There are a lot of books and movies showing the stories of life of common people and the data presented in such information products can be interesting for those whose activity is related to studying business and theories of organizational behavior. The goal of the given paper is to summarize the concepts presented in Up in the Air that came out in 2009 and analyze the links between the story told in the movie and well-known theories of organizational behavior in order to sift the question to the bottom.
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To begin with, it is necessary to introduce the story that provided the basis for the movie. The latter is the screen adaptation of the novel by Kirn that was written sixteen years ago. Viewers are told the story of Ryan Bingham who is a specialist supposed to fulfil quite an unpleasant task – he uses his talent of a psychologist and manager in order to inform employees in different cities of the country about the reduction of personnel in their companies.
To put it in other words, the principal character in the movie helps companies to mitigate negative consequences of termination of staff and placate their anger in order to reduce the risk of receiving claims for compensation from fired employees. Throughout the movie, the viewers can observe the way that the specialist performs his task and his life changes. The movie is called Up in the Air due to the fact that Ryan spends a lot of time flying and it gradually becomes his addiction (Young, Higham, & Reis, 2014).
Having analyzed the characters and the plot of the movie, it can be stated that there is a lot of links that can be drawn between the theories of organizational behavior and the experiences of the main characters. In order to better understand the motives of the characters, it may be necessary to refer to the concept of individual differences in connection with organizational behavior. As is clear from the concept, personality traits remain one of the types of individual differences that may define the behavior of a person within the organization (Kim, A., Kim, Y., Han, Jackson, & Ployhart, 2014).
According to the concept, one who is supposed to interact with different people should be aware of cultural and interpersonal differences between employees as the lack of knowledge related to this issue may have a negative influence on the overall effectiveness of the work. Thus, considering the fact that the duties of the main character of the discussed movie are strictly interconnected with communication, a lot of important observations related to the plot can be made. It is obvious that Ryan can be listed among the key employees of his company due to the fact that his work definitely helps to prevent possible conflicts related to the reaction of employees who are in difficult situation because of the reduction of personnel.
In fact, Ryan has a talent of a psychologist as he manages to get on the right side of every person he is supposed to work with. In the movie, there is a wide range of scenes when Ryan demonstrates his knowledge of the human psychology and the role of individual differences in organizational behavior. For instance, the primary character demonstrates his advanced skills during the conversation with Bob who is very disappointed and does not try to hide his feelings.
During the conversation, Ryan listens to his younger colleague’s attempts to explain the situation to the client, and then he understands that she needs help. Natalie was trying to use certain clichés, but they could not impress the client and make him scope out the big picture and see further opportunities for professional development. In order to improve the situation and convince the client to accept his employment termination without scandals, Ryan took into consideration personal features of this individual and decided to rely on the things that could be regarded as the supreme values for Bob.
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Therefore, Ryan implemented his knowledge of personal differences in organizational behavior and started attracting Bob’s attention to the topics related to his children and the way they see their father. Thus, it is necessary to state that this approach has turned out to be effective and Bob agreed to leave his workplace and familiarize himself with the information provided by the agency. It is known that individual differences of employees remain the factor that refutes the arguments concerning the necessity of the universal rule that employers and managers should follow while communicating with members of staff. Personally, I suppose that the behavior of Ryan proves the coherence of this concept and highlights the importance of individualized approach to work.
Another concept related to organizational behavior that is infused with the movie is ethical and unethical behavior at work. In fact, there is a great number of theories explaining the nature of ethics. For instance, according to utilitarianism, the action can be regarded as appropriate from the point of view of ethics if it encourages more positive changes than other actions (Champoux, 2017).
This theory was developed a long time ago and it is often applied by managers and other people who are responsible for organizational processes within the company and collaboration of employees. To me, it seems that the approach to work that the primary character utilizes throughout the movie reflects the principles outlined in the theory of utilitarianism. This theory highlights the importance of utility that can be defined in different ways but usually touches upon the extent to which certain actions boost welfare (DesJardins & McCall, 2014).
In terms of the particular task that the primary character is supposed to fulfil, it can be said that utility and effectiveness of his work can also be defined through the ability of his clients to accept the unwanted changes as soon as possible and find a nerve to rebuild their lives. Thus, analyzing different scenes from the movie, it is easy to notice that Ryan really wants to help to his clients even though he is expected to calm them down in order to save the reputation of a company that fires people without reason. As it can be seen in different scenes, he uses different approaches while talking to his clients and sometimes the way that he speaks and the particular phrases that he uses may seem to be inappropriate to certain people.
