The subject matter of Organizational Behaviour is complex. Organizational Behaviour is not a homogeneous subject, but the result of a mingling of other disciplines such as psychology, sociology, politics, philosophy and economics. The fact that a subject called Organizational Behaviour exists in Business and Management courses is due to the need of those with managing people and systems at work to inform their thinking as they address the underlying social and behavioural issues that confront them. Since the study of Organizational Behaviour is composed of a blending of various social sciences, it will involve, to a certain extent, the approach of behavioural science – a collective term for the grouping of all the social sciences concerned with the study of people’s behaviour. Three main disciplines are:
Psychology:Study of human behaviour, traits of the individual (perception, attitudes and motives), and membership of small social groups.
Sociology:Study of social behaviour, relationships among social groups and societies, and the maintenance of order (e.g. the relationship between the behaviour of leaders and followers).
Anthropology:More concerned with the science of mankind and the study of human behaviour as a whole – cultural system: the beliefs, customs, ideas and values within a group or society.
There is also the problem of defining what is an ‘organization’. Morgan, G. (1986), Sage Publications (“…organizations are complex and paradoxical phenomena that can be understood in many ways. Many of our taken-for-granted ideas about organizations are metaphorical…For example, we frequently talk about organizations as if they were machines…”
It is because the concept of organization is so difficult to understand that other metaphors, apart from machines, are used to understand its nature. Therefore organization is variously described as organisms, brains, cultures, etc.
Machines (the mechanistic or classical view)Organizations can be designed as if they are machines giving relations between clearly defined parts. This can provide the basis for efficient operation in a routine, reliable and predictable way. Organizations viewed as machines function better in a stable and protected environment.
Organisms (the organic view)In this regard the organization is considered as behaving like a living system. Biological mechanisms adapt to changes in their environment, so do organizations, as open systems, adapt to the changing external environment.
Brains(the cybernetic view)Brains are inventive and rational. The challenge is to create organizations capable of intelligent change and therefore able to disperse brainlike capabilities. Cultures (a product of their dominant values)The collective interest and unity of an organization is built up through shared beliefs, habits and traditions. (Handy (1993), Understanding Organisations (4th Edn), Penguin Business “… anyone who has spent time with any variety of organizations, or worked in more than two or three, will have been struck by the differing atmospheres, the differing ways of doing things, the differing levels of energy, of individual freedom, of kinds of personality. For organizations are as different and varied as the nations and societies of the world. They have differing cultures – sets of values and norms and beliefs – reflected in different structures and systems”
Psychic Prisons (sources of stress)The way the organizations are designed and structured and the methods and procedures of work, etc are likely sources of stress to the workers.
The above metaphors, though providing a broader view of the dynamics of organizational behaviour, are not fixed. An organization can be a mix of each, and predominantly a combination of two or three metaphors, which may change over a period of time.
Whatever definition taken, an organization is a means to an end rather than an...