The purpose of this essay is to discuss four key elements of organisational behaviour. The first topic discussed will be perception and why it is such a significant and important skill for leaders and managers. The process of perception will also be examined along with the relationship between people’s perceptions and behaviours and how they can impact on the organisation. Next, the importance of communication in the workplace will be examined, the benefits of good communication along with channels of communication. The formal, informal and equiformal will be looked at along with communication direction. The third element motivation will be reviewed along with the process theories which explain why people behave in a certain way will be explained. The importance of goal setting to drive a person’s performance will also be discussed. Finally, emotion and affect will be discussed along with the role they play in the interactions that take place in the workplace.
Perception relates to how we “take in” and interpret a stimulus. It is a significant psychological process and understanding the relationship between people’s perceptions and their behaviours is very important in any organisational context (Cross and Carbery 2016 p.51). Perception is the way we make sense of our experiences. Having the right perception is a significant skill for any effective leadership team. It is important to realise that perception is often displayed through communication as it is a valid tool in leadership. What people frequently remark as your ability to be an effective leader becomes their perception, which in turn becomes a reality. (Otara, 2011) Perceptions of the behaviour of individuals around us provide important indications as to what our own behaviour should be.
Milgram (1974) initiated an experiment on obedience to test how much pain ordinary people would inflict on an individual because they were ordered to by an authoritative person. He found that people administered perceived dangerous levels of shock to a research subject because they were told to by a scientist in charge. The shock was only an illusion, but participants were unaware of this. (Cross and Carbery 2016)
We react to specific situations based on what we see rather than on what it really is. Factors that influence perception are The Individual, The Perceived and The Context. The Perceiver’s / individual’s consideration to and choice of stimuli is shaped by personality, goals, prior knowledge and experiences, emotions and attitudes. For example, a person who is interested in career advancement will pay particular attention to job vacancies whereas somebody who is near retirement age will focus on emails relating to the company’s pension performance. These are examples of motivation need which may have a bearing on the level of consideration paid to a stimulus. (Cross and Carbery 2016)
The second issue that can impact the perception process is the organisation of the stimulus in your brain forming a negative or positive response. Factors that influence this response are size of object, intensity, contrast, degree of motion, repetition and familiarity. The third influential factor – context can also have a bearing on what we pay attention to. Two other factors should also be considered on influencing perception – Culture and Language. (Cross and Carbery 2016)
There are four key elements in the perception process. The first stage is attention and selection – we choose what to address and what to filter out. (lecture notes) The next stage is organisation, we need to give purpose to the information that is around us. Two principles can help organise this information are Figure-to Ground effect whereby figures are usually seen against a background and Grouping where there is a tendency to group stimuli together rather than viewing them separately. Wertheimer(1958) developed a number of laws to demonstrate these grouping principles: Proximity, Law of Continuity, Similarity and Closure. The third stage is interpretation whereby information already processed and stored is used to make sense of new information received. The final stage is Reaction which happens when the interpretation of a stimulus provokes a reaction. Our personalities also influence our reactions. (Cross and Carbery 2016)
An understanding of perception can help managers immensely as it can have a very positive effect on the organisation. They become more aware of external factors which may influence the way a message is received. They are also aware that if a message is not clearly communicated in a manner that employees understand, the employee’s perception may be what the message intended and could have a negative impact on the organisation. Awareness of perception can create a positive and engaging work environment.
All individuals, groups and organisations communicate by sharing “meaning” between each other. This “meaning” is conveyed through information and ideas and by tone. Communicating is not just about transferring this meaning, but it is a two-way process which is also about being understood and belonging to a group (Cross and Carbery 2016 p.231).
People have always needed to communicate to live in social groups and to arrange and manage activities. Bringing people with common goals together in an organisation cannot be done without communication (Thomson, 2013). Communication is pivotal to any organisation. According to Boone and Kurtz (2010) managers spend approx. 80% of their time in direct communication with others. Good communication can have a positive effect on employees where as poor communication can lead to negative consequences along with loss of motivation and poor performance. Strong communication channels and good working relationships between team members are important in decision-making. Communication and organisational success are directly related (Cross and Carbery 2016).
Mintzberg (1990) describes the principle of communication with others in the workplace as being able to inform, instruct, motivate or seek information. His study of senior managers points out that communication is their work. Employers rate employees on their communicative performances and expect them to be effective communicators. Based on a study carried out in the US by the (Association of American Colleges and Universities, 2013) employers categorised communication skills as one of the top three most valued skills. (Cross and Carbery 2016)
The most basic form of interpersonal communication can be described as a process by which information, ideas, attitudes and opinions – the message – are expressed between one person or one group to another. The basic elements of the following model adapted from the work of Claude Shannon (1948) include the sender and receiver of the message, however, there are other elements including a feedback loop, perceptual filters and context all of which are essential in interpersonal human communication (Cross and Carbery 2016).
