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Posts tagged ‘Behaviour’

Organization Psychology – Behaviour, Performance, and Effectiveness

Answers the Question

What is the hidden structure of Performance?

How it Began

During the 1980s organizational psychology stopped complaining about the standards which organization psychology work and began thinking about occupational and work role performance as a construct which could be modelled.  Since this time there has been considerable contributions to both theory and research dealing with performance, performance dynamics and performance measurement issues.  Despite difference in methodology, terminology and emphasis there has been a remarkable convergence concerning the principal components of job performance.  Regardless of occupation, organizational level, situational context or performance dynamics the meaningful basis of individual work performance is unaffected.


Key Terminology

Effectiveness – The degree to which objectives are achieved and the extent to which targeted problems are solved. In contrast to efficiency, effectiveness is determined without reference to costs and, whereas efficiency means “doing the thing right,” effectiveness means “doing the right thing.”

Behaviour – A response of an individual or group to an action, environment, person, or stimulus.

Performance – The accomplishment of a given task measured against preset known standards of accuracy, completeness, cost, and speed. In a contract, performance is deemed to be the fulfillment of an obligation, in a manner that releases the performer from all liabilities under the contract.

In Brief

Human Performance is the study of limitations and capabilities in human skilled behaviour. Skill is broadly construed to include perceptual, motor, memory, and cognitive activities, and the integration of these into more complex behavior. Emphasis is on the interaction of human behavior and tools, tasks, and environments, ranging from detection and identification of simple events to problem solving, decision making, human errors, accidents, and control of complex environments. Included among the variables that affect human performance are individual differences, organismic variables, task variables, environmental variables, and training variables.

Management and leadership can be approached at different levels. The study of management and leadership at the macro level involves the influences senior level individuals have in the larger organizational context-setting strategy, directing change, influencing values. Theory and research may focus on characteristics of leaders, leader style, leader-member interactions, behaviors of leaders, and related phenomena. At a more micro level, leadership and management involves the day-to-day exchange between leaders and followers. This includes challenges faced by line managers in their relationships with subordinates in the assignment of tasks, evaluation of performance, coaching and counseling for improvement, resource planning, and related tasks. Related to many other areas, effective leadership and management involves task analysis, motivation, decision making, career planning, selection, performance appraisal, interpersonal communication, listening and related skills in a supervisor-subordinate context. Increasingly, attention is placed on team leadership and self-leadership (especially in relation to empowerment), and horizontal leadership (i.e., peer influence processes).

Work motivation refers to the conditions within the individual and his or her environment that influence the direction, strength,and persistence of relevant individual behaviours in organizations when individual abilities and organizational constraints are held constant. Increasingly, work motivation is a concern at the group level as well.

Attitudes, opinions and beliefs are extremely important in organizational settings. They are important in their own right because of humanitarian concerns for the quality of working life of those who are employed in organizations. They are also important for diagnosing problems in organizations. They are important because they relate to the behavioural intentions and the behaviours of individuals at work. Some of the job attitudes include, but are not limited to, job satisfaction(general and various facets), job involvement, organizational commitment, and perceptions of fairness.

What does this mean for Organization Development?

Organization Development encompasses theory and research relevant to changing individuals, groups, and organizations to improve their effectiveness. the body of theory and research OD draws from include related fields such as social psychology, counseling psychology, educational psychology, vocational psychology, engineering psychology, and organizational theory.

More specifically, OD concerns theory and research related, but not limited to: individual change strategies including training, socialization, attitude change, career planning, counseling, and behavior modification; interpersonal and group change strategies, including team building and group training, survey feedback, and conflict management; role or task oriented change strategies, including job redesign, role analysis, management by objectives, and temporary task forces; and organization system-directed change strategies, including survey feedback, open systems oriented change programs, human resource accounting, flexible working hours, structural changes, control system changes, and quality circles.

It is well accepted that the structure, function, processes, and other organizational-level constructs have an impact upon the behaviour of individuals in organizations. Therefore, it is necessary to have a thorough understanding of the nature of complex organizations. This understanding should include, but is not limited to, classical and contemporary theories of organizations, organizational structure, organizational design, technology, and the process of organizational policy formation and implementation.  Integration of organizational and individual constructs is an important area requires a knowledge of organizational theory.

Much of human activity in organizations takes place in the presence of other people. This is particularly true of work behaviour. The pervasiveness of interpersonal and task interdependence in organizations demands a good understanding of the behaviour of people in work groups. Though the labels “group” and “team” are often used interchangeably, it is also critical to have a familiarity with the growing teamwork literature. This requires an understanding that extends beyond familiarity with research and theory related to interpersonal behavior in small groups. A good background in group theory and team processes includes, but is not limited to, an understanding of leadership, motivation, interpersonal influence, group effectiveness, conformity, conflict, role behavior, and group decision making.

