Essays on Organizational Behavior and Theory

A. Basic Human Processes

Coping with Organizational Life: Emotions and Stress

Sometimes it is difficult to achieve something in this world – a world which is simply called a global village. Actually the phrase global village is an oxymoron. It is nicknamed ‘village’ because it has been made simple by computers, the internet, and the globalized world – we are connected. But in this so-called simplicity, humans have to live in a most complicated way. Computers have made our lives complicated, if not miserable.

We have to cope, adjust, and change day in and day out with our organizational life. There are many things to cope with; change is one of them. And it is complicated because one phenomenon appears after another, and so on and so forth.

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Most of us belong to an organization, which maybe a particular business, or a group with humanitarian goals. Many of the people who started these organizations would say that they formed the groups to make life easier and to make the world a better place to live in. But we know that these organizations have complicated goals, beginnings, and outcomes. They haven’t made life a better place to live. They have made our lives difficult, although there is an exception to some. There are organizations out there which have noble intentions, although (again this word) these organizations are victims themselves of the changes brought about by many factors.

An organization with a business background and objective – or simply said, a business organization – can never offer simple lives for its members. This complicated world of the managers, employees and ordinary workers makes life so harsh, difficult and uncompromising.

We have to cope because global organizations operate in a most complicated way, not to mention that organizations are composed of peoples of diverse cultures. Multinational corporations and multinational enterprises are global organizations composed of people of diverse cultures. Living with peoples of different cultures can make the lives of ordinary employees, and even managers, very unbalanced. Work and life balance is difficult to achieve.

We have to cope, adjust and modify our lives through these experiences. Our emotions, feelings, personal lives have never been so affected by organizational activities that we tend to look at the office or the organization headquarters as our home away from home. We spend and dedicate our time, efforts, and knowledge to the organization. We look at the office as more than a place. Family life plays second fiddle. We believe that if we are happy in the organization, we are happy at home. The organization comes first.

Moreover, the organization’s strategic operation is very different than it was a few years ago. Employees have to give up, sometimes. Businesses and organizations are manned or controlled by humans, not by machines – machines are there to follow our commands. But humans commit mistakes or errors, and succumb to the changes and ambiguities in organizational life.

In our dealings with fellow employees, we commit errors. Our errors and inadequacies, faults, perceptions are in many ways what make us human and make us unique. The world has been interpreted by theorists, thinkers and researchers who made sense of things in very different ways. Many of these issues are perceptions but are essential to handling the nearly infinite stimulus our mind receives. The more the organization has become complicated to our own perception, the more we commit errors and mistakes; and the more our lives become miserable.

Management is in a period of decline, and this is particularly in the middle management (Scarbrough and Burrel, 1996, cited in Brocklehurst et al., 2009, p. 7). The decline can be due to many factors, like personality and relationship. Our relationship with people is affected by our unique personality – because we are humans.

Like the organization, human nature is complicated – it is filled with emotions and feelings. In an organization, there are complexities, errors, and successes, because organizations are manned by humans like us. We are not governed by theories but we formulate these theories out of our experiences and continued socialization. In the course of time, these theories seem to rule over our behavior and activities.

Schemas are constructs that contain information about our values, how we perceive ourselves and others, and how we adjust to things and changes in the environment. Schemas are components of cognitive-behavioral therapy and are powerful tools in interpersonal relationships. (Clegg et al., 2005, p. 56)

In our socializing activities, we commit errors which are a part of our behavior in making judgments, interpretations, assumptions, and beliefs about our social world, the people within it, and our place in it. Examples of these errors are stereotyping, self-fulfilling prophecies, the ‘halo’ effect, attribution error, cognitive dissonance, and so forth. These affect our relationships with managers and co-employees.

This should be minimized, if not avoided, because this is one way of judging people; instead of managing, we divert from the right path. Instead of motivating, we discourage employees. Stereotyping is not always negative. Self-fulfilling prophecies and the ‘halo’ effect are a result of our own fulfilling dreams – a result of looking at one’s self as something greater, or holier-than-thou attitude.

The most common issues concerning stereotyping center on culture and race. People have been asked to suppress their stereotyping behavior. Another of the errors in managing people is ‘self-fulfilling prophecies’ which affects how we perceive others and how we act when we interact with them, but it also affects how we perceive and act ourselves. If we look at others the way we think of them, they may act the way we perceive of them.