Fig 1: The Communication Process - Adapted from Shannon 1948 and Huczynski and Buchanan 2014
It is important to note that the workplace is a network of information and communication channels. There have always been formal, informal communication channels but the electronic age has added a third category – quasiformal (French et al., 2011) Formalchannels which are considered official and holding authority are used to send letters, emails, announcements or policy statements. In contrast informal communications channels are represented by interpersonal networks for example groups with similar interests. There are two forms, firstly the Grapevine which functions as a major informal channel and can by used by managers to convey a message they may not wish to transmit formally and secondly Gossip which can achieve a role as a source of socialising and developing groups but can also be damaging and dangerous. Quasiformal channels are partly formal and add channels to the communication process. This process has been extended with the use of email, intranet and other electronic media which has effectively linked managers with their organisations. (Cross and Carbery, 2016)
Communication direction takes three forms: Downward communication which is used to implement goals and strategies. It flows from a higher level of an organisation to a lower level. Upward communication is used to provide information to senior management about what is happening at the operational level. This flow of communication has proven very important in terms of developing innovations and implementing changes (Floyd and Wooldridge, 2000) Lateral communication are flows between employees working in department or managers the same level. They also allow for sharing ideas and optimal standard practice. (Cross and Carbery, 2016)
Managers often fail to communicate effectively to their employees because they have ended up in managerial roles based on educations skills. They are not familiar with the communication process and how it works. How noise can prevent the correct message from being received along with perceptual filters due to cultural and language differences when the words are not equally understood. The feedback loop is a very effective tool for managers to ensure their message is received and understood but unfortunately is not always used.
In broad terms motivation comprises an individual’s effort and persistence and the direction of that effort. In simple terms it is the will to perform (Brooks 2018). Most employees need motivation to feel good about their roles in organisations and to perform highly. Motivation results from factors such as intensity of need, incentive of the goal and the expectation of peers and oneself. Levels of motivation within the workplace can have a direct effect on productivity. Workers who are motivated and enthusiastic about their roles carry out their responsibilities to the best of their ability. An incentive is a motivating influence that drive positive behaviour and yield quality work these can include travel opportunities, bonuses, share options and cash rewards. (Ganta 2014)
There are three main theories of motivation applicable to the work environment, these include content theories, process theories and situational factors. Content theories focus on the personal needs that employees attempt to satisfy while taking the working environment into considerations to meet these needs. There are 3 main content theories: Maslow’s need hierarchy, Herzberg’s two- factor theory and McClelland’s acquired needs theory. Based on Maslow’s theory somebody’s motivational needs would not be met with positive feedback if their basic physiological needs are not met.
Fig 2: Maslow’s hierarchy of Needs (Cross & Carbery 2016)
Herzberg’s two- factor theory is one of the more popular motivation theories, he felt that certain conditions or “hygiene factors” had to be in place for employees to be satisfied, but these did not necessarily motivate the employees. Once the hygiene factors were met employers should focus on recognising achievement and providing opportunities for learning and growth (Ganta 2014).
Fig 3 : Herzberg’s Two – Factor Theory - Source: Lecture Notes (Maria Ryan 2019)
McClellands theory argues that different types of needs are developed during a person’s lifetime. The three key needs are as follows:
- Need for Achievement: the ambition to master complex tasks and achieve something difficult.
- Need for Affiliation: the want to form close personal relationships and avoid conflict.
- Need for Power: the want to dictate and influence others and have control over them(Cross and Carbery, 2016).
There are four main process theories which will explain why people behave the way they do, and how they try to satisfy their needs. (Cross and Carbery 2016) They can be specifically named as equity theory, expectancy theory, goal setting theory and reinforcement theory. Equity theory is based on the idea that fairness in comparison with others influences motivation. People like to be treated equally and honestly and compare the effort put into a job with the rewards the receive in terms of pay, recognition, job satisfaction etc.,(Boddy 2017) Expectancy Theory focuses on setting achievable performance standards and offering rewards is standards are met. Goal setting theory places emphasise on the importance of setting achievable goals along with management providing feedback on performance. Reinforcement theory can be positive or negative. Positive reinforcements increase the chances of the behaviour being repeated, negative can decrease the likelihood of a reoccurrence of an undesirable behaviour again. (Cross and Carbery 2016)
Motivation is really important for the success of an organisation as employees who are motivated and enjoy their jobs carry out their tasks and responsibilities to the best of their ability which has a direct impact on productivity and quality of work. When managers understand the skill of motivation, they are also likely to see more high performing individuals, lower absenteeism. a more engaged and positive organisation. Employers need to get to know their teams very well and use various tactics to motive each of them based on personal needs and wants.
