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Posts tagged ‘performance’

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 – Competition Studies

Answers the Question

How does the presence of other people affect us as individuals?

How it Began

Norman Triplett’s competition studies started as a research thesis during his studies as a master’s student.   Curious about the results of analysis of competitive cycling results which demonstrated that lone cyclists against the clock were always slower than cyclists riding or racing with a group of others, Triplett took to experimenting in the laboratory with children and fishing reels.  The result was “The dynamogenic factors in pacemaking and competition” which was published in the American Journal of Psychology in 1898.   110 years on this is considered to be the seminal work for the development of sports psychology.


Social Psychology was in its infancy when Triplett was a student.  Early research focused on basic perceptual processes and judgements, with social factors soon starting to be included in researchers considerations.  Despite lacking statistically significant evidence for competition effects, the research did support the notion that the presence of other people does impact the motivation of the individual.

The publication opened the floodgates for the body of knowledge that is now available to us in the field of social psychology

Key Terminology

Social Facilitation – Tendency for the presence of other people to enhance our performance on simple or well-learned tasks, but reduce performance on complex, or unfamiliar tasks (Geen, 1991; Zajonc, 1965)

Social Loafing – Tendency for individuals to reduce their efforts when working with others on group or collective tasks (Latané et al., 1979)

In Brief

“Social facilitation and social loafing might appear to be opposite effects because the presence of others typically stimulates effort in the case of facilitation but reduce it in the case of loafing.  However, this inconsistency is readily resolved by noting the nature of others present are observers, co-actors or audience members, creating the potential for increased arousal, evaluation or distraction relative to what would be experienced alone.  On the other hand, in social loafing research, the others who are present are co-workers or teammates, creating an opportunity for individuals to reduce their efforts tow hat they might contribute when solely responsible for performing well at the task.” (Karenau and Kipling, 2012)

What does this mean for Organization Development?

The role of social facilitation is important to consider in the workplace because an Organization is a social situation.  Social facilitation implies that people’s performance is not purely based on their ability, but is also impacted by the internal awareness of being evaluated.  Understanding that the presence of an observer or a line manager whilst someone is performing a task is important because Performance can be greatly affected by situation factors, thus making it possible to entirely alter the outcome of a situation.

This can be very important when considering how anyone will perform under evaluation and how to potentially prepare for those situations.  For example, allowing an individual to practice delivering a presentation in front of peers before delivering it for ‘real’ will help reduce the feeling of evaluation when the individual delivers the presentation for real and increase performance.  On the other hand, the use of assessment centres for recruitment purposes can significantly distort performance according to how the individual responses to the feelings of evaluation and whether they enhance or reduce performance.

Social loafing is consider to be one of the main reasons groups are sometimes less productive than the combined performance of their members working as individuals, although this should be separated from group coordination problems. Social loafing helps explain an individual’s reduction in effort in order to avoid pulling the weight of a fellow group member, many of the causes of this reduction in effort stem from an individual feeling that his or her effort will not matter to the group.