think that it is an important discipline as it appears to be the key for successful managerial decisions. Managers should cleverly understand the best assets of any organisations, the employees. Indeed, according to Shuler, R. S and Jackson, S.E (1999: 435), "A key component of every organizational system is its human resources". Employees are the essential "material" for a company and without them, no work can be executed.

At the end of this introduction lecture, I felt quite motivated to study the discipline more in details as I believe that studying behaviour is challenging and enormously complex. As Subramanya Sarma V.V. (1997: 1) points out "the behaviour of human being is unpredictable".

Week two,08 Oct 2010 : Approaches to organisational behaviour

We discussed, through group presentations, several approaches that a company may follow to manage its workforce .The approaches were scientific management, Bureaucracy, Human Relations, Contingency, systemic, postmodernism.

All approaches have advantages but drawbacks too. For example, I believe that a management system based on bureaucracy would have more difficulties to have a flexible response to environmental changes and the Taylorism approach would create a bad atmosphere in which money is the only driving force while human relations management would be an open door to resistance and disorder. I come to the conclusion that all these approaches should be gathered to create "the "perfect management style.

I suddenly realise that I was faced to a similar situation while teaching in England. Indeed, I was hesitant on the teaching method to follow as it was the first time I had to teach in a different country. Therefore I experienced different styles to each class and the results were that in the class where I applied strict rules, the atmosphere was negative and students were looking forward ending the class while in another class I took more attention to my students, listening to their wants and the class went perfectly. What is interesting here is that in France, only strict teaching methods worked for me and freedom created chaos in my class. Therefore I may underline that culture has to be taken into account when deciding of the best managerial approach because each culture may react differently.

Week three, 15 Oct 2010 :Perceptions and communication in organisations

According to the lecture's handout, perception is a "psychological process responsible for attending to, organizing and interpreting sensory data". Perceptions are unique, that is to say that people have different perceptions of a same situation based on their own experiences, their personalities and the environment they are part of. Therefore, perceptions can not be accurate and there is a huge space for judgmental opinion and discrimination. Indeed, even without noticing it, managers can have a negative and distorted image of an employee, especially during the recruiting process.

This idea leads me to question a French saying: "the first impression is always the best". Indeed, one may wonder how to be sure that the impression one has at first sight is accurate if perception differs according to experiences? Some people are judged negatively at first sight, without even talking. Therefore, it is not how people perceive the world that causes this, but more how people communicate, verbally or not, to each other. In this first case, body language plays an essential role. People must be aware of their body language if they want to be perceived positively. The difficulty is added on a cross-cultural context as body language differs from one country to another and international businessmen have to be conscious of their postures, their gestures or their presentations.

From my personal experience, I can say that I am faced to ineffective communication everyday: my partner's mother tongue is Arabic, mine is French but as none of us understand our respective language, we communicate in English. I acknowledge that this has brought some issues. Indeed, we may use an intonation or automatically translate words from our mother tongue into English that appear to sound very disrespectful and not appropriate sometimes. I am convinced that arguments would have been avoided if both of us were clearly aware and understanding of our differences in communication.

Week four, 22 Oct 2010 : Individuals differences and diversity in organisations

Diversity is qualified by Mullins (2005) as people "who hold different perspectives and views; bringing different quality to the workplace; having different aspirations and having different customs and tradition."

Managing diversity appears to be extremely challenging as managers needs to be aware of cross-cultural and personalities differences in order to effectively compete in a business scene. However, as mentioned in Roosevelt Thomas,R.(1991:ix), "diverse workforce is not a burden, but their greatest potential strengths". I am convinced that diversity is strength for the performance of organisations as it brings creativity, innovations and proves the organisation's ability to be flexible in their management style. Various organisations in the United Kingdom have understood this importance and have applied a precise diversity management style such as HSBC or B&Q. Their aims are to avoid discrimination and to provide equal rights for everyone. However, I tend to think that, contradictorily, this is a form of discrimination. Indeed, by avoiding discrimination over a certain type of workers and privileging them, the company automatically discriminate the other part of the workforce. I come to the conclusion that an effective diversity management is not achieved by privileging the workers who are most often discriminated, but recruiting staff regardless of any past prejudices. Recruitment has not to be limited to one single criterion or comply with the organisation required diversity statistics. I was very pleased to read that one company share the same view. Indeed, according to the Telegraph, the Guinness care and support has refused to pay its staff for over time during Christmas day and Boxing Day this year as it is seen as discriminatory towards other employees from diverse religions which have to work during their own sacred celebrations.

Week five ,29 Oct 2010 : Team work

The reading on this topic interested me tremendously, mainly due to the fact that I have various experiences of it.

First of all, I learned that a group, either formal or informal, involves interdependency among the individuals. (Mc Kenna, 1994) Individuals within groups share common values and attitudes (religion, politics, lifestyle, marriage, work...) and strive towards mutual aims and objectives. This idea is part of Newcomb's balance theory of group formation mentioned in Luthans(2002:465) . According to Mc Kenna (1994:314), groups are usually formed for three main reasons: Firstly, as a human desire to expand relations with others and to feel united in case of problems or unpredictable events. Secondly, as a desire to share experience and be guided. Lastly, the reason will be for an individual to stimulate his/her sense of leadership or oppositely to be depended and hidden behind others. From an organisational point of view, groups can also be formed by managers as a way to install team work.

I believe that forming groups is excellent to increase effectiveness and achieve better results. Indeed, workers feel more motivated because they feel highly involved in the company, especially if they are self-managed team. What is more, I suppose that an individual has better chance to increase his/her capacities and knowledge when part of a group. The reason is that a group have the function to guide all members towards a common success especially when the fall of someone leads automatically to the fall of the entire group.

These positive points that I have enumerated are issued from my personal experience as a primary school teacher. Working in pairs or small groups, have permitted everyone in my classes to be involved in the lesson. I installed this method as I noticed few pupils who were too shy to participate. With such method, the pupils will no longer do an individual work but contribute to the success or the failure of his team members. Therefore, this technique has allowed them to be involved in the lesson and I could observe, during the group work time, that they were adding their contributions to the groups and more surprisingly, that one of these shy children was actually the most advanced pupil in French.

Week 8 , 19 Nov 2010: Contemporary leadership ideas

The class discussed about the various type of leaders, the necessity or not to have a leader and the perception of leadership in a cross-cultural environment. There is however, one point mentioned in class that drew my attention. In the definition of an authentic leader, the theory designs four main characteristics that compose an authentic leader: balanced processing (paying attention to various views before giving the final decision), Internalised moral perspective (applying personal values and principles in decisions), relational transparency (always mentioning the truth) and self awareness (Walumbwa et al 2008 cited in the lecture's handout). However I tend to question the third point which implies telling the truth. Indeed, most of the recognised leaders in politics are reputed for their tendency not to honour promises. It became a normal phrase for many people to say that politicians are manipulating and lying to citizens. There is one recent example which supports this idea. The telegraph has declared that Nick Clegg admitted that he broke the vow on tuitions fees. Indeed, the Liberal Democrat Deputy Prime Minister formerly collected votes from the student audience as he presented himself as against any rise in tuition fee. He and all his party's Mps had signed a pledge with the National Union of students before the election in May 2010 but the decision on increasing tuition fees has been passed which has provoked violent demonstrations and Martin Horwood, one of the Democrat Mp was termed as a "liar" by the crowd. In conclusion, transparency cannot be an attribute for leaders as I am convinced that if Nick Clegg has told that rise in tuition fees may be bad but unfortunately inevitable, he would not have gathered as much votes.

Week 9 , 26 Nov 2010: Organisational power, politics and conflict

Conflict and quest for power is an important topic to discuss as conflict is a "fact of life, in organisation just as everywhere else as people compete for jobs, resources, acknowledgement and security" (Bagshaw, 1998).

Moreover, it may tremendously impact on an organisation's performance. The lectures reviewed diverse schools' opinion on conflict. I agree with the Unitarist, who considers that conflict is negative and dangerous for an organisation as they have a holistic view of organisations (Fox 1966 mentioned in the handout).Bagshaw (1998) mentioned the case of a conflict between two employees. He highlighted the fact that this conflict had a major influence in the atmosphere of the whole company. This refers to the holistic view of the organisation by the Unitarist School which suggests that a conflict not only impact on the individuals involved in the conflict, but affect the whole organisation and lastly its performance and success. This idea is reinforced by a recent case that occurred within Microsoft. Indeed, the launch of their mobile phone called KIN this year failed memorably, realising a poor figure of 500 devices sold. Therefore, they had to take it from the market after only six weeks (sam diaz,ZD net. 210) . What is interesting here is that an internal conflict between two employees seems to be the origin of this disaster and more particularly two employees who occupied powerful positions. According to Engadget, a web blog on electronic items, the failure was caused by a rivalry between a Microsoft executive James Allard and a Windows Vice President Andy Lees. J Allard was initially at the head of the project but Andy Lees, in quest for power, succeeded to eject the former in favour of his division who are said not to be as competent as J Allard's team for this particular task. This example clearly shows how the quest for power and recognition in a company can generate conflict and result to a chaotic experience affecting the whole organisation.

