Organizational Behavior | (2024)

Organizational behavior is the study of individual behavior in an organizational setting. This includes the study of how individuals behave alone, as well as how individuals behave in groups. Organizational behavior is an interdisciplinary field dedicated to understanding individual and group behavior, interpersonal processes, and organizational dynamics. The purpose of organizational behavior is to gain a greater understanding of those factors that influence individual and group dynamics in an organizational setting so that individuals and the groups and organizations to which they belong may become more efficient and effective.

Organizational behavior is a relatively new field of study that draws most heavily from the psychological and sociological sciences. It also looks to scientific fields such as ergonomics, statistics, and psychometrics. Other topics of interest in the field of organizational behavior include the extent to which theories of behavior are culturally

bound, unethical decision-making, self-management and self-leadership, and work/family conflict.


One of the main reasons for this interdisciplinary approach is because the field of organizational behavior involves multiple levels of analysis. These different levels of analysis are necessary for understanding individual behavior within organizations because people always act within the context of their environment, which includes both objects and other people. Workers influence their environment and are also influenced by their environment, making the study of organizational behavior a multi-level endeavor. The different levels of analysis used in the field of organizational behavior are: the individual level, the group level, and the organizational level.

Individual Level of Analysis . At the individual level of analysis, organizational behavior involves the study of learning, perception, creativity, motivation, personality, turnover, task performance, cooperative behavior, deviant behavior, ethics, and cognition. At this level of analysis, organizational behavior draws heavily upon psychology, engineering, and medicine. For example, a study of organizational behavior at the individual level of analysis might focus on the impact of different types of overhead lighting on such factors as productivity and absenteeism.

Group Level of Analysis . At the group level of analysis, organizational behavior involves the study of group dynamics, intra- and intergroup conflict and cohesion, leadership, power, norms, interpersonal communication, networks, and roles. At this level of analysis, organizational behavior draws upon the sociological and socio-psychological sciences. For example, a study of how different personality types correspond to different leadership styles and levels of results operates at the group level of analysis.

Organization Level of Analysis . At the organization level of analysis, organizational behavior involves the study of topics such as organizational culture, organizational structure, cultural diversity, inter-organizational cooperation and conflict, change, technology, and external environmental forces. At this level of analysis, organizational behavior draws upon anthropology and political science. The various studies on organizational cultures, from William Ouchi's classic Theory Z: How American Business Can Meet the Japanese Challenge (1981) to the more recent Organizational Culture and Leadership (2004) are examples of organizational behavior conducted at the organization level of analysis.


Much of organizational behavior research is ultimately aimed at providing human resource management professionals with the information and tools they need to select, train, and retain employees in a fashion that yields maximum benefit for the individual employee as well as for the organization. As one author has written, People are an organization's most important assets! The study of organizational behavior is an attempt to maximize the effectiveness of this asset.

Organizational behavior management utilizes studies of organizational behavior as a tool to improve productivity and profit. There is an attempt to develop scientific principles that improve employee performance. This goes beyond simply understanding the general principles of human behavior in the organizational context and focuses on such specific issues as:

  • Employee safety, stress, and health
  • Evaluation of employee satisfaction and feedback systems
  • Use of monetary and nonmonetary incentives
  • Development of self-management procedures
  • Programmed instruction, behavioral modeling, and computer-aided instruction
  • Positive and negative side effects of management interventions
  • Systems analysis of the way in which work gets done, measured, and evaluated


A number of important trends in the study of organizational behavior are the focus of research efforts. First, a variety of research studies have examined topics at the group level of analysis rather than exclusively at the individual level of analysis. For example, while empowerment has largely been investigated as an individual-level motivation construct, researchers have begun to study team empowerment as a means of understanding differences in group performance. Similar research has focused on elevating the level of analysis for personality characteristics and cooperative behavior from the individual level to the group level.

Another research trend is an increasing focus on personality as a factor in individual- and group-level performance. This stems from the movement toward more organic organization designs, increased supervisory span of control, and more autonomous work designs. All of these factors serve to increase the role that personality

plays as a determinant of outcomes such as stress, cooperative or deviant behavior, and performance.

Personality traits that are related to flexibility, stress hardiness, and personal initiative are also the subject of research. Examples of these personality traits include a tendency toward individualism or collectivism, self-monitoring, openness to experience, and a proactive personality. Forms of behavior that are constructive and change-oriented in nature are also studied. These forms of behavior are proactive in nature and act to improve situations for the individual, group, or organization. Examples of these behaviors include issue selling, taking initiative, constructive change-oriented communication, innovation, and proactive socialization.

Organizational behavior is a central concern of human resource managers. Research at all levels of organizational behavior continues to be an active field in both academia and management. A wide variety of issues and concerns are the focus of on-going studies and management techniques.

SEE ALSO Human Resource Management; Motivation and Motivation Theory; Organic Organizations; Organizational Culture; Organizational Development


Bowditch, James L., and Anthony F. Buono. A Primer on Organizational Behavior. 7th ed. New York: Wiley, 2007.

DeCenzo, David A., and Stephen P. Robbins. Fundamentals of Human Resource Management. 9th ed. New York: Wiley, 2006.

Hersey, Paul H., Kenneth H. Blanchard, and Dewey E. Johnson. Management of Organizational Behavior. 9th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2007.

Hitt, Michael A., C. Chet Miller, and Adrienne Colella. Organizational Behavior: A Strategic Approach. New York: Wiley, 2005.

Hofstede, Geert, and Gert Jan Hofstede. Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind. 2nd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2004.

Schein, Edgar H. Organizational Culture and Leadership. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2004.

Schermerhorn, John, James G. Hunt, and Richard N. Osborn. Organizational Behavior. 10th ed. New York: Wiley, 2008.

Staw, Barry, ed. Research in Organizational Behavior, vol. 28. London: JAI Press, 2008.

Organizational Behavior | (2024)
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