Within attribution we are prone to two key errors. The first is the fundamental attribution error. When we see someone fail or behave in certain ways we believe it is due to their personality, attitude, or disposition.

When we think of work as a mere tool for us to live, we can hardly be motivated. We will continue working for the sake of the salary we get from the company we work for. But we have to cope with our organizational life, the same way we cope with family life. This has to go together. Work and life have to balance. Organizations which promote work-life balance will have productive workers because these workers are well motivated. Success in work and happiness in the family always go together.

B. Individual Processes

Motivation in Organizations

It has always been a common belief that when people are motivated, they accomplish goals. Workers become productive when they feel they are a part of a team, or part-owner of the organization. They feel this sense of belongingness and so they strive for the organization’s improvement.

Organizations have been trying ways to help employees adjust their family life with work. Ways of motivation include benefits and higher salaries, which can further result into increased productivity, lower rates of absenteeism and a motivated and satisfied workforce. (McIntosh, 2003, p. 185)

Studies have found that successful managers have stronger power motives than less successful managers. The human need theory asserts that people have urges relative to the three needs which are the need for achievement, the need for affiliation, and the need for power. The role of team leaders is to coach, that of the facilitator, not someone to play as superman (Armstrong, 1998, p. 8).

People always connect work with life’s fulfilment, and connect their satisfaction at work with their feelings and satisfaction of life, and happiness with their family. Satisfaction in the workplace means happiness at home and fulfilment in life. Work and life balance suggests a balance for life and what people do. There has to be a blending equality that includes work, family, pleasure, fulfilment, and satisfaction.

Part of good and productive management is to motivate employees to become productive and to work for the fulfilment of the organization’s objectives. Motivation is an important factor in determining performance of people in an organization. It is the heart of performance management.

Theories of motivation include those expounded by Frederick Taylor who is known as the father of scientific management. He defined work in terms of the specified tasks designed for the workers to follow, and with no chance of freedom or judgment left on the part of the workers. There is no motivation during those early years of industrialization, which is the basis of Taylor’s theory. (Luecke & Hall, 2006, p. 18)

Another is that of the social scientist Douglas McGregor who formulated the Theory X and Theory Y approach to management. Managers who embrace Theory X have two motivational tools: the carrot and stick – greed and fear. Theory X sees the boss as prodding the employees, exerting too much control in the workplace. Theory Y assumes that when people are motivated, they accomplish goals. Workers become productive when they are motivated: to be a part of the team, or to be a part-owner of the organisation, and to be creative in their work. (Fournies, 1999, p. 34)

Another motivational factor is the Hawthorne effect which refers to the productivity benefits that companies create when they pay attention to their employees and treat them with dignity or as equal partners. David Garvin and Norman Klein (cited in Luecke & Hall, 2006, p. 19) made their own research on this and found that work output was not simply a function of a job’s scientific design, but was also influenced by social norms, management-employee communications, and the level of employee involvement in workplace decisions.

According to Abraham Maslow (1943), our needs are arranged like a pyramid or ladder. At the bottom of the pyramid are the physiological needs such as food, water, oxygen and sex. As one set is met, the person moves up the ladder to the next. Next in the ladder are the safety needs such as security, stability, dependency, protection, freedom from fear, anxiety and chaos. Then we have the need for structure, order, law, and limits, and the need for strength in the protector.

The next in the ladder is belongingness and love needs that include the need for recognition, acceptance and approval of others. (Maslow, 1943, p. 233)

Self-esteem needs include how we value ourselves and our love and respect for ourselves and for others.

Then we have the desires to know and to understand (Maslow, 1943, p. 236). This refers to man’s quest for acquiring knowledge and systematizing the universe, or what Maslow calls expressions of self-actualization.

Self-actualizing people focus on problems outside of themselves, have a clear sense of what is true and what is sham, are spontaneous and creative, and are not bound too strictly by social conventions (Firth, 2002, p. 85).

Self-actualizing needs are those where we place our goals for our career. Management in the organization has to look how it has met the needs of its employees before they can go on and be effective in their job.