Nevertheless, if we apply the theory of utilitarianism to behavior of the primary character, it turns out that all the practices he uses during the work are appropriate because, in the final reckoning, his clients are motivated to accept the challenge and prove themselves. The issues related to ethics remain urgent for many business owners. In general, the behavior of the primary character is quite reserved and such specialists are expected to behave in such a way all the time and stay calm.
The discussed character often sounds very emotional and such a way to conduct a talk could be regarded as a sign of unprofessionalism (Ashkanasy & Dorris, 2017). Nevertheless, Ryan is appreciated due to the utility of his work – the latter significantly decreases the probability of disputes encouraged by former employees. Therefore, the importance of ethical issues and the utility of work is reflected in the movie as well.
Personally, I consider Up in the Air to be one of the movies that encourage people to pay more attention to the way they perceive life and its values. Therefore, there are a lot of things related to the film that can be useful for those working in large organizations. In order to explain my opinion on the idea of the movie and the way that it can be applied in work, I would like to compare the points of view of two important characters in the movie who are supposed to work as a team during one of business trips – Natalie and Ryan. These characters are extremely different when it comes to attitude to work, and it can be explained by different reasons including a significant age gap.
The most important difference between the assumptions that these two characters apply when performing the tasks related to work is strictly interconnected with the way they see themselves and other people. Ryan is an experienced specialist and, despite the fact that this character is quite controversial, he understands that his clients deserve to be provided with support. In other words, even though such professional is supposed to provide fired people with information and pretend that he is compassionate, Ryan tries to bring a fresh perspective and this is why he has managed to become the best professional working with fired people.
Performing his activities, this character uses a wide range of ways to persuade people; nevertheless, unlike those who do the same things for the sake of appearance, Ryan aims at motivating people who have just lost their jobs and are in a difficult position. Unlike other specialists working in the same company, the main character understands that it is extremely important to take into consideration personality traits of his clients, and this is why he has managed to become the best agent.
Seeing the most significant idea of his work in preventing conflicts between fired employees and their companies and inspiring the former to accept these unwanted changes and stop being afraid of new beginnings, the primary character uses different ways to influence decisions of other people. To him, it is obvious that motivating people involves defining things that are precious to them, and using this knowledge to explain to people that they may lose a lot of opportunities if they continue complaining about their lives and looking for the ways to revenge this injustice.
To put it in other words, even though the task that Ryan is supposed to fulfil may be quite difficult for those people who are empathetic, Ryan manages to strike the right balance between being emotional and reserved. I suppose that it is easy for him to motivate other people just because he has a dream and he always remembers about it despite unpleasant events that happen to him throughout the story. Considering that motivation and empathy can be regarded as important elements related to organizational behavior, I believe that his view of work helps him to be more effective as a specialist and worthy as a person.
As for Natalie, it is obvious that she relies on a different approach when it comes to work. In some measure, this fact is connected with her age and a lack of experience in this professional field. If we compare this character to Ryan, it becomes clear that she places greater focus on operational efficiency and sound resource management. There is no doubt that these concepts are very important but, due to the fact that she does not have the experience of dealing with people who have just been fired, it is quite difficult for her to sort out priorities, and this is why she proposes to start utilizing the new model of work involving online communication with clients.
Trying to rely on efficiency considerations, this character forgets about ethical values and the importance of emotional support. In the end, she understands that her perspective was not the best. As a neutral observer, I would see the difference between these two approaches to working with other people but it would also be obvious that Natalie’s ideas about effective work are not justified by her personal experience.
Comparing these two characters, I realize that this movie has the personal meaning for me – in fact, the characters helped me to understand that it can be extremely difficult to hit a happy medium between such concepts as proper resource management and humane attitude to other people and act in accordance with the idea of ethical leadership (Shapiro & Stefkovich, 2016). This experience can be important for me in my future career as I will have to make tough choices related to my primary values many times.
Ashkanasy, N., & Dorris, A. (2017). Emotions in the workplace. Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior, 4(1), 67-90.
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Champoux, J. E. (2017). Organizational behavior: Integrating individuals, groups, and organizations. New York, NY: Routledge.
DesJardins, J. R., & McCall, J. J. (2014). Contemporary issues in business ethics. New York, NY: Cengage Learning.
Kim, A., Kim, Y., Han, K., Jackson, S. E., & Ployhart, R. E. (2014). Multilevel influences on voluntary workplace green behavior individual differences, leader behavior, and coworker advocacy. Journal of Management, 43(5), 1335-1354.
Shapiro, J. P., & Stefkovich, J. A. (2016). Ethical leadership and decision making in education: Applying theoretical perspectives to complex dilemmas. New York, NY: Routledge.
Young, M., Higham, J. E., & Reis, A. C. (2014). ‘Up in the air’: A conceptual critique of flying addiction. Annals of Tourism Research, 49(1), 51-64.