“All Human Behavior Is Learned.“ First Discuss the Statement with Pros and Cons, Second Apply It to the Organizational Context.

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“Behavior is a mirror in which every one displays his own image” (Goethe). Behavior of the human being has been analyzed and discussed as early as the stone ages. As the quote by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe shows, humans are influenced by their surroundings and will act accordingly. One can therefore say that human behavior is learned based on the social framework of a person. This claim can also be seen in the area of organizational behavior if one examines the behavior of employees in accordance to their life situation, their attitudes and their satisfaction within the employed job. Nevertheless, researches have shown that not all human behavior is learned and that we act based on instinct, intuition and emotions which are innate within the human being. This essay will examine to what extend innate and learned human behavior influence the area of organizational behavior.

Learning can be defined as “a relatively permanent change in behavior that occurs as a result of experience” (Weiss, 1990, pp.172-173). Every person has encountered a good or bad experience in their lifetime and changed his/her behavior accordingly. One can say that every experience influences the action of a person; nevertheless, some experiences are stronger and cause a greater change in behavior. If a little boy with an age of four touches a hot plate, then he will experience pain and will learn not to repeat such an action. The change in behavior however does not influence others and is caused by a specific event; one acts passively once learned (Robbins & Judge, 2009). This phenomenon is called classical conditioning and can also be seen in the area of organizational behavior. If the CEO plans a visit to a subsidiary office, most employees will try to clean the office and get everything done before the CEO arrives. Such behavior results from the motivation of the human being to respond to a specific situation.

These motivations, however, have to be satisfied or have to result in a positive experience in order for the employee to repeat it. This was also discovered by B. F. Skinner in 1935 and called operant conditioning (Gabbi, 2001). The behavior can be maintained as the positive experience or contingency is reinforced. If the CEO will thank the employees of the subsidiary for doing their work properly and on time, the path will be strengthened and the employee will be more likely to repeat the action. Therefore, the managerial level of a company has the responsibility to take actions that will result in a positive reaction of the employee and will favor the company, for example a greater compatibility, greater profits or even a greater capital expenditure. A downside to this phenomenon, however, would be that employees start to become stationary within their conditioning. Employees might start to become complacent. In the 1990’s the concept of organizational learning was developed in order to cope the stationary conditioning of the employee (Yeung, Lai, & Yee, 2007). The CEO of Harley-Davidson used the concept of learning to further improve the attention and the energy of his employees, when he saw that they were becoming complacent over the success of Harley-Davidson in the late 1980’s. He insisted on having workshops and special training to further increase the performance of his employees. The Japanese business expert Ikujiro Nonaka says: “In an economy where the only certainty is uncertainty, the one sure source of lasting competitive advantage is knowledge.” (Yeung, Ulrich, Nason & Glinow, 1999, p. 4). Therefore, one can say that the learned behavior of an employee in connection with his job has to be continuous in order for the company to stay competitive within the market and increase performance.

Learned behavior does not always have to come from direct experience but from observations. As children most people modeled their teacher, parents, friends or the media. Learning by observations is called social...
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