Understanding behaviour in the organisation

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1. Introduction

An understanding of how decisions are made helps in understanding behaviour in the organisation. Today, managers are more concerned with avoiding uncertainties than with the prediction of uncertainties. Stress and conflicts are the realistic situations facing most firms and the use of probability can help to illuminate the problem. A convenient definition of the probability of an event is the number of times the event occurs divided by the number of trials. Therefore, probabilities can be used as the basis for decision making in conditions of uncertainty, certainty and risk.

1.1 Decision making process including problem-solving techniques

Decision making process and problem solving techniques are usually linked and both require identifying and developing. One particularly useful tool is the brainstorming technique. For both business and life, problem solving and decision-making are essential.

There are a number of ways in which management can apply to avoid stress and possibilities of conflict:

  • Increase specification and clarify role expectations
  • Improve recruitment and selection and the matching of abilities, motivation, interest and personalities to the demands of a particular role
  • Attention to induction, job training, retraining, staff development and career plans
  • Giving advance notice and explanation of what is to happen
  • Attention to factors that may help improve group structure

1.2 SWOT Analysis

SWOT analysis is the study of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats facing an organisation that may provide a basis for decision-making and problem solving. The importance of SWOT analysis lies in its ability to help clarify and summarise the key issues and opportunities facing a business. Value lies in considering the implications of the things identified and it can therefore play a key role in helping a business to set objectives and develop new strategies. The ideal outcome would be to maximise strengths and minimise weaknesses in order to take advantage of external opportunities and overcome the threats.

A good decision-making requires a mixture of skills, firmness of decisions and effective implementation.

1.3 Decision making strategies and theories to use in individual and group situations

As defined by Baker et al in their 2001 study, "efficient decision-making involves a series of steps that require the input of information at different stages of the process, as well as a process for feedback".

Decision-making Process (adapted from Baker et al, 2001)

1.4 Decision making under certainty, uncertainty and risk

Risk is concerned with events whose probability of happening and frequency of occurrence can be calculated using statistics and experience. Uncertainty is where we cannot predict the outcome nor place values on the possible outcomes. Risk preference is the term usually used to describe an investor or decisions maker's attitude to risk.

The main method of dealing with risk is to estimate its probability and use statistics to ensure the level of reward, in the long run, is matching with the risks taken and to reduce the overall incidences to a pre-set acceptable level. The most common technique used in appraising uncertainty and risk is the decision trees.

1.5 Decision Tree

A decision is a choice between two or more alternative courses of action. Decision tree (or tree diagram) is a decision support tool that uses a tree-like graph or model of decisions and their possible consequences, including chance event outcomes, resource costs, and utility. Decision trees:

  • Enable a business to quantify decision making
  • Useful when the outcomes are uncertain
  • Places a numerical value on likely or potential outcomes
  • Allows comparison of different possible decisions to be made

1.6 Advantages of Decision Tree Analysis

  • Graphic (We can represent decision alternatives, possible outcomes, and the visual approach helps with comprehending complex decision sequences)
  • Efficient. (We can quickly express a complex decision problem clearly. We can easily modify a decision tree as new information becomes available)
  • Revealing. (We can compare competing alternatives in terms of risk and probable value)
  • Complementary. (We can use decision trees in conjunction with other project management tools. For example, project scheduling information can be evaluated by the decision tree method)

1.7 Disadvantages of Decision Tree Analysis

  • Much of the information given is based on probabilities that are often estimated.
  • The decisions are not only concerned with quantities and probabilities, they often involve people and are influenced by legal constraints or people's preferences. These factors cannot always be shown by numerical values.
  • The divide and conquer method tend to perform well if a few highly attributes exist but less if many complex interactions are present.
  • A minor change in one split close to the root will change the whole subtree below.

The following is a sample situation of a decision tree relating to the selling of cage hen eggs and free-range eggs.

Probabilities can be estimated for each outcome and the probabilities can be inserted on the tree, together with the outcomes of the decision. The expected value of each alternative can then be calculated using the roll back method. This is where the tree is evaluated by working back from right to left towards the first decision under consideration.

2. Personal Strengths and weaknesses


  • Proactive, adaptable, reliable and dependable individual, who always perseveres to achieve the best results.
  • Self-motivated and ambitious with an abundance of energy and drive. An effective team player, creative and dynamic approach to work and get things done.
  • Consistently works to the highest professional standards, solid approach to achieving tasks and objectives.
  • Ability to speak 2 languages fluently: English, French
  • Ability to communicate complex detail and instruction effectively both in writing and orally
  • Ability to react swiftly, logically and calmly in difficult situations.
  • Proficient in Win XP and MS Office packages
  • Ability to work under pressure and prioritise workload
  • Strong planning, organising and monitoring abilities
  • Holder of full clean UK driving licence


I like to have intense sessions with clients in employability skills, which I believe is the right way. However, to cover more clients every day, I need to rush the things quickly which leaves me sort of 'not happy' at the end of the day!

