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Organisational behaviour is defined as the study of individual, group and organisational processes as a means of explaining and predicting behaviour in the workplace. It has been described as the study of the structure, functioning and performance of the organisation and the behaviour of groups and individuals within them, (Huczynski & Buckley 2007). It requires studying the organisations relationships, patterns of behaviour and theories about organisational behaviour with the main goal being an increased understanding of cause and effect relationships, ie, the "whys" of behaviour in the workplace. An organisation may be defined as a collection of persons working within a particular structural configuration to achieve group and/or individual objectives. Questions often associated with organisational behaviour include: What causes employees to behave the way they do? To what extent is employee behaviour predictable?
The aim of understanding organisational behaviour is to enhance the effectiveness of the organisation. The study of organisational behaviour can be divided into three parts, the individual processes in an organisation, interpersonal processes on the organisation and the organisational process. The individual processes in the organisation focuses on the individual employee and their personal characteristics, experiences and background. These are the areas like perception, attitudes, learning, personality, motivation and stress. An insight into these will provide us with reasons as to why people behave the way they do in the workplace. Interpersonal processes examine the impact the person has on the organisation and vice versa. The focus of study of organisational behaviour is on the interaction between managers and co-workers. Group dynamics, teamwork, leadership, conflict and communication help us to understand the benefits of people working and co-operating together. Organisational processes examine the structure and functioning of the organisation. This would include organisation culture, organisation design and organisation development and change. There is no consensus about the best way to understand and describe the social interaction at various organisational levels.
Historically, the precursor of the modern organisation was the medieval guild, a simple tripartite structure between the apprentice, the journeyman and the master, based upon a system of task oriental status structures, in which a wide range of technical rules were required. Large-scale organisations have revolutionised the economic, technical, political, social and culture fabric of the society. Large scale organisations have become one of the most important resources of developed world and one of the most developing regions eagerly embraced. This has given rise to a body of theories in industrial/business management. The field of organisational behaviour is a new field which evolved from older disciplines of psychology, sociology and political science.
The writings of 16th century laid down the foundation for contemporary work on organisational power and politics. In 1776, Adam Smith advocated a new form of organizational structure based on the division of labour. Max Weber, a German sociologist and political scientist conceived of the bureaucratic model as an "ideal" organisational structure, one hundred years later. The characteristics of his approach were: job specification, rules and procedures, impersonality, hierarchy, selection and recruitment and written records. Weber was criticised for it's over-reliance on rules and regulations. Soon after, Frederick Taylor set out to find the "one best way" to perform the job efficiently. Scientific Management refers to increasing the efficiency and giving greater control to management. His argument proved correct and in some instances resulted in large productivity. Alongside this, Taylor's logical, rational, engineer-like approach to management was a simple theory of human behaviour; he stated that a person is primarily motivated by economic rewards and will take direction if offered the opportunity to better his position economically. Taylor was later criticised for neglecting the social aspect of work and treating workers like machines. In the 1920's, Elton Mayo became famous for his Hawthorne Studies approach carried out at the Hawthorne Plant of Western Electric Company. It was designed to explore the relationship between light and productivity, ie, as lighting increased - productivity increased, up to a certain point. So therefore he could figure out the optimal level of illumination. After the First World War, the focus of organisational studies moved towards the analysis of how human factors and psychology affected organizations, a transformation propelled by the identification of the Hawthorne Effect. This Movement focused on teams, motivation, and the actualization of the goals of individuals within organisations The Second World War shifted attention towards employee satisfaction and development. Interest grew in theory and methods native to the sciences, including the General Systems theory. It stated that an organisation is a system made up of many subsystems and the interrelationships of these subsystems create a dynamic and unique whole that is more than the parts put together, ie, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. During the 1960s and 1970s, the field was strongly influenced by social psychology and the emphasis in academic study was on quantitative research.
Organisational behaviour requires utilisation of rigorous methodologies to understand human behaviour better in the workplace. Researchers can take a positivist or naturalist choice. Positivism assumes that there is an objective reality that is measurable and that the world is knowable in objective terms, ie, that there is an objective reality that can be discovered and explained by laws or theories. Positivist researchers believe there is a single reality that can be broken into units or variables that can be independently studied. It is believed that various aspects of behaviour in the workplace can be described or linked to particular causes. Positivism assumes that for every action there is a corresponding cause. It assumes that social research is similar in nature to that of natural and physical sciences, that knowledge can be viewed, developed and explained by theories and laws using quantitative analysis. Some Positivist research methods are; laboratory experiments or field experiments. Lab experiments involve testing the effects of independent variables on one or more dependant variables. The researcher has a high level of control and has a possibility of isolating only the variables under investigation which eliminates experimental error. The negative of this method is where participants alter their behaviour when they know they are under investigation. Field experiments involve sampling and investigating behaviour in normal situations rather than attempting to copy behaviour in a laboratory. The more subjective approach described as naturalism, assumes that objective knowledge is not available. There are no multiple realities subjectively constructed within each social setting. These socially constructed realities shift and change.