OD practitioners need to have a sound background in work motivation, they must have a thorough understanding of the theories of human motivation including, but not limited to, need theories, cognitive theories, and reinforcement theories. Understanding of general applications of one or more motivational perspectives, such as strategies for work motivation as goal setting, job design, incentive systems, and participative decision making are relevant here.


Social Psychology – Attitudes and Behaviour

Answers the Question 

Are Attitudes and Action Related?

How it Began

A young research at Stanford, LaPiere, who travelled widely, believed that attitudes were actions in respect of the way in which individual responded in a situation being a determinant of the attitude of that individual.  At the time questionnaires were used widely in attitude surveys and LaPiere questionnaire the reliance on this method.  LaPiere set out to test the assumption that there was a direct link between verbal and behavioural responses through The Hospitality Study.

American and Chinese Flags

In a research period, which covered two years LaPiere travelled across the US with a young Chinese couple visiting over 250 hospitality businesses from hotels to restaurants.  The couple were unaware that they were subjects of a study for fear of affecting their behaviour.  At each location he allowed the couple to take centre stage in arranging the details of the service they were to receive at the establishment.  The research resulted in some startling results.  In 251 requests for service, the Chinese couple were only refused service on one occasion at an auto-camp described by LaPiere as ‘inferior’.  They were never refused service at restaurants or café’s.  The behaviour observed by LaPiere during the trip seemed in direct contrast to ‘attitude’ surveys of the time, which indicated that at the time Americans had a negative attitude towards the Chinese.  Six months after the trip LaPiere surveyed the hospitality businesses they had visited and an additional control group that were not visited.  The result?  Over 90% of establishments visited indicated that they would not accept members of Chinese race at their establishment,  In the control group 81% of restaurants said the same.

The lack of correspondence between survey and behaviour led to two conclusions firstly there is a disparity between what people did and what they said they would do and secondly that attitude surveys are only useful for measuring reactions to symbolic or abstract concepts, not for assessing how someone would respond in a given situation.

Key Terminology

Attitude – An expression of favour or disfavour toward a person, place, thing, or event (the attitude object).   Carl Jung’s defined attitude as a “readiness of the psyche to act or react in a certain way” noting that attitudes very often come in pairs, one conscious and the other unconscious.

Behaviour – A response to various stimuli resulting in a range of actions and mannerisms in conjunction with their environment, which includes those around as well as the physical environment. Responses may be internal or external, conscious or subconscious, overt or covert, and voluntary or involuntary.

In Brief 

The impact of the Hospitality study was widely interpreted as showing that attitudes do not always predict behaviour resulting in a theoretical debate regarding the relationship between attitudes and behaviour.  In 1969 Wicker reviewed 42 experimental studies and found a low average correlation between attitudes and behaviour, concluding that in all likelihood attitudes and behaviours were unrelated or at best only slightly related.

Fishbein and Ajzen sought to explain the disparity using the theory of reasoned action, 1975, and the theory of planned behaviour, 1991 arguing that behaviour was determined by a persons intention to engage in that behaviour, and intention was determined by attitude, subjective norms and perceived controls.  Further research has established that both these theories provide reasonable goo accounts of the relationship between attitude and behaviour.

LaPieres initial work raised ethical, conceptual and procedural issues regarding attitude and behaviour studies leading to further research into the relationship between attitude and behaviour.   Today social psychologists tend to conceptualise attitudes as evaluative dispositions and distinctions between implicit and explicit attitudes raise further questions regarding the assessment of verbal expressions of attitudes and their connection to behaviours.

What does this mean for Organization Development?

Employee opinion surveys, taking the temperature and recruitment assessment asking individuals to explain what they would do in a given situation are all tools used in the modern day organization.  The claim is that understanding attitudes will help the organization to support employees in adjusting to their environments and are a basis for future behaviours, helping employees to defend their self-images and justify their actions.

But be warned.  Attitude is an important, distinctive and indispensible concept in social psychology, but attitudes are only relevant if they are considered alongside the social context or organizational environment in which they are being expressed.  When it comes to predicting behaviour then nothing can be taken for granted.

Employee opinion surveys give an indication but not a real measure of attitudes.  Just because someone has a positive attitude to exercise does not mean that they will get up at 6am in the morning to go to the gym.  It is not possible for an organization to develop a programme that will make a person ‘change’ their attitude only the individual can do that.  The only thing that can be changed is the contextual basis for expressing central values and urging organizations to supply standards that allow people to organize and explain the world around them.