2.1 Skills of reflective practice

As an employment advisor, I am supposed to deliver various employability skills and support like preparation of CV, covering letters, helping filling job application forms, doing job search through websites, news paper advertisements, recruitment fairs etc. preparing them for employment market through other support like Form Filling, Using IT sessions. I deliver these sessions to clients. I have to prepare the Power Point Presentation after doing necessary research so that there is quality content. I prefer a group of maximum 10 clients selected by my colleagues and me. We select such clients who need these sessions the most i.e. who need more support, confidence and information. I have at times to change the contents and format of the presentation, depending on the group.

2.2 Applying skills and knowledge

During the PPP, I ask them questions, clarify issues and mainly, make them discuss different topics and make it a free discussion forum. This enables them gaining confidence, get clarification of the questions they have and be prepared to face the interviews with confidence. I also give them few handouts the clients can refer back to. I have observed that although usually the time duration for such sessions is of about 90 minutes, at times, it goes on up to more than 2 hours. This indicates how much the clients get interested and involved in the subject and how much keen and eager they are to learn every thing they can.

My other responsibilities include clients' induction, doing the basic skills assessment (literacy and numeracy) and marking assessment, one-to-one job search, drawing Individual Development Plans for clients, mapping their progress during periodical reviews, employer engagement, informing them about other training/education available as per his/her interest and the providers and other related paper work, admin etc. All my duties are focussed on and around clients.

I therefore perform the duties and responsibilities as a trainer, teacher, advisor and mentor. I have to continuously strive to ensure their confidence is built up and maintained, their skills and abilities for the employment market are updated and so on.

2.3 Using and applying others areas of academic study

Learning contributes to development; development cannot take place without learning. Lifelong learning is continuous, bettering the performance of individuals and groups of individuals. The learning and development process in an organisation should be constantly and consistently, target everybody; not only directors and it will contribute to maintain competitive advantage. (Employees are key source)

Life Span Development (total development of individual throughout life).Eriksson's - psychological model (stages of ego development, socialisation and experience) Levinson (new possibilities after being stable, due to its end of phase) Career Development (continuity of individual moves through time and social places)

Learning and development can be facilitated and designed with in the organisation by:

  • Formal programmes
  • E - learning
  • Informal learning
  • Action learning (working in small groups)
  • Reflective practices

2.4 Models of action learning, working in a group

While working in a group we learnt that we had to listen to everybody's point of view and take these into consideration. We found that we had to be prepared to make certain sacrifices and adopted a democratic decision process. However if an individual felt very strongly about a specific point and persisted with a valid argument then this has to be included. It is better to work in smaller and not a larger group as there is a tendency for individual ideas to be diluted.

3. Assessing the concepts of values and techniques which aid understanding and perception

We all see things in a different way. We all have our own unique way of how we interpret things and this is a complex process. We may place significance on some information and regard other information as worthless. Perception is the process by which an individual selects, organizes, and interprets stimuli into a meaningful and coherent picture of the world.

We are all unique and there is only one of us. We all have our own way of looking at and understanding our environment and the people within it. The physical properties may be identical but we all have our own interpretations, judgement and evaluation.

The first technique and concept that aid understanding and perception is selection and attention.

In the case study, the two important factors we need to consider in the negotiating techniques used by both side of the dispute are:

  • First, the internal factors relating to the state of the individual. (The behaviour being defensive and constructive)
  • Second, the environment and influences external to the individual. ( Character, values, principles)

To values and techniques which will help us understand and the process of perceptual selection is based, therefore, on both internal and external forces.

3.1 Attribution Theory

Attribution is the process by which people interpret the perceived causes of behaviour. "Behaviour is determined by a combination of perceived internal and forces", Heider F, 1958. Internal forces relate to personal attributes such as ability, skill, and amount of effort or fatigue. External forces relate to environment factors such as organisational rules and policies. These factors indicate whether the outcomes are controlled by the individuals themselves or by external factors. Judgements made by other people will also be influenced strongly by whether the cause is seen as internal or external.

3.2 Models of human behaviour

There are four models, which can create particular difficulties and give rise to perceptual problems and understanding of human behaviour. They are:

  • Stereotyping
  • The Halo Effect
  • Perceptual Defence
  • Projection

3.3 Stereotyping

Stereotyping is a means of simplifying the process of perception. It occurs when an individual is judged on the basis of the group to which it is perceived that person belongs. Examples are:

  • Education - all graduates are clever
  • Social - all unemployed people are lazy

Stereotyping refers that all people within a particular perceived category are assumed to share the same traits or characteristics. A significant social implication of stereotyping is therefore the perception held about particular groups of people usually based on:

  • Gender
  • Race
  • Disability
  • Religious belief
  • Age

Most of the time the consequences of attributing incorrect characteristics are extremely negative. " A major danger of stereotyping is that it can block out accurate perception of the individual or individual situation", McKenna, Lawrence Erlbaum, 1994.