Part 3: evaluative summary.

The lectures have linked scholar theories and ideas into practices and current actualities which have appeared to be extremely interesting. Indeed generally, modules tend to be exam-oriented only and contents are hardly applicable in future carriers. In contrast, within this module, the balance between theory and practice has been well managed by both lecturers.

Moreover, critical analysis has been emphasised throughout the semester which has permitted students to express their own views without necessarily agreeing with the lecturer's opinions. In this respect, it has allowed me to challenge myself into gaining personal views and more importantly, into knowing me better. Indeed, I remember that the lecturer asked us to write one word that would represent us and I was stuck, incapable of describing myself. This has really affected me thus, I asked my relatives for one word that would correspond to me and I was quite surprised to discover that some of my relatives mentioned the exact same words. They knew me better that I knew myself. In addition to that, they described me as totally opposite of what I thought I was.

This idea leads to a topic dealt this semester, which is perception. I realised that perception is unique, depends on various factors and commonly creates distorted images: one may perceive a situation or a person differently than another person may do. This is therefore, one of the main challenges of organisations to deal effectively with differences in perceptions as it may lead to further conflicts, wrong communication process, and ineffective management practices. Personally, perception is, without any doubt, the leitmotiv of this course.

Lastly, I realised that I applied some of the theories when a teacher, even though I had no business background. It reassured me dramatically because I felt that I could contribute to the class too. Consequently, I certainly claim that all my objectives have been fulfilled during this semester.

As for my experience in writing a reflective diary, I may admit that the starting point was very hesitant. I never wrote this type of assignment and I have always been used to adopt a formal form in my written style. In addition to that, I missed three sessions due to health troubles which made the reflective process very stressing and I felt that I would never be able to write it. However, once I began, it proved to be challenging to be extremely concise and to follow the requirements for the world limit as I wanted to add numerous examples and cases.

I reckon that this form of assignment is a useful learning tool. Indeed, it allows the writer to be independent during the learning process and to be free to highlight ideas and to deepen the concepts that he preferred among others during the class. This task truly permitted to achieve one of my objectives, which was to break with the strict and conventional way of learning and being assessed in favour of more freedom and interaction.

Referencing list

Shuller, R.S and Jackson S.E (1999). Strategic Human Resource Management. Oxford. Blackwell Publishers Ltd

Subramanya Sarma V. V. (1997) Organizational behavior. New Deli. Anmol Publication PVT Ltd. Retreived from Googlebooks database, available at http://books.google.co.uk

McKenna, E. (1994) Business Psychology and Organisational Behaviour. East Sussex. Psychology press ltd

Luthans ,F. (2002) Organizational Behaviour. Ninth edition. New York. McGraw -Hill Higher education

Roosevelt Thomas, R. (1991) Beyond Race and Gender: Unlashing the Power of your Total Workforce by Managing Diversity. United States. Amacom .Retreived from Googlebooks database, available at http://books.google.co.uk

Bagshaw, M. (1998) Conflict management and mediation: key leadership skills for the millennium. Industrial and Commercial Training, Vol30 (6), p 206-208

M&S, rewards and benefits. [Accessed 14 November 2010] Available at: http://corporate.marksandspencer.com/mscareers/rewards_benefits

Prince,R. and Porter,A. (2010). Nick Clegg admits breaking tuition fees pledge, The Telegraph, 10 November 2010. Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/universityeducation/8123832/Nick-Clegg-admits-breaking-tuition-fees-pledge.html [Accessed 20 November 2010]

Diaz,S. (2010) Microsoft kills KIN just few weeks after launch, ZDnet, 30 June 2010 . Available at: http://www.zdnet.com/blog/btl/microsoft-kills-kin-just-weeks-after-launch/36431 [ Accessed 27 November 2010]

Ziegler,C.( 2010) Life and Death of Microsoft Kin : the inside story, Engadget, 2 July 2010. Available at : http://www.engadget.com/2010/07/02/life-and-death-of-microsoft-kin-the-inside-story/ [ Accessed 27th November 2010]

Mullins, L.J. (2005) Management and Organisational Behaviour, Seventh edition, Pearson Education Limited

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