What Is Organizational Behavior?

what is organizational behavior

I am trained as an industrial-organizational (I-O) psychologist, but my research area is organizational behavior or OB for short. I mainly study employee health and well-being (e.g., job satisfaction, mistreatment at work, and stress), and employee misbehavior at work (counterproductive work behavior). These topics focus on employees in the workplace, which is the domain of OB. But what is organizational behavior exactly?

Major Divisions of Business Schools

Business schools are concerned with the functioning of organizations within the private (business), public (government) and nonprofit sectors. These schools employee faculty who have a variety of backgrounds and expertise who are organized around major areas of a business.

  • Accounting is concerned with tracking and reporting of how financial resources are accumulated and spent. Accountants analyze income and expenditures over time.
  • Finance is concerned with the management of financial assets including investment decisions and long-term strategies for the use of money.
  • Information Systems focuses on tools for the accumulation and analysis of data within organizations. Data come in many forms, are about organizational insiders (e.g., employees) and outsiders (e.g., customers), and involve both monetary and nonmonetary aspects of a business. IS professionals are experts in computers and data analysis.
  • Management takes the broad view in dealing with the overall running of an organization. A large part of the field concerns the human side of organizations divided into two major overlapping areas of Human Resource Management that tries to optimize the human resource function of an organization (e.g., the best ways to hire and train employees) and OB that aims to understand people at work.
  • Marketing involves the best way to connect potential consumers to the goods and services provided by an organization. Although it is generally focused on private sector businesses, the principles of marketing are applied in other sectors as well.

What Is Organizational Behavior?

OB is concerned with understanding people in the workplace ranging from entry level employees to the C-suite. OB focuses attention on individual employees (micro-OB) or on the entire organization (macro-OB). There are dozens of topics that OB practitioners and researchers study.

  • Attitudes about work. The most popular are job satisfaction (the extent to which people like their jobs) and organizational commitment (how attached a person feels to the job).
  • Behavior. Included are both productive behaviors that contribute to the organization, such as task performance and citizenship behavior and counterproductive behaviors that harm organizations or people in the workplace.
  • Leadership. This is studied from both the perspective of leaders and followers and is focused on both effective and ineffective leader behaviors.
  • Motivation. What drives people to invest effort into their jobs and go beyond doing the bare minimum.
  • Occupational health and well-being. How stressful conditions at work affect physical health and emotional well-being.
  • Occupational safety. The workplace can expose employees to a variety of physical and social hazards that can harm physical and mental health.
  • Teams. Many of us in the modern workplace perform our tasks in collaboration with others. How teams can be best structured and managed is an important area of OB.

These are just some of the major topics that have provided insights into how best to manage people in the workplace. A deep understanding of how the work environment affects people, and what sorts of job conditions enable employees to thrive, can help create healthy workplaces that maximize both efficiency and employee well-being.

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2 Replies to “What Is Organizational Behavior?”

    1. There is a lot of overlap, but HRM is concerned with the human resource function of organizations. It covers topics like recruitment/selection, training/development, compensation, legal issues in employment, and HR practices. OB is the science of human behavior at work, dealing with topics like attitudes, behavior, motivation, and leadership. Both overlap with IO psychology, with HR being the I side, and OB being the O side.

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