The need theory is focused on the acquired needs that people learn in the process of acquiring new life experience over their lifetime. The three major groups of needs that people acquire, include achievement, affiliation, and power (Kopelman et al., 2006, p. 233). It is the motivations that people have for certain attitudes towards their work and their relations with their employers.

The human need theory asserts that people have urges relative to the three needs: the need for achievement (the desire to accomplish a goal more effectively than in the past); the need for affiliation (the desire for human companionship and acceptance); and the need for power (the desire to be influential in a group and to control one’s environment (Firth, 2002, p. 86).

Affiliation is the need that people try to satisfy in the work place as well, and organizations must provide their employees with favorable conditions for professional and personal development in the work place, encourage growth of the employees for the mutual benefit of the whole organization (Duxbury & Higgins, 2001, p. 13). Finally, the need of power is the moving force of the career development and professional progress of an employee (Kopelman et al., 2006, p. 233).

In business, it is a matter of always being active, always looking for improvement, and in pursuit of excellence to do the right things. This involves action or activities to get to the customers’ demands quick, to answer their needs, to improve the business always, etc.

Motivating employees is a challenge to managers. Managers have to demonstrate trust to their employees otherwise they get what they expect. Ways to demonstrate trust include such actions as removing some controls, or by asking a person to create a plan or schedule, or by putting subordinate in charge of something one would normally handle.

C. Interpersonal Processes

Group Dynamics and Work Teams

Organizations employ many strategies to improve competitive advantage. Group dynamics and team building are concepts of continual improvement. Group dynamics influence individual behaviour. (Firth, 2002, p. 23)

Team building is one of the many innovations which benefited workers. In team building, workers are formed in teams or clusters and function through teamwork and motivation. Each team is given independence, the members are allowed to function at their own utmost capacity, and are trained in the process, becoming multi-skilled, while each member is responsible to the team. A cluster competes with other clusters when it comes to skill, but they are all working for one organisation. As individuals mature in their job, and become accustomed to it, they significantly improve their skill and organizational knowledge, becoming more professional and expert in their own respective fields.

The philosophy behind teambuilding is that when individual workers are allowed to work at their own pace and given the responsibility as part of the team, they become well motivated. The motivation is that each individual works for improvement and advancement of the organisation.

A member becomes like a part owner of the business. Each cluster works like an independent body but each member is multi-skilled that allows the cluster members to be flexible. Cluster methods provide improvement not only as workers but as developed individuals. Teamwork can develop individual flexibility and learning. This concept is like that of motivation. The purpose is to motivate the workers into aiming for the success of the organization. (Jenkins, 1994, p. 852, cited in Contu, 2007, p. 126)

Many organisations in the private and public sector have their workforce ‘subdivided’ into teams. They have recognized the great significance of this concept. This can be seen in many of the Fortune 2000 companies and in many other successful businesses throughout the world. (Knights and Willmott, 2007, p. 118)

Creating teams require some skill and real talent. It requires some determination to put the individual talents into a single force to work for change or introduce ideas that can provide further innovations, progress and success for one objective.

The purpose is somehow linked to the organizational mission and objectives. By having clusters and groups, talents and capabilities of members are maximized. This is known as the centralized kind of management. With globalization, the technique is to manage the organisation horizontally. Team working can best be enhanced with use of the internet, Information Technology, and teleconferencing. Mobile communication such as cell phones, lap tops and other similar high-technology tools can help in team building work. Communication is fast and effective.

Team formations are considered special features for improved organisational performance. Introducing principles of team formations in the workplace is like implementing total quality management concepts. They present a strong foundation for global organisations in the present century, and they can be an effective way of providing work and life balance which is very much needed by the people. (Knights and Willmott, 2007, p. 125)

This is also known as the lean factory. Womack et al (1990, p. 90, cited in Knights and Willmott, p. 126) narrated in their book the five-year research on the status of the organisation of work in the automobile industry around the world. They called it the ‘lean design’ or ‘just-in-time’ because it defies traditional criteria of organization of production and management thinking.

Its aim is to avoid waste, slack and redundancies. This application of the supply chain management can reduce cost on the part of the suppliers and owners because there is less surplus inventory. The demand from customers is the only supplies that have to be delivered. The system is fast and efficient, with few errors, and this is what lean design aspires to achieve.

