Behavioral Perspectives

The Behavioral-Science Approach

Behavioral science uses research and the scientific method to determine and understand behavior in the workplace.

Learning Objectives

Define the behavioral approaches which maximize potential within a company or organization

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Behavioral science draws from a number of different fields and theories, primarily those of psychology, social neuroscience, and cognitive science.
  • One application of the behavioral-science approach can be seen in a field called organizational development. Organizational development is an ongoing, systematic process of implementing effective organizational change.
  • Behavioral sciences include relational sciences, which deal with relationships, interaction, communication networks, associations, and relational strategies.
  • Combined, the behavioral science approach is broadly about understanding individual and group behavioral dynamics to initiate meaningful organizational development.

Key Terms

  • organizational development: An ongoing, systematic process of implementing effective organizational change using theories from behavioral sciences.

Behavioral science draws from a number of different fields and theories, primarily those of psychology, social neuroscience, and cognitive science. Behavioral science uses research and the scientific method to determine and understand behavior in the workplace. Many of the theories in the behavioral perspective are included in the behavioral-science approach to management. For example, the Hawthorne studies used the scientific method and are considered to be a part of the behavioral-science approach.

Behavioral science within the business management environment is a specific application of this field, and employs a number of specific types of behavioral observations. This includes concepts such as information processing, relationships and motivation, and organizational development.

Information Processing

Information processing involves determining how people process stimuli in their environment. This field deals with the processing of stimuli from the social environment by cognitive entities in order to engage in decision making, social judgment, and social perception. The field is particularly concerned with information processing as it relates to individual functioning and the survival of an organism in a social environment.

Relationships

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Organization triangle: This diagram illustrates the idea that structure, process, and the people involved all play a role in an organization’s culture.

Behavioral sciences also include relational sciences that deal with relationships, interaction, communication networks, associations, and relational strategies or dynamics between organisms or cognitive entities in a social system. The emphasis on using quantitative data and qualitative research methods to determine how people process information and understand social relationships is important to helping managers better understand the proven methods for increasing employee motivation and employee productivity. The behavioral-science approach and the myriad of fields it encompasses is the most common study of management science today.

Organizational Development

The primary application of the behavioral-science approach can be seen in the field of organizational development. Organizational development is an ongoing, systematic process of implementing effective organizational change. Organizational development is considered both a field of applied behavioral science that focuses on understanding and managing organizational change as well as a field of scientific study and inquiry. It uses components of behavioral sciences and studies in the fields of sociology, psychology, and theories of motivation, learning, and personality to implement effective organizational change and aid in the development of employees.

Combined, the behavioral-science approach is broadly about understanding individual and group behavioral dynamics to initiate meaningful organizational development. The study of human behavior in the context of organizational change is an integral part of empowering organizations to grow, adapt, and learn to capture competitive advantage.

Behaviorism: Follett, Munsterberg, and Mayo

Behaviorism initiated a focus on the psychological and human factors influencing workers.

Learning Objectives

Compare and contrast the three most famous pioneers and founders of the behavioral perspective in organizational theory

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Mary Parker Follett, Hugo Munsterberg, and Elton Mayo are all considered pioneers and founders of the behaviorism movement in management theory. They wrote about the importance of considering behavioral aspects of workers in addition to the efficiency of workers.
  • Mary Parker Follett (September 3, 1868 – December 18, 1933) was an American social worker, management consultant, and pioneer in the fields of organizational theory and organizational behavior.
  • Hugo Munsterberg was one of the pioneers of applied psychology, extending his research and theories to industrial/organizational (I/O), legal, medical, clinical, educational, and business settings.
  • Elton Mayo is known as the founder of the human relations movement. His research includes the Hawthorne studies and his book The Human Problems of an Industrialized Civilization.

Key Terms

  • Industrial Psychology: A field focusing on topics such as hiring workers with personalities and mental abilities best suited to certain types of vocations.

Mary Parker Follett, Hugo Munsterberg, and Elton Mayo are all considered pioneers and founders of the industrial/organizational psychology and behaviorism movements in management theory. These three individuals wrote about the importance of considering behavioral aspects of workers in addition to the efficiency of workers. This was, in many ways, a continuation of the scientific method, with the critical difference of incorporating the human factors involved in effective management.

Follett

Mary Parker Follett (September 3, 1868 – December 18, 1933) was an American social worker, management consultant, and pioneer in the fields of organizational theory and organizational behavior. She criticized the overmanagement of employees, a process now known as micromanaging. Follett was known for the concept of reciprocal relationships and the idea that authority is inferior to integrative collaboration. Managers should enable, not dictate.

