Organizational Behavior

Citation metadata

Editor: Sonya D. Hill
Date: 2012
Encyclopedia of Management
Publisher: Gale, part of Cengage Group
Document Type: Topic overview
Pages: 3
Content Level: (Level 4)

Document controls

Main content

Full Text: 
Page 760

Organizational Behavior

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

Organizational behavior 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.


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 multilevel 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. Personality tests are frequently used, and analysts attempt to understand how different types of people develop and approach their work situations. The relationship between the individual and the work environment is also key at this stage. For

Page 761  |  Top of Article

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. Personality tests and theories are still used, but analysts are more interested in how personalities work together and how different personalities respond to leadership styles or company cultures.

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.


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. The study of organizational behavior is an attempt to maximize the effectiveness of the human 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


In her 2011 book Key Concepts in Social Responsibility, Suzanne Benn pointed out one of the most modern organization behavior developments, known as stewardship. Stewardship is an attitude that employees adopt toward themselves, their employees, and the company at the same time. It is a holistic approach to an ideal behavior for business success.

The stewardship model is defined by someone who, “given a choice between self-serving behavior and proorganizational behavior…will not depart from the interests of his or her own organization.” A steward has the mindfulness and willpower to avoid opportunistic and greedy behaviors that benefit only the self, while embracing behaviors that benefit the organization and surrounding peers, resulting in better relationships and a thriving business.


Kevin Sheridan, CEO of HR Solutions, warned in a 2011 article on employment trends that as an economy begins to recover from a recession, it is natural for employees to seek new employment. The United States can therefore expected employment retention to become a significant issue in the early 2010s as economic activity increases. As a result, employers must learn how to develop effective, long-term relationships with employees. Dedicated use of social media and lifestyle benefits can help with this positive connections.

As companies become more focused on globalization, organizational behavior is following the trend. Many new treatises deal with how to successful integrate with other cultures, especially Asian cultures, where partnerships and outsourcing is common. These cultures can bring valuable diversity and experience of their own to American companies that are willing to develop relationships. Proper organizational behavior is key to the transition period where both cultures learn to work together.


Ashkanasy, M. Neal, Celeste P. M. Wilderom, and Mark F. Peterson, eds. The Handbook of Organizational Culture and Climate. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2010.

Benn, Suzanne. Key Concepts in Social Responsibility. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2011.

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.

Page 762  |  Top of Article

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.

Ozbilgin, Mustafa F. Diversity Management in Asia. Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar, 2011.

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

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

Sheridan, Kevin. “Top 10 Employee Engagement Trends.” MonsterThinking (blog), 10 January 2011. Available from .

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

Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|CX4016600230