Team building was introduced in the world’s foremost carmaker, Toyota. Toyota introduced the concept of kaizen which means ‘continual improvement. They formed teams and shortened some stages of production to save time and provide flexibility. (Lynch, 2008, p. 773)

The Japanese continual improvement concept is a step-by-step approach that is effective in business and in production and operations management. It is inspired from the old Chinese maxim ‘step by step walk a thousand times’. This was later introduced to the West, but for the most part companies have limited their kaizen efforts to delegating to operators the continuous improvement of manufacturing processes.

The kaizen method is very popular in management nowadays. It is an innovation in management that says, ‘Go on work, improve… improve… work… work… make innovations.’ This is a Japanese original idea, but more and more managers have been injecting their original ideas to produce further innovations.

Toyota is a part of the knowledge economy. Its people are knowledge-based, who are continuing improving. They train their people in-house and not in a university or a formal school of learning. They form them into clusters and each team functions independently from the others, but work for the objectives of the organization.

Toyota’s cars are the result of careful study. The Toyota Production system, where team working is a must, with its flexible production methods, proved effective because Toyota was able to feel the gains when it was still struggling as a small company. The continual improvement concept is, in fact, continuing and commendable. The company went international and established manufacturing plants around the world. It has maintained its workforce, making sure they remain in the company for longer period even during economic crisis.

Toyota has been on the forefront of car making because of an effective strategic and operational management coupled with an efficient and competitive workforce. Their strategies involve innovations in production, marketing, sales and promotions and branding. Toyota has survived through the years.

Its programs, strategies, and plans of the future are as strong as ever. Its management is institutionalized as well as the personalities behind the founding and operations. Toyota has a long tradition of management from its original founder down to a long line of car builders and business innovators. The Toyota leadership focuses on employees and customers. Their employees are their greatest asset and they also attend to the satisfaction of the employees.

In an organization, team building and team working can booster the morale and camaraderie among the workers and can enhance positive work habits. Team building may not be new, but how this being given renewed attention is something new. It has bolstered growth in organizations, sped up production and increased profits and sales.

Team formations are considered special features for improved organisational performance. This is total quality management and best practice. It presents a strong foundation for global organisations in the present century, and can be an effective way of providing work and life balance which is very much needed by the people.

Team building is important in an organisation, especially in the age of globalisation because members become flexible and can respond to new challenges or solve problems within their reach. They are also more motivated to work because of the responsibility and power bestowed upon them by management. Allowing the individual members to acquire some of the responsibilities of solving problems or even management decisions enable them to work effectively, and act as if they are real owners of the organisation.

D. Influence Processes

Leadership in Organizations

There is a common thinking that successful leaders are those who respond most appropriately to the demands of the specific situation. When there are no problems, when it seems there is no conflict in the organization, leaders can relax and seek opinions from members at a leisurely pace. But when a problem comes up, the leader must know how to act and deal with the situation immediately. The leader has to be well prepared to changes which may come in anytime.

A French politician cried out ‘how can I lead my people if I do not know where they are going!’ A leader should have avid followers who know the rules of the game; meaning members should know how to follow and cooperate for the success of the leadership. It goes to any kind of leadership, whether political, organizational, or even leadership in a family.

Leadership is felt but it is difficult to describe and impossible to command. And yet, it is a most powerful force that makes many people and even masses of people move at a particular pace in a particular direction. Leadership is building up a character, a personality, and changing it to something to mould an organization or a personality. Leadership needs change, but leadership succumbs to change. And change affects all of us – our thoughts, feelings, activities, and experience.

How does this affect us? How does man react to change? Is change continuous? Since I study leadership, is change continuous in leadership?

‘Change is the only constant’ (Beerel, 2009, p. 4).

Leadership and change go together because a leader has to change all the time. He has to be kept abreast of knowledge, of everything, and apply this to people, activities and experience. That alone is change. It cannot be a normal, ordinary undertaking – it has to be adjusted to the dictates of the times.

Change management does not have any particular correct way of it, though it includes a number of social science disciplines and traditions in theory and practice. It is really difficult to find out the origin of change management (Burnes, 2004, p. 261).