She also distinguished herself in the field of management by being sought out by President Theodore Roosevelt as his personal consultant on managing not-for-profit, non-governmental, and voluntary organizations. In her capacity as a management theorist, Mary Parker Follett pioneered the understanding of lateral processes within hierarchical organizations. Her contributions aided the beginning of the behaviorism movement of management by presenting the worker as more than just a machine.

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Mary Parker Follett: Mary Parker Follett defined management as “the art of getting things done through people.”

Munsterberg

Hugo Munsterberg (June 1, 1863 – December 19, 1916) was a German-American psychologist. He was one of the pioneers of applied psychology, extending his research and theories to industrial/organizational (I/O), legal, medical, clinical, educational, and business settings. Munsterberg’s writings are considered the genesis of the field of industrial psychology.

Industrial psychology, according to Munsterberg, focuses on topics such as hiring workers with personalities and mental abilities best suited to certain types of vocations, as well as on ways to increase motivation, performance, and retention. Munsterberg suggests that psychology could be used in many different industrial applications, including management, vocational decisions, advertising, job performance, and employee motivation. Many of Munsterberg’s ideas, especially the idea of matching an individual’s personality with the correct job set and skills, are common in the use of industrial/organizational psychology today.

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Hugo Munsterberg: Munsterberg is considered the father of industrial/organizational psychology.

Mayo

George Elton Mayo (December 26, 1880 – September 7, 1949) was an Australian psychologist, sociologist, and organization theorist. Mayo is known as the founder of the human relations movement. His research includes the Hawthorne studies and his book The Human Problems of an Industrialized Civilization (1933).

The research he conducted in the Hawthorne studies of the 1930s showed the importance of groups in affecting the behavior of individuals at work. Mayo’s employees Roethlisberger and Dickson conducted the practical experiments. This enabled him to make certain deductions about how managers should behave. He concluded that people’s work performance is dependent on both social issues and job content. He suggested a tension between workers’ “logic of sentiment” and managers’ “logic of cost and efficiency” that could lead to conflict within organizations. Mayo’s studies contributed to the behaviorism movement in management as managers became more aware of the “soft” skills that are important to successful management.

Follett, Munsterberg, and Mayo each introduced important components and ideas into the behaviorism perspective of management. They all believed that successful management comes from understanding how to best treat and motivate employees in order to help them succeed in their jobs and become as efficient as possible.

The Human Side: Hawthorne

The Hawthorne studies found that workers were more responsive to group involvement and managerial attention than to financial incentives.

Learning Objectives

Evaluate Mayo and Roethlisberger’s Hawthorne study relative to the behavioral perspective in organizational theories

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The Hawthorne studies, which were conducted by Elton Mayo and Fritz Roethlisberger in the 1920s with the workers at the Hawthorne plant of the Western Electric Company, were part of an emphasis on socio-psychological aspects of human behavior in organizations.
  • Hawthorne researchers hypothesized that choosing one’s own coworkers, working as a group, being treated as special (as evidenced by working in a separate room), and having a sympathetic supervisor were reasons for increases in worker productivity.
  • The Hawthorne studies found that monetary incentives and good working conditions are generally less important in improving employee productivity than meeting employees’ need and desire to belong to a group and be included in decision making and work.

Key Terms

  • Hawthorne studies: A series of investigations conducted in the 1920s emphasizing the socio-psychological aspects of human behavior in organizations.

The Hawthorne studies were conducted with the workers at the Hawthorne plant of the Western Electric Company by Elton Mayo and Fritz Roethlisberger in the 1920s. The Hawthorne studies were part of a refocus on managerial strategy incorporating the socio-psychological aspects of human behavior in organizations.

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Western Electric Company, the location of the Hawthorne studies: This is where the studies where conducted—a factory outside of Chicago.

The studies suggested that employees have social and psychological needs—along with economic and financial needs—which must be met in order to be motivated to complete their assigned tasks. The human relations movement is concerned with morale, leadership, and factors that aid in the cooperation of workers.

This theory of management was a byproduct of the issues that arose from the classical, scientific perspectives on management (i.e., Taylorism). The simplest explanation of the hypothesis being investigated is quite intuitive. Employees (i.e. human resources) are not merely motivated by financial gain, and productivity is not simply a byproduct of incentives and optimized working spaces. People are motivated by inclusion, constructive feedback, interest, autonomy, and a wide variety of other ‘soft’ factors (i.e. factors aside from money and other tangible resources).

