Management Essays - Organisational Behavior & Misbehavior

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Organisational Behavior & Misbehavior

Criticallyevaluate the argument that organisational misbehavior isa 'normal' feature of organisational life

The notion of organisational misbehavior can beinterpreted in a lot of ways based on different perspectives, different people,shifting situations, and by the changing level of awareness and understandingon the life of an organisation.

There is a primary purpose of organisations in thecontext of fulfilling certain individual goals. Northcraft and Neale (1990,p.5) say that people come together and form organisations because organisationscan accomplish things that are beyond the reach of individuals. They cometogether to accomplish what each individual cannot accomplish alone. Themeaning of behavior in organisations according to Northcraft and Neale revolvearound managing behavior to take advantage of the performance benefits ofgroups over individuals. This is where the concept of a good behavior andmisbehavior takes shape.

Organisational Behavior

Organisational behavior is a multidisciplinarydefinition that illustrates a number of points (Gibson et al, 2000).Some of these points relate directly to the conduct of the organisation insociety.

First, it indicates that the behavior of people operate at individual, group, or organisational level. This suggests that when trying to study the organisational misbehavior in the perspective of being a normal part of organisational life, it must identify clearly the levels of analysis - individual, group, and the organisation being used.

Second, there's a distinctively humanistic orientation within the organisation behavior. People's attitudes, perceptions, learning capabilities, and objectives are important to the organisation. They provide the rich mixture for their organisation's culture and strategies to evolve and prosper.

Thirdly, the external environment is seen as having significant impact on the organisational behavior. Finally, there's also the application orientation which concerns providing useful answers to questions that arise in the context of managing the organisation.

Misbehavior is often interpreted to mean 'bad behavior'or a deviation from the normal norms and ethics expected of individuals andorganisations. To say that organisational behavior also involves other certainkinds of misbehavior still descends to the fact that any type of behavior canbe either good or bad depending on the context that it is applied to in reallife situations. When this type of behavior exists and eventually prevails inany organisational setup, it would likely grow into a certain stature ofnormalcy and seep into conventional wisdom.

In order to understand why this argument seems to makesense in the framework of an organisation's life, it is important to firstidentify the different compositions of an organisation, its objectives,culture, structure, and strategies. The complexities associated with thesecompositions have made it virtually impossible to model and envision a'perfect' organisation. Organisations have had some bouts with internal andexternal conflicts in one way or another. Some have mastered the arts ofdeception and impropriety. It is unrealistic to say that organisationalmisbehavior is not part of organisational life either. People in theorganisation may misbehave and some people may blame the entire organisation.Others may blame specific people (especially managers) when the realshortcoming came from the organisation's policies.

Other groups within the organisation or network may deviate from agreements and norms. The organisational culture may not also be up to the times and the current business strategies may not sit well with government regulation policies and industry norms. If these things do happen (and they happen a lot), it is not viable and healthy to draw the line between laying out unspoken rules in classifying organisational behavior to be good and a bad.

People and Human Behavior

People make up the internal social system of theorganisation (Newstrom and Davis, 1997). This system consists of individualsand groups, and large groups as well as small ones. People are the living,thinking, and feeling beings who work in the organisation to achieve theirobjectives. An organisational structure is filled up with people who decide anddeliver the goods for the organisation. Diversity presents a lot of challengesfor management to handle. When people become members of an organisation whetherin official, unofficial or informal capacity, they bring with them differenteducational background, talents, interests, and behavior that they eventuallycontribute for the success or failure of the organisation.

The relationship among individuals and groups in an organisation create expectations for an individual's behavior (Gibson et al, 2000, p. 7). An individual can be presented here as the organisation itself. These expectations result in certain leadership and follower roles that must be performed so that there will be some kind of order and system.

Collective expectations can either conform or not tostandard behavior. Collective misuse of resources interests, talents,expertise, and management strategies can constitute organisation misbehavior.Punch (1996, p.1) views these misconduct as harmful to the viability of theorganisation and constitutes deviance by the organisation. To put it morebluntly, organisational misbehavior eventually boils down to the issue ofprofits and how it should be maximized. Money has always been a central issuein any organisation and it has often been used to measure the survivability ofa business. Organisational goals always take into their mainstream policy theissue of financial and economic stability and prosperity. Punch (1996, p.214)strongly suggested that formal goals of the organisation thus constitute a'front' for the real goals of management which is to provide a money machinefor its owners and other insiders.