Experience in life is filled with change – positive, negative, environmental factors, genetic make-up. All are changes; all change. Scientific evidence has proven that people change over a course of time because of mere genetic considerations. What more with ideas and experience? They change over time. We may agree today, we could be opposites tomorrow.

Change occurs inside and outside organizations. Technological advances, political factors, laws, social and cultural influences all contribute to change and create ambiguity in organizations. Leaders have devised all sorts of ways on how to manage change, and so do managers. The one and innovative way managers and leaders have devised to counter change and ambiguity is to effect strategic change. This technique is a step by step process in business organizations that tend to define the circumstances, peoples and leaders, and various aspects of the business environment.

But Whittington (2001) asks: “Does strategy matter?” Whittington asks this because if there is really the best method of strategic management, then all the rest of the managers who have been studying management are not anymore in use. If we can buy a book for strategic management in just a small amount that says this is strategic management, then we don’t need to pay managers so much.

People who tend to like change are those who may have changed the world. Many of them are not the ones who are popular, but quite a few effected change and their inventions became more popular than their personality. They are leaders in their own right, quiet and unpopular, but effective.

Change is an internal dynamic in a person; meaning the attitude – our attitudes, our outlook in life, our motivations and objectives for the organization – should change, and we become good leaders. But first we have to become, transform, into good followers who want change. The ‘want’ is emphasized here because if we do not have the longing for change, it will not be effective. It has to be a desire and a goal.

Transformational leadership can transform people into the kind of followers an organization must have. There are other kinds of leaders which may lead to disastrous circumstances for the organization, some of which maybe the egocentric leaders. Egos and selfish principles on the part of the leader can lead to failure of leadership even in an organization such as the military. The military is a well-disciplined kind of organization, and its leaders are trained not to be egocentric, but always to look after the welfare and safety of the soldiers.

There is an objective of improvement in transformational leadership. It is for the welfare of the members, and the organization can benefit from it. It transforms people and the entire organization. Transformational leadership focuses on the advancement of each and every employee or worker. The employees become motivated, inspired and given rewards in various forms.

The leader should stand as a model to be admired and emulated. He has to possess some extraordinary qualities but should be able to inspire and motivate people.

The followers are inspired to work and to see for the future. Transformational leaders stimulate their followers’ imagination to be creative and to provide more ideas and innovations for the betterment of their company or organization.

Leaders have made our world different.

We have Malcolm McLean who introduced containerization or the shipping of voluminous loads and cargo through containers. It was the start of containerized shipping. Without his innovative leadership, he could not have led his people to load those large crates into his trucks, travels hundreds of miles up to the ports and load those crates in the ships. Companies followed his pioneering ideas and so containerization became popular.

Frederick Smith started FedEx, a private overnight delivery business, now serving worldwide with hundreds of thousands of employees and billions of dollars in assets and capital. Before this, nobody ever thought the ‘snail mails’ could be pushed faster. It is the post office’s competition but so innovative that people won’t care spending more just so their loved ones’ packages can arrive on time.

Bill Gates and the young computer ‘geeks’ of Silicon Valley were willing to introduce new ideas, changes, and trends in the workplace, that if they did not dare, somebody else could have done it and it would probably have been a different ‘ball game’ than it is today in the computer industry.

The innovation that Gates introduced to the world at first wasn’t an original idea. Young computer enthusiasts were all competing with the young Bill. But ideas always have variety, and Gates’s was an original injected into a popular idea that made him and almost everyone with him millionaires.

Henry Ford and his ‘Model T’ started the mass production of cars. Ford pioneered in the concept of the assembly line in the automotive industry. He installed conveyor belts, making the workers to stay in one place. He shortened the working hours of the workers, and his factories operated round the clock. With his innovations, the company was able to mass manufacture cars. His innovation and leadership changed the traditional concept of production. (Maxwell, 2008)

There other various kinds of leaders, leaders of our time who made the world different. They have led organizations to victory and success. They have the courage and they were not afraid to effect change. We have quite a number of them.

E. Organizational Processes

Managing organizational change

Change is explained to us by the Greek philosopher Heraclitus. He related the anecdote about one’s stepping on the river twice. Heraclitus said that one can never step on the same river twice. There is more than one interpretation to what philosophers or common people think and say. One interpretation is that the river is always changing and when the person steps on it the second time, the river has changed. Another is that the one who steps on the river is already a changed person the next time around even if the lapse of time is just a few moments.