Affect is the umbrella term that encompasses a broad range of feelings, including feeling states, which are in-the -moment, short-term emotional experiences, and feeling traits, which are more stable tendencies to feel and act in certain ways. Having affective responses to things or people in our environment is fundamental to our behavioural function (Cross and Carbery p.128). Affect can be experienced in the form of emotions or moods. The main difference between these two expressions is the length of time response is experienced for. Emotions are short and directed at certain people or events. Emotions can also change quickly. In comparison to the fast changing emotions we experience, mood refers to a response that lasts much longer – several minute, hours and occasionally days. They can be positive or negative.(Cross and Carbery 2016) Examples of adjectives to describe emotions could be anger, shame or surprise whereas adjectives that describe moods would include calm or sad. (Briner, 1999)
The way a person expresses emotion may be adapted by influences such as family, social and cultural. Learning this, forms play a significant role in determining what is socially and culturally appropriate emotional expression in a particular situation (Stanley and Burrows 2011 pp.3-19.) Therefore, emotions can act as an adaptive function. (Cross and Carbery 2016) In work, emotions play an important role in the type of interactions that take place. (Briner 1999) They have shown to influence decision-making, performance, creativity, group interaction and individual behaviours such as negotiation, leadership, turnover intentions and helping behaviour. (Cross and Carbery 2016) Displays of emotion are a key requirement of job requirements, this is known as emotional labour. Any managerial or supervisory job is likely to involve some elements of emotional labour as managing people effectively may involve a repression of some emotions and displays of others. (Briner, 1999) They can also be used as a means for increasing performance such as a salesperson being optimistic and keeping an excited expression with clients to encourage purchasing of their product. (Barsade and Gibson,2007)
Emotions are beneficial in the workplace as employers believe it will improve and enhance employee performance. Employers also believe that if an employee looks happy, they more than likely feel happy which leads them to think they will work more effectively on tasks. In this case the employer wants workers to display emotion not because it has performance benefit in terms of interaction with clients but because workers feelings will affect their performance in general. If there is collective feeling of enthusiasm this can lead to increased levels of motivation and performance. Attempts to implement culture change also involves employers trying to influence employee’s emotions.(Briner, 1999) Studies have found that positive affect can facilitate a thorough, flexible and efficient use of new information increase decision effectiveness. Turnover and absenteeism are key organisational elements as the cost of hiring new employees and lost work time is high. Studies have linked affect to these elements and support the idea that positive affect reduced employee turnover and absenteeism. Positive affect also contributes to effective leadership (Barsade and Gibson 2007)
Emotions can be beneficial in shaping organisation behaviour as positive emotions can have huge effect on the workplace environment. Positive affect can lead to reduced levels of employee turnover and absenteeism, improved turnover along with improved performance. They can also lead to increased levels of motivation, more efficient decision making and work performance. Emotions are an important source of information and influence the decisions we make. They can also create and maintain work motivation. the knowledge and understanding of which is critical for managers and employees alike.
Over the course of essay, I now understand and realise the importance of each of the above topics. They are all important in their own right nonetheless on examining each of them in detail they all lead to improved decision making, employee performance, reduce absenteeism, quality of work. The feedback loop is a very effective tool for managers and leaders alike to ensure the correct message is being received. Emotions are beneficial in the workplace as employers believe it will improve and enhance employee performance. All of these benefit the whole organisation. It is important for managers and leaders to be aware of these elements of organisational behaviour and to consider these skills when communication with employees.
More Organisational Culture and Behaviour Content
- Organisational Behaviour Lecture
- Adidas' Organisational Culture
- Important Aspects of Organisational Behaviour for Good Performance
- Implications of National and Organisational Culture for IHRM Managers
- Otara, A., (2011) Perception: A guide for managers and leaders. Journal of Management and Strategy, 2(3), p.21.
- Cross, Christine & Carbery, Ronan (2016) Organisational behaviour : an introduction . London: Palgrave Macmillan.
- Wrench, Jason S. (2013) Workplace communication for the 21st century tools and strategies that impact the bottom line / . Santa Barbara, Calif: Praeger.
- Brooks,I. (2018) Organisational Behaviour, 5th ed, Harlow, Pearson.
- Boddy, D. (2017) Management an Introduction. 7th ed. Harlow: Pearson
- Ganta, V.C., 2014. Motivation in the workplace to improve the employee performance. International Journal of Engineering Technology, Management and Applied Sciences, 2(6), pp.221-230.and situational factories.
- Ryan, M. (2019) Lecture notes
- Briner, Rob. B. (1999) The neglect and importance of Emotion at Work, European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology
- Barsade, S.G. and Gibson, D.E. (2007) Why does affect matter in organizations? Academy of management perspectives, 21(1), pp.36-59.
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