Part I: Prologue
C H A P T E R
Introduction to Organizational Behavior
After studying this chapter, you should be able to:
1. Define organizational behavior (OB). 2. Explain the value of the systematic study of OB. 3. Identify the contributions made to OB by major behavioral science disciplines. 4. Describe how OB concepts can help make organizations more productive. 5. List the major challenges and opportunities for managers to use OB concepts. 6. Identify the three levels of analysis in OB.
f you ask managers to describe their most frequent or troublesome problems, the answers you get tend to exhibit a common theme. The managers most often describe people problems. They talk about their bosses’ poor communication skills, employees’ lack of motivation, conflicts between team members, overcoming employee resistance to a company reorganization, and similar concerns. It may surprise you to learn, therefore, that it’s only recently that courses in people skills have become an important part of business school programs. Although practicing managers have long understood the importance of interpersonal skills to managerial effectiveness, business schools have been slower to get the message. Until the late 1980s, business school curricula emphasized the technical aspects of management, specifically focusing on economics, accounting, finance, and quantitative techniques. Course work in human behavior and people skills received minimal attention relative to the technical aspects of management. Over the past two decades, however, 1
Part I Prologue business faculty have come to realize the importance that an understanding of human behavior plays in determining a manager’s effectiveness, and required courses on people skills have been added to many curricula. As the director of leadership at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Sloan School of Management recently put it, “M.B.A. students may get by on their technical and quantitative skills the first couple of years out of school. But soon, leadership and communication skills come to the fore in distinguishing the managers whose careers really take off.”1 To get and keep high-performing employees, organizations recognize the importance of developing managers’ interpersonal skills. Regardless of labor market conditions, outstanding employees are always in short supply. Companies with reputations as good places to work—such as Starbucks, Adobe Systems, Cisco, Whole Foods, American Express, Amgen, Goldman Sachs, Pfizer, and Marriott—have a big advantage. A national study of the U.S. workforce found that wages and fringe benefits are not the main reasons people like their jobs or stay with an employer. Far more important is the quality of the employee’s job and the supportiveness of the work environment.2 So having managers with good interpersonal skills is likely to make the workplace more pleasant, which, in turn, makes it easier to hire and keep qualified people. In addition, creating a pleasant workplace appears to make good economic sense. For instance, companies with reputations as good places to work (such as the companies that are included among the “100 Best Companies to Work for in America”) can generate superior financial performance.3 Technical skills are necessary, but they are not enough to succeed in management. In today’s increasingly competitive and demanding workplace, managers can’t succeed on their technical skills alone. They also have to have good people skills. This book has been written to help both managers and potential managers develop those people skills.
THE FIELD OF ORGANIZATIONAL BEHAVIOR
The study of people at work is generally referred to as the study of organizational behavior. Let’s begin, then, by defining the term organizational behavior and briefly reviewing its origins. Organizational behavior (often abbreviated as OB) studies the influence that individuals, groups, and structure have on behavior within...
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