Results of the Hawthorne Studies

The studies originally looked into whether workers were more responsive and worked more efficiently under certain environmental conditions, such as improved lighting. The results were surprising, as Mayo and Roethlisberger found that workers were more responsive to social factors—such as the people they worked with on a team and the amount of interest their manager had in their work—than the factors (lighting, etc.) the researchers had gone in to inspect.

The Hawthorne studies helped conclude that workers were highly responsive to additional attention from their managers and the feeling that their managers actually cared about, and were interested in, their work. The studies also concluded that although financial motives are important, social factors are equally important in defining the worker productivity.

There were a number of other experiments conducted in the Hawthorne studies, including one in which two women were chosen as test subjects and were then asked to choose four other workers to join the test group. Together, the women worked assembling telephone relays in a separate room over the course of five years (1927–1932), and their output was measured.

The measuring began in secret. It started two weeks before moving the women to an experiment room and continued throughout the study. In the experiment room, they had a supervisor who discussed changes with them and, at times, used their suggestions. The researchers then spent five years measuring how different variables impacted both the group’s and the individuals’ productivity. Some of the variables included giving two five-minute breaks (after a discussion with the group on the best length of time), and then changing to two 10-minute breaks (not the preference of the group).

Intangible Motivators

Changing a variable usually increased productivity, even if the variable was just a change back to the original condition. Researchers concluded that the employees worked harder because they thought they were being monitored individually. Researchers hypothesized that choosing one’s own coworkers, working as a group, being treated as special (as evidenced by working in a separate room), and having a sympathetic supervisor were the real reasons for the productivity increase.

The Hawthorne studies showed that people’s work performance is dependent on social issues and job satisfaction, and that monetary incentives and good working conditions are generally less important in improving employee productivity than meeting individuals’ need and desire to belong to a group and be included in decision making and work.

Managerial Assumption: McGregor

McGregor introduced Theories X and Y, which summarize and compare the classical management and behavioral management perspectives.

Learning Objectives

Explain Douglas McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y approach, merging classical and behavioral organizational theories

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Douglas McGregor was a management professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management. He wrote a book in 1960 called The Human Side of Management, which suggested motivating employees through authoritative direction and employee self- control, respectively called Theory X and Theory Y.
  • Theory X, based more on classical management theory, assumes that workers need a high amount of supervision because people are inherently lazy. It assumes that managers need to motivate through coercion and punishment.
  • Theory Y assumes that employees are ambitious, self-motivated, exercise self-control, and generally enjoy mental and physical work duties. Theory Y is in line with behavioral management theories.
  • Theories X and Y relate to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in that they see human behavior and motivation as the main priority in maximizing output in the workplace.

Key Terms

  • Theory X: Suggests that employees are inherently lazy and irresponsible and will tend to avoid work unless closely supervised and given incentives; contrasted with Theory Y.
  • Theory Y: Postulates that employees are capable of being ambitious and self-motivated under suitable conditions; contrasted with Theory X.

Douglas McGregor was a management professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management. He wrote a book in 1960 called The Human Side of Management, which suggested motivating employees through authoritative direction and employee self-control. McGregor’s book was voted the fourth most influential management book of the 20th century in a poll of the Fellows of the Academy of Management.

McGregor’s main theory is comprised of Theory X and Theory Y. Theory X, based more on classical management theory, assumes that workers need a high amount of supervision because people are inherently lazy. Theory Y assumes that employees are ambitious, self-motivated, exercise self-control, and generally enjoy mental and physical work duties. Theory Y is in line with behavioral management theories. Often, managers’ actions toward their employees are affected by the theory to which they subscribe.

Theory X

In Theory X, managers tend to micro-manage and closely supervise employees. Complex hierarchical structures are needed in order to offer a narrow span of control at every level of the organization. Employees show little ambition without an incentive program and avoid responsibility whenever possible. Managers in Theory X rely more heavily on punishment, fear, and coercion as motivational techniques and less on reward. Managers and employees in this theory are generally mistrusted and they do not have rewarding relationships. Usually these managers believe that the sole purpose of the employee’s interest in the job is money.

Theory Y

Theory Y managers are generally the opposite. They believe that given the proper conditions, employees will learn to seek out and accept responsibility and to exercise self-direction in accomplishing objectives, that most people will want to do well at work, and that the satisfaction of doing a good job will be a strong motivation. Many people interpret Theory Y as a positive set of beliefs about workers.