If it is already common and normal for criminals to useany tool or weapon to perpetuate a crime, it would also seem normal fororganisations to use the organisation itself to obtain money from 'victims' ofits misbehavior. The 'victims' may actually be the customers or the membersthemselves. It is a prime example of what is called the organisational weapon- the organisation is for white-collar criminals as the gun or knife is for thecommon criminals (Wheeler and Rothman, 1982, cited in Punch, 1996). In short,an organisation is set up for the primary purpose of making a substantialamount of money in the form of a profit and improving the quality of life forthe individual members of the organisation.

Organisations have systems of authority, status, andpower, and people in organisations have varying needs for each system. Peopleneed money and a sense of fulfillment. People also need power to impose theirwill to others. People want to attain a certain level of success as measured bytheir status and standing in the organisation. Taken as a whole, organisationsfollow certain types of ethical behavior and standards defined along itsobjectives and future goals. It is also believed that adherence to moralstandards on the job can have positive outcomes on the organisation and societyby promoting strong ethical behavior in any aspects of life (Mares, 2005). Thisstrong behavior of one organisation can be used as a strong issue againstanother organisation which is considered to be 'misbehaving' just because itwas not able to adhere to certain moral standards previously attained.

Organisational Structure

An organisational structure defines the formalrelationship and use of people in organisations. According to Newstrom andDevis (1997), different jobs are required to accomplish all of anorganisation's activities. There are managers, employees, accountants,assemblers, and others who have to be related in some structural way so thattheir work can be effectively coordinated.

How is the structure of the organisation related to theconduct of an organisation? According to Thompson (1997, p.588), structure isthe means by which the organisation seeks to achieve its strategic objectivesand implement strategies and strategic changes. Assuming that these strategiesand changes are concerned with relating the organisation's resources to itsgoals, will these resources be used in the proper way acceptable to all in thesociety?

If change is necessary, it is correct to point out thatresistance to change can constitute another concept of misbehavior. Peopleconfronting changes in their working environments often exhibit dysfunctionalbehaviors like aggression, projection, and avoidance (Hirschheim, 1995 p.160). These types of behavioral patterns affect the overall behavior of theorganisation.

Another thing to consider in the organisationalstructure is the way decision making is delegated and observed. Thompsondescribed the extent by which a decentralized and centralized setup ofmanagement decision making is vital in adapting to strategic change. In acentralized setup, organisational misbehavior is usually highlighted at the topmanagement level because only a handful of people are empowered to do thedecision making.

A decentralized setup allows decisions to be made by most people who must implement change and usually allows the organisation a more collective approach to making decisions based on what is morally and ethically correct. This statement however, does not imply that a decentralized structure eliminates instances of misbehavior. It only lessens the probability. On the other hand, a decentralized setup could empower smaller groups within the organisation to abuse their power and open the possibility of misbehavior on a smaller scale.

According to Tsahuridu, specialization and division ofwork that occurs in organizations may make people in organizations unable tosee the illegality and immorality of certain actions. Each action is a part ofa chain of actions, and even though each individual act may be legitimate andmoral, all the actions linked together may constitute an illegal or immoralactivity, which each individual participant may be ignorant of.

Organisational Objectives and Culture

Organisations must have objectives in order to exist.Objectives are always centered on what is basically 'good' for theorganisation, whether the resulting action or consequences is 'bad'. How isorganisational objectives tied to organisational behavior?

Profit and growth are means to other ends rather thanobjectives in themselves (Acoff, 1986, cited in Thompson, 1997). There is thena question of whether profit is the ultimate objective of profit seekingbusiness organisations or whether it is merely a means to other ends, whichthemselves constitute the real objectives (Thompson, 1997, p.153).Organisational behavior can be better understood by assuming whether the realgoal of the organisation is to maximize profit or to provide them with a goodquality of life and better standard of living.

Harris and Hartman (2002, p. 75) said that anorganisation's culture consists of the values, norms, and attitudes of thepeople who make up the organisation. Values show what is important; normsreveal expected behavior; attitudes show the mind-set of individuals.Organisational culture therefore tells people what is important in theorganisation, how to behave, and how to see things. Culture is a part oforganisational life that influences the behavior, attitudes, and overalleffectiveness of members (Gibson et al, 2000).

Managers are usually in the forefront of formulatingorganisational strategies and policies. Johnson and Scholes (1997, p.79-80)argued that in formulating policies, managers should regard experience (good orbad) as constraints on developments. They say that in order to develop theorganisation to cope with today's changing environments, they need to challengethe people around them and experiment with their different ideas andconflicting views in a pluralistic approach. The job of top managementtherefore is to create this sort of organisation by building teams that canwork in such ways through the development of the everyday behavior and cultureof the organisation.

All of the issues related to the organisation in generalhave a tendency to influence and affect the behavior of the organisation. Whileit is safe to assume that the notion of misbehavior in the organisation tendsto focus on the 'wrong' or 'negative' side of the organisation, it is preferredthat misbehavior should be 'corrected' and dealt with by focusing on how tomanage and institute reforms in the different aspects of the organisation. Thisis a tall and complex order. Organisational behavior is not only influenced bythe different factors previously mentioned.

Management policies have a tendency to adapt to changing situations in their environments. Some organisations' strategies may take advantage of 'weak' government policies and regulations and find loopholes with which they can misbehave without being noticed. Other organisations' strategies tend to focus on covering up unethical practices with good and convincing arguments that their actions go against standard practices but at the same time, benefit a large segment of society.

Punch (1996, p.1) described the behavior of today'sorganisations as problematic and worrying. He reasons out that different kindsof organisational misbehavior are often caused by managers 'lending' themselvesto deviant activities and the inability of government, business, and regulatoryagencies to control effectively such misbehavior. He explains that this waslargely because the subjects of business crime and corporate deviance have beensadly neglected by criminologists and crime-fighting bodies in favor of otherareas such as street crimes, low-level law enforcement, and the prison system.

Almost everyday, new types of organisation misbehavior arebeing uncovered and brought out into the open. As these corporate scandals andother forms of financial misconduct often perpetuated by top level managementare exposed, more and more sophisticated strategies and techniques are slowlybeing uncovered. It is quite interesting to know that one kind of misbehaviorcan be linked to another form of misbehavior in another corporate partnerwithin the network of organisations. Other sets of misbehavior can involvealmost all levels of the organisational hierarchy.

The realities faced by an organisation are differentfrom others. Each organisation has an identity, an objective, a strategic plan,and differing sets of policies and regulations. Harris and Hartman (2002, p.97) said this is because the underlying premise in the ideal culture is thatthe formal organisation's norms and values are to be consistent with those ofthe various individuals and groups within the organisation. They say that thenorms and values of individuals and groups of the organisation are hostile toformal organisational goals. This is especially true to members of top-levelmanagement and the rank and file members.

Their hidden values may contradict the official policies of the organisation. Sometimes, the organisation may not value the potential contribution of its members. The need to create competitive advantage for profit and growth without the proper ethical system in place can lead to drastic steps and ethically questionable decisions and actions. Some members of the organisation may feel the need to make reforms while others may think taking radical steps will eventually spell success.

Discontentment and trouble may brew over different 'signals' and messages that the inner structure of the organisation send out to the outside world. It is therefore evident that culture can become very counterproductive and the basis of confidence, cooperation, and adherence to standard norms and behavior can be damaging to the overall behavior of the organisation. This is the start of the decay of organisational values and norms and provides a fertile ground for breeding misconduct and misbehavior in any front of the organisation.


Misbehavior is a normal part of an organisation's life.It is not a question of whether it exists or not. It tends to become an issuewhen organisations tolerate and do nothing to correct these deviances fromnormal behavior and when organisations formulate policies that sheer away fromethical standards that govern them.

Why is it that organisational misbehaviors tend toexist even in model companies and organisations recognized for theirprofessional excellence? There are different ways of understandingorganisational misbehavior in the context of whether it is normal or not in anorganisational life. If we try to look closely at the term 'normal' and'misbehavior,' there are two things which would come into mind.

First, nothing is perfect and it is perfectly normal forpeople to commit mistakes, either willingly or unwillingly. People can always createrules and policies to counter certain misconduct. Organisations can alwaysinnovate and deviate from these rules in order to attain their goals. In theseinstances, there is no such thing as a perfect law governing businesses andthere is also no such thing as a perfect business strategy. In normalinstances, mistakes are part of the learning process.

As this cycle continues today, organisationalmisbehavior has already come to the point where people have already consideredit part and parcel of their everyday life. It is part of the reality of lifethat has something to do with existence and how mankind adapts to ongoingchanges. The only thing that people consider to be an issue in organisationmisbehavior is the level or degree of how it affects society.

Second, in order to survive, some organisations have totake the risk, whether this will put them in the burner for good or elevatetheir status in the business community. These risks are normally present intheir business strategies, structure, objectives, and culture. They can followthe business rules by the book and end up earning nothing or they may deviatefrom certain rules and norms and reap profits. Again, it is normal fororganisations to take risks and reap the benefits.

All of the characteristics of an organisation are linkedto one another to form their own identity and behavior. People are in a socialstructure within the organisation and are empowered to make good or baddecisions. The structure of the organisation limits or expands the power tomake decisions.


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