A beehive is one of the most efficient and productive models of collaboration. The bee colony runs like a well-oiled machine—each member knows their tasks and cooperates with others.

The modern workplace works in a similar fashion. A successful organization is one where you can witness collaboration, communication and cooperation.

It’s not only about turnovers and numbers. Organizational success relies on how well its people interact with each other and their work.

Organizational behavior is the study of how individuals and teams behave or act within an organization. At the heart of it is the application of knowledge to achieve goals, drive excellence and improve performance.

Here’s a short guide about organizational behavior. Learn about the nature of organizational behavior, its meaning and different approaches.

What Is Organizational Behavior?

The meaning of organizational behavior has evolved through the years as an exposition on human behavior and actions within a professional setting. Management experts such as Henry Fayol and Abraham Fayol have analyzed how humans interact in the workplace, what motivates them and how they function in a team.

From organizational culture to leadership, there are several aspects to management and organizational behavior.

Here are some of the key characteristics of organizational behavior:

  • Defines the relationships between managers and associates

  • Studies the way individuals behave within organizations

  • Determines the internal and external environments within which an organization operates

  • Digs deeper into employee motivations and their drive to achieve excellence

  • Focuses on team-building, job-specific attitudes and leadership

Approach Of Organizational Behavior

Management and organizational Behavior has two key players—an individual and the organization. Their interaction determines how well the organization fares in the context of outcomes and goals. Whether it’s employee job performance or leadership roles, organizational behavior is a dynamic construct that’s impacted by changing attitudes toward job roles.

Let’s look at the approach of organizational behavior from two perspectives.

Organizational Behavior – Individual

The individual employee is key to organizational excellence. Their attitude toward their job roles and responsibilities play a significant role in how they behave in the workplace. Self-motivated employees tend to exceed expectations while employees with limited job satisfaction prefer to do the bare minimum. The study of organizational behavior can help senior management understand how they can encourage employee participation.

  1. Organizational culture

The way employees interact with their coworkers and the organization is important to understand an organization’s culture. The values, beliefs and expectations of an organization determine how well the employee identifies with it. It’s important for them to align personal goals with organizational goals. Finding your culture fit will help you be your best self.

  1. Job Performance

Job performance is the process of achieving your goals rather than the outcome itself. Performance comprises your roles and responsibilities, actions and decisions. How well you perform and your behavior determine your job performance. The way you do your work will affect the outcome. It’s important to differentiate between performance and outcome as they can’t be used interchangeably. For instance, the outcome may be affected by external factors like market changes, which isn’t a reflection of your work performance.

  1. Motivation

In the workplace, you may be motivated by external rewards or personal satisfaction. The reason why you’re working—whether you’re working for financial independence or because it makes you happy—also plays a part in organizational behavior. This is because self-motivation is what drives you to perform.

There are two types of employee motivation:

  • Intrinsic

Intrinsic motivation is driven by internal factors as opposed to external rewards. You do something because you find it fulfilling. Rather than working because you get paid for it, you focus on the task itself. Finding joy in your work is driven by intrinsic motivation. For instance, if you’re passionate about a social cause like sustainability, you’ll enjoy working for an organization that supports eco-friendly initiatives.

  • Extrinsic

Extrinsic motivation is driven by external rewards and benefits like awards, higher salaries or something else that’s valuable to you. You’re not simply working because you enjoy it, it has to do what you get out of it. There’s another aspect to extrinsic motivation—to avoid negative consequences or repercussions. For instance, if there’s a deadline, you’re motivated to work through the night because otherwise, you might leave a bad impression on your supervisor.

Organizational Behavior – Organization

Leadership and management set the context for organizational behavior. How an individual behaves in the organization depends on their surroundings—the type of organizational structure, culture and values.

  1. Team-Building vs Workgroups

Collaboration in the workplace is a critical aspect of organizational success. When you’re working in teams you have collective goals and are willing to work together to achieve them. Building trust in teams, providing feedback and cooperating with each other contribute to team-building. Workgroups are formed based on specific tasks or projects. These evolve into teams where you work more efficiently once you get comfortable with other members.

  1. Leadership

Leadership may be situational or based on the individual traits of a manager. A leader may have to adapt their behavior according to the organizational culture. Leaders may wish to lead by example or set high expectations for their employees. Organizational behavior is affected by leadership roles because they directly impact how employees will interact with different leadership styles.

  1. Decision-Making

Decision-making is another important feature of organizational behavior. Leaders and management are key decision-makers in an organization. Assessing past performance and looking to the future can help them develop sound growth strategies. How to arrive at a decision is equally important because it pushes them to get a better understanding of their staff and their strengths/weaknesses.

The nature of organizational behavior is a symbiotic and intersectional concept with several approaches. But the crux of it remains employee willingness, motivation and reason to perform. The outcome may be subject to internal and external factors, but performance is up to the employee.

Features Of Organizational Behavior

An organization is a microcosm of people who are working toward the same goal. Regardless of whether you’re motivated by intrinsic or extrinsic factors, you’re working for a common objective. Based on the concepts discussed, there are four elements of organizational behavior:

  1. People

The most important element is of course people that make up an organization. A workplace can’t function without the individual and collective effort of the people involved. This includes stakeholders like staff, management, leadership, clients and customers. Each group recognizes their own responsibilities and applies their knowledge for improved performance. If you’re part of a team at work, you most likely try to collaborate and communicate with your team members to get your work done. Tasks are often interdependent—even if you need support from external stakeholders. This requires you to work efficiently and make adjustments according to different work styles and timelines.

  1. Structure

Structure defines how an organization operates in the context of leadership. Whether it’s a hierarchy—with a top-down management style—or a clan—with a family-like setup, depends on the organization itself. Employees often adapt their workstyles to suit the organization’s needs. This way they’re able to maintain harmony and work with their leaders and senior managers to achieve their goals.

  1. Technology

Technological systems and services represent the processes that aid employees in their work. These include how employees work, what are the resources they need to simplify their tasks and other administrative methods that help them in their daily tasks. Attributes like digital advancement and innovation help organizations in more ways than one. From improving communication to making employees resilient to change, technology plays a critical role in the 21st-century workplace.

  1. External Environment

External stakeholders like customers or clients affect the organization because their perception is important to how the organization is received. When it comes to public sentiment or serving consumer needs, it’s important to keep the external environment in mind. Other factors that can affect organizations include social, economic and political change.

Studying the nature of organizational behavior—and understanding its importance in the workplace—makes it easier for management to navigate challenges. An organization should strive to prepare its workforce for any setbacks. Supporting employee growth and development, offering incentives and encouraging them to take initiative will help them be more proactive. There should be an increased sense of belongingness for improved business outcomes.

Your Culture Fit

Workplace effectiveness can only be achieved if you’re motivated to do your best. For this, you may have to look inwards and figure out what you want, in addition to your expectations. Align your values with your organization’s if you want to work without prejudice. Learn how you can identify your culture fit and understand different managerial styles with Harappa’s Navigating Workplaces course.

Perception helps seeing things differently. If you can learn to question your interpretations, you’ll benefit from it by understanding your workplace culture.


Explore Harappa Diaries to learn more about topics related to the COLLABORATE Habit such as What is Organizational StructureGroup Dynamics & How to be Happy to understand organizational culture and needs.

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