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The Concept of Organizational Behavior


The concept of organizational behavior has been studied for several decades as theorists try to establish the link between individual behaviors and the performance of corporations. The concept was introduced in 1966 by Jim Naylor and George Briggs when they published Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. Their publication sought to contribute towards the understanding of human performance (Kanfer & Chen, 2016). The literature on organizational behavior (OB) includes extensive definitions of the term. The basic tenet, however, is that OB entails studying individuals and their behaviors within the workplaces (Foerster-Metz et al., 2018). This paper addressed the definition by Mullins (2016) who terms OB as “the study and understanding of individual and group behavior and patterns of structure to help improve organizational performance and effectiveness.” An evaluation of the above statement and an examination of management theories and their impact on OB will be presented. Additionally, a comparison between the traditional and modern forms of organizational structures will be made. Lastly, the change management process will be discussed and an explanation given as to why the process is regarded as the most effective.

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Evaluating the Statement

Evaluating the statement presented above means examining its efficacy in defining the concept of OB. Efficacy means how well the statement describes the OB and the extent to which the constructs are integrated. As mentioned earlier, OB is concerned with how people behave within an organization and how their behavior influences organizational performance (Foerster-Metz et al., 2018). A more comprehensive definition includes details such as the examination of the group and individual behavioral patterns and other complex interactive issues within the workplace. Additionally, OB also seeks to predict and control employee behaviors to maximize corporate success (Mullins & Christy, 2016). The statement, therefore, presents a comprehensive definition of the OB concept incorporating the key constructs: behaviors, organization, and performance.

Other frameworks tied to the term OB can be used to examine the efficacy of Mullins’ (2016) statement. For example, motivation used in the OB context as a predictor of performance entails changing actions, attitudes, and conducts to improve employee efficiency (Kanfer & Chen, 2016). As such, the control of behaviors to achieve corporate success is a key defining feature of OB. Additionally, the primary elements in OB are the people and their interactions within a structure provided by the company. The internal environment explains those conditions determining how the employees interact (Foerster-Metz et al., 2018). Therefore, the statement provides a true and concise explanation of what OB entails.

Theories of Management

The management theories are critical in examining OB considering that managerial practices determine employee behaviors and the corporate culture. There are three distinctive schools of thought under which the theories of management can be classified: classical, neo-classical, and modern theories. The classical theories are founded on scientific methods, bureaucratic structure, and administrative approaches to management practices. The neo-classical theories focus on human needs, behavioral aspects, relationships, and motivation. Lastly, the modern school of thought emphasizes that there is no fit method for all situations (Hussain et al., 2019). The five theories and their impacts on OB discussed here are scientific management theory, general administrative theory, contingency theory, systems theory, and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory.

Scientific Management Theory

Scientific management is a classical theory proposed by philosophers such as Frederick Taylor. The theory posits that there should be a scientific way of managing people in an organization. It is based on a philosophy founded on four major principles. The first one is the establishment of true management science that determines the best approach to performing each task. Secondly, the selection of workers should be scientific so that each employee is tasked with responsibilities they are best suited to. Thirdly, the education and development of the staff are done scientifically. Lastly, intimate and friendly relations between the managers and laborers should be established (Paramboor et al., 2016). The last principle examined above has the most impact on OB. The managerial practices determine behaviors and interactions within the workplace. The rest of the principles in the theory pay little attention to relationships and interactions as their primary focus is efficiencies that can be achieved through scientific methods. Transactional dealings can be associated with such a theