What is Organizational Behavior?

Learning Outcomes

  • Describe how organizational behavior evolved into its own unique field

What is Organizational Behavior?

A loop indicating that the organization affects behavior and behavior affects the organizationIn a nutshell, organizational behavior is the study of how human behavior affects an organization. Organizational behavior aims to learn how an organization operates through the behaviors of its members. Instead of taking a strictly numerical approach to determine an organization’s operations, it takes a more psychological approach. By understanding people, you can better understand an organization.

Organizational behavior is intended to explain behavior and make behavioral predictions based on observations. If you can understand behaviors, you can better understand how an organization works. In addition, organizational behavior studies how an organization can affect behavior. So, if you think about it, behavior affects an organization and an organization affects behavior. Let that sink in for a second—it’s all connected! They each affect the other, creating a never ending loop between the two. Therefore, in order to have a healthy and successful organization, it is extremely important to understand the ins and outs of organizational behavior!

Evolution of Organizational Behavior

The academic study of organizational behavior can be dated back to Taylor’s scientific theory as we discussed earlier in this module. However, certain components of organizational behavior can date back even further. In this section we will discuss how organizational behavior developed into a field of its own.

Looking back thousands of years we can find components of organizational behavior. Famous philosophers like Plato and Aristotle discussed key components of today’s organizations including the importance of leadership and clear communication. While these seem like very basic and broad concepts today, at the time they were innovative ideas and helped to lay the foundation for organizational behavior.

If organizational behavior were a simple topic, this course would be short and sweet. We could simply say that organizational behavior is how people and groups act within an organization. But it’s not so simple!

Five people gathered with their hands together in the center of the table.When organizational behavior grew into an academic study with the rise of the Industrial Revolution, it began to complicate what could appear to be simple topics. People began asking a lot of questions and started critiquing how organizations operated. Like many academic ventures, people began to deep dive into how behavior plays a role in organizations and why changes in behavior alter the way organizations operate. Along the way, organizational behavior has grown to incorporate components of management, psychology, leadership, personality traits, motivation, etc.

Organizational behavior has grown into its own niche within a wide variety of other genres. This is exciting because it allows us to really investigate each and every aspect of behavior within an organization! Today, organizational behavior is recognized as an essential component of an organization. Scholars and businesses alike recognize its importance and continue to help it adapt to current issues and new findings.

One of the great things about organizational behavior is that it is constantly changing. The rest of this module will discuss contemporary issues in organizational behavior and how organizations are adapting to and learning from these challenges.

Practice Question


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