3.4 The Halo Effect

The Halo Effect is the process by which the perception of a person is formulated on the basis of a single favourable or unfavourable trait or impression. This effect eliminates all the other relevant characteristic of the person.

Example: A person who arrives for an interview on time, is smart in appearance and friendly may well influence the perception of the selectors, who then place less emphasis on the person's technical ability, qualifications or experience for the job.

The rusty halo effect is the process, which works in reverse. This happens where judgements about a person are judged from the perception of a negative characteristic.

Example: A student arriving late for lecture at the college. There may be a very good reason for this but on the basis of that one particular event, the student may be perceived as a poor time - keeper and unreliable.

4. Values and techniques of conflict

Conflict situations appear with frequency in daily, public, and private life. These conflicts may be on a small or large scale; they may occur within and among groups, communities, or nations.

  • Conflict is inevitable
  • Conflict develops because we are dealing with people's lives, jobs, children, pride, self-concept, ego and sense of mission or purpose

Conflicts may originate from a number of different sources, including:

  • Differences in information, beliefs, values, interests, or desires.
  • A scarcity of some resource.
  • Rivalries in which one person or group competes with another.

Beginnings of conflict:

  • Poor communication
  • Seeking power
  • Dissatisfaction with management style
  • Weak leadership
  • Lack of openness
  • Change in leadership

Conflict indicators:

  • Body language
  • Disagreements
  • Withholding bad news
  • Surprises
  • Desire for power
  • Increasing lack of respect
  • Lack of clear goals

Conflict is destructive when it:

  • Takes attention away from other important activities
  • Undermines morale or self-concept
  • Polarizes people and groups, reducing cooperation
  • Leads to irresponsible and harmful behavior, such as fighting, name-calling

Conflict is constructive when it:

  • Results in clarification of important problems and issues
  • Results in solutions to problems
  • Involves people in resolving issues important to them
  • Causes communication
  • Builds cooperation among people through learning more about each other

Six steps for managing conflict

  • Set the tone
  • Get the feelings
  • Get the facts
  • Ask for help
  • Get the commitment
  • Follow up

Often times, conflict can be anything from a simple disagreement to an all out war. It can be observed in small groups when two or more people express differing and incompatible ideas. For example, if one person in the group wants to do something one way and another disagrees, the result, conflict.

Five ways to manage conflict

  • Avoidance
  • Competition
  • Accommodation
  • Compromise
  • Collaboration

Groupthink represents a failure in the group's critical thinking process- the failure to express doubts, disagreements, and conflict within the group.

Symptoms of Groupthink:

  • The group overestimates its
  • power
  • The group becomes close
  • minded
  • Group members experience
  • pressure to perform.

Prevent groupthink

  • Establish a norm of critical evaluation. The most important thing a leader can do to prevent groupthink is to establish a group norm to evaluate carefully and critically all information and reasoning.
  • Leaders should not state their preferences at the beginning of the group's decision making process. If a leader extends their opinion too much, it will make the other group members uneasy and some will lose their confidence. Prevent the insulation of the group. Groupthink often occurs when group members become so cohesive and caught up in their own ideas that they become insulated from external opinion.

5. Conclusion and recommendation

Work is a group based activity and groups and teams are a major feature of human behaviour and work organisation. Members must co-operate with one another for work to be carried out. Good working relationships and good teamwork help make for a high level of staff morale and business performance. Individuals will form into groups and teams, both formal and informal, for various reasons, relating to both work and social life. Therefore the manager should make sure that all members should corporate with one another. In conclusion, we can say that the effective management requires an understanding of decision making theories conflict situation, strengths, weaknesses of individuals and concepts that aid understanding of human behaviour.

In the model, we can say that the defensive behaviour is complex. We cannot identify whether the dispute is verbally or non-verbally. Context and type of conflict are important variables in determining the nature of the behaviour. Even laughing could be a defence during an anxious moment of dispute. Here we can see that people are responding defensively as well as constructively. The may be responding defensively verbally or physically. The people who are being defensive are probably unwilling to take new information or learning about a new perspective from the constructive side and this is leading them being ineffective. Perhaps, it is an indirect way for the side to express their concern as defensive behaviours are often an indirect way of expressing thoughts and feelings when people do not feel secure. Thus, there is a need of intervention in the model and a clear assessment of individual personalities as well as the ways of managing conflict should solve the dispute.

6.References and bibliography

  • Heider, F. The Phychology of Interpretation Relations,1958
  • McKennA, e.f. Business Phychology and Organisational Behaviour, Lawrence Erlbaum, 1994
  • Guirdham, M Interactive Behaviour at work, Third Edition, Financial Times Practice Hall, 2003
  • Miner,J.B. Management Theory, Macmillan, 1971
  • Luthans,F. Organisational Behaviour, Seventh Edition, McGraw-Hill, 1995