In the workplace employees cannot do whatever they want, when they want to; they must follow rules and regulations. Their performance is controlled and the organisation can operate in an efficient and effective manner. The study of organisational behaviour emerged as a result of combination of disciplines within social sciences. These included psychology, sociology, political science and management. Psychology is defined as trying to understand people's behaviour in a variety of environments. Sociology is studying the society and human social interaction and gives an insight into the patterns of social relationships, social action and culture. Political science is the understanding of power and organisation politics. Management is involved with making the most efficient use of human and material resources. The study of organisational behaviour is rich and dynamic. Each person has an effect and it is affected by one another. Organisational factors such as change and culture have major influences on groups and people that make up the workplace. There is no best way to understand and describe social interaction and this may lead to a cause of frustration for some but it can open endless possibilities for others.
Many managers believe leadership is the major determinant of productivity and organisational success; this belief can be seen through the amount of money companies spend in leadership program annually. Leadership means different things to different people but is generally regarded as a critical factor in success of any kind of social activity. The burning cry of all organisations is for good leadership, but we learned that beyond threshold level of adequacy, it is extremely difficult to know what good leadership is. It is influenced by many factors relating to the individual, the people and the environment. A leader inspires the followers to strive for greater heights, while also supports, assists and directs the followers. Leadership is associated with factors such as motivation, communication, delegation and teamwork. It can be defined the process of directing and influencing group members. Jayo stated that leadership is both a process and a property. As a process, it is the use of non-coercive influence to direct and co-ordinate the activities of those who belong to a group to achieve a goal. As a property, it is the set of characteristics ascribed to those who are seen to use such influence successfully.
A number of approaches have been offered over the years to focus on different aspects of leadership and to provide an insight into the best way to lead subordinates. The Trait approach attempts to describe the set of traits possessed by the effective leader. In the past it was believed leaders were born and not made; therefore their traits were innate, stable and enduring. The objective was to identify traits to measure them and use them to select leaders. It was also know as the Great Person Theory. Research produced long subjective lists with little agreement about the central traits relating to effective leadership. Some of the traits identified include intelligence, initiative, visionary, the need for power and dependability. The trait approach lacks predictive value except in some narrowly defined situations.
The Trait approach led to the behaviour of a leader to be measured. Research was conducted at Ohio State University and the University of Michigan. The theory at was proposed by Fleishman, Harris and Burtt (1955). It is aimed to uncover the set of behaviours of ineffective leaders. Results of research at Ohio State revealed two types of leader behaviour, the initiating structure and consideration behaviour. The initiating structural behaviour defines the role of the leader and the subordinate. The leader informs people what is expected of them and their status. Consideration Behaviour states how the leader is concerned with the feelings of others and mutual respect. The studies carried out at Michigan distinguish the patterns of leadership behaviour that results in effective group performance. This research was carried out by Likert (1961). They conducted interviews with supervisors. The results revealed two types of leaders; job centred leader and employee centred leader. A Job centred leader pays attention to the work of the employees, explains the work procedure to the employees and is mainly interested in the efficient completion of tasks. An employee centred leader builds an effective work group and is concerned with the human aspects of the group. It emerged that both approaches need to be balanced. An employee centred leader who achieved superior results consistently recognised that production was one of the major responsibilities of their work. The Managerial Grid provides framework for understanding and applying effective leadership.
The Contingency approach identifies a universal "best style" approach. Situational variables relating to the personal characteristics of employees and to the environment have strong influence in explaining leadership success. Fiedler and House aimed to identify key variations that made one style of leadership more relevant than others. Fiedler's research identifies two main leadership styles; Relationship motivates leaders and task motivated leaders. Relationship motivated leaders relates to the relationship between the leader and the employee, and is evaluated as being good or poor. When relations are good there is trust, respect, acceptance and confidence between them. Task motivated leader helps leaders to determine what should be done, by whom, and for what purpose. It is concerned with the degree to which tasks are clearly defined and to the extent to which they can be completed by following detailed instructions or procedures. House's Path Goal Theory states that leadership effectiveness depends on the correct match between the leader and the situation. House argues that leaders are effective if they can help subordinates to identify a goal and then enable them to achieve it. It is very important for a boss to understand what an employee wants and expects from work. A leader must understand what motivates employees in order to influence their behaviour and achieve high level of performance. By ensuring the employee follows the correct path, the leader can help them to achieve the desired rewards. This is why the theory s called the Path Goal Theory. House identified four leadership behaviours: 1. Directive leadership - a leader which informs the subordinates what has to be done. 2. Supportive Leadership results in high employee performance and satisfaction when subordinates are performing structured tasks. 3. Participative Leadership - employees are consulted and involved in the decision making process. 4. Achievement orientated Leadership - The highest standards are aimed for by the leader and the goals are seen as a challenge. Confidence is shown in the subordinates.