Life is not always the same, a second or a minute from now. The world revolves and we go along with it. Simple life can change; what more with an organisation with its complexities and compositions.

Change is inevitable, they always say. We encounter change, we introduce change, and we cannot avoid change enforced upon us by time and situations. The most reasonable thing that we can do is to manage change. To manage change, organisations prepare their employees and workers in various ways: orientation, on the job training, training and development, and so forth. Some of these methods are institutionally programmed, but change is sometimes spontaneous, difficult to penetrate and encounter. In nation states where knowledge is an important product, or those nation states which are in the midst of the knowledge economy, employees have to experience continuous learning, or lifelong learning. They study and train, even after college.

Employees and workers have to be well-equipped in the knowledge economy with the necessary mental, physical and psychological abilities. Individuals should be ready for battle and their weapons are their knowledge, talent, capabilities, and experience to combat the multiple forces of modernity and technology. Organizations depend much on the workers; workers depend on organizational knowledge.

Advancement in communication has allowed everyone and every business organization to be connected to the world anytime. The world has never been so tightly interconnected as it is today. These connections have been realized at almost no cost to the customer and at a reasonable cost to the supplier (Sussland, 2000, p. ix).

Change management does not have any particular correct way of doing it, though it includes a number of social science disciplines and traditions in theory and practice. It is also difficult to find out the origin of change management. (Burnes, 2004, p. 261)

Globalization has affected even the smallest community. Significant social changes can take place both before and after the phases of the most intense physical activities, for example construction, production, expansion, manufacturing, and so forth. Globalization has revolutionized businesses and organizations. Companies now are expanding abroad, and have to expand both as an organization and as a business. New products have to be introduced. Competition dictates these companies to be always changing.

Another major driver of change is technology. Technology has brought about related phenomena, activities, a new form of industry, and of course changes. Because of the advent and popularity of the internet, globalisation dominates almost all aspects of businesses and organisations. “We are now living in a globalised world” seems to be a favorite catchphrase among authors and writers, and applicable to businesses and organisations because transactions can be conducted at an instance.

Companies need personnel and departments in order to grow in this so-called global village. But companies and organizations also have to belt-tighten, lower operational costs and minimize wanton spending. What they need are more personnel with less costs for the hiring and training of these personnel.

Most of the business functions and responsibilities cannot anymore be performed by existing departments with their limited personnel. Companies have to create more departments, recruit more personnel, and add more duties and responsibilities. They need middle- and low-level managers and staff to answer to customers’ demands. Because of this, downsizing comes to the aid of organizations struggling in their finances.

There is a lot of challenge put on the shoulder of the manager which puts his expertise to the test. Along with this line of thought is the concept on comparative human resource management that explores the extent to which people differs between different countries or between areas within a country or different regions of the world.

There are more changes when the organization has expanded to other countries. Managers and employees have to adjust to an organization with different cultures. An organization in another environmental setting will create a culture by itself that will have to cope with the existing culture of another country. Organizational culture is different from the existing national culture.

Cultural differences are a key factor to globalization. National values in other countries are more pronounced in the way people dress, talk, act socially, and in their religious ways. Cultural influences are a major concern. Most low-rank employees can be recruited in the country where business is built. Senior staff and other managerial jobs are from the country of origin. This makes additional demands on the skills of the managers in handling employees of different orientation and culture.

Different countries do have different values which affect the way people organize, conduct and manage work. The manager is faced with interpreting the actions and attitudes of the employees, negotiate with groups that have not only different goals but different methods of reaching to the company and different expectations of the other employees’ behavior.

Moreover, other normal activities such as recruitment and selection, training and development, reward and performance appraisal, may all be affected by cultural values and practices. In other words, the adoption of policies should be given careful study.

Managers should be fully aware of the culture’s values and what behaviors or actions those values support in order to take advantage of an existing cultural system. The manager can do it by reading the company journals that contain the information about the people in the organization. Managers should develop a deep understanding of how organizational values operate in the firm. This can be done by being with the low-rank employees and experiencing with them their common values and experiences.


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