McGregor thinks that Theory Y managers are more likely than Theory X managers to develop the climate of trust with employees that is required for human-resource development. This type of human-resource development is much more similar to the behavioral management theories of Maslow’s self-actualization and the Hawthorne studies than any of the classical theories of management.

Theory X or Theory Y?

Theories X and Y relate to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in that they see human behavior and motivation as the main priority in maximizing output in the workplace. Both McGregor and Maslow would say that in order to help employees achieve maximum efficiency and happiness with their work, a Theory Y manager would need to promote morality, creativity, problem solving, and a lack of prejudice. McGregor was a lifetime proponent of Theory Y.

Modern organizations in developed countries generally side with McGregor, in that they believe Theory Y is superior in getting positive results from employees (and subsequently job satisfaction for employees). However, both theories are still prominent in the workplace, where many managers treat their employees as if they are lazy and likely to perform poorly without stringent rules and supervision. In management, just as everywhere else, it is difficult to effect social change in the face of human nature, even when the benefits are established.

Productivity: Argyris

Argyris’s theory of single- and double-loop learning has been applied to management theory to suggest the best ways for employees to learn.

Learning Objectives

Identify Chris Argyris’s key contributions to organizational theory through single-loop and double-loop learning

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Argyris studied how humans design and decide on their actions under difficult or stressful situations. He believed that human actions are controlled by environmental variables, which determine the key differences between single-loop learning and double-loop learning.
  • In single-loop learning, individuals, groups, or organizations modify their actions according to the difference between expected and obtained outcomes.
  • In double-loop learning, individuals, groups, or organizations question the values, assumptions, and policies that led to the actions in the first place.
  • Argyris’s theory of single- and double-loop learning has been applied to management theory in order to suggest the best way for employees to learn and think about new goals and strategies for an organization.

Key Terms

  • double-loop learning: A theory in which an organization or individual questions the values, assumptions, and policies that led to a given situation.
  • learning organization: A company that facilitates the learning of its members and continuously transforms itself.
  • single-loop learning: A theory that says individuals, groups, or organizations modify their actions according to the difference between expected and obtained outcomes.

Chris Argyris is an American business theorist, a professor emeritus at Harvard Business School, and a thought leader at Monitor Group. He is best known for his work on learning theories in the area of learning organizations.

Argyris conducted a series of research studies in action science, which studies how humans design and decide on their actions under difficult or stressful situations. Argyris believed that human actions are controlled by environmental variables, which determine the key differences between single-loop and double-loop learning.

Single-Loop Learning

In single-loop learning, entities (such as individuals, groups, or organizations) modify their actions according to the difference between expected and obtained outcomes. This essentially means that learning is through experience and direct reflection on outcomes, where the ends are justifying the means and dictating the fulcrum of the discussion and learning outcomes.

In many ways, this is a more reactionary approach. Individuals are tasked with identifying successes and failures, pursuing formulas for the former and minimizing the latter. While this type of learning, and this broader type of behavior, is extremely common in the real world, it is not the ideal method to learn and adapt from a broader organizational level. It tends to be simple and short-term, which is not always conducive to sustainability.

Double-Loop Learning

In double-loop learning, the entities question the values, assumptions, and policies that led to the actions in the first place; if they are able to view and modify those values, then second-order or double-loop learning has taken place. This is a more integrative, process-oriented, and collaborative approach. It is also much more complex, difficult, and sensitive, as the core values and strategies in place must be analyzed, questioned, and defended (or discarded).

The simple truth is that people fear change, actively avoid conflict, and generally preserve the status quo. Double-loop learning requires the bravery to challenge what is established organizationally, identify broader systemic issues, and fix problems at the source.

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Single- and double-loop learning: Argyris wrote about the theories of single- and double-loop learning, which determine how people make decisions in difficult situations.

For example, a company that is facing a problem with its management strategy may decide to focus on how to improve or implement the strategy in different ways. In this situation, the company uses single-loop learning because management is focused on making changes without reconsidering the fundamental standard or strategy itself. However, if the company were to entirely reconsider the problematic strategy and start from scratch, this would constitute double-loop learning. Double-loop learning may lead to a change in the original strategy or goals that the company had in the first place.

Argyris’s theory of single- and double-loop learning has been applied to management theory in order to suggest the best way for employees to learn and think about new goals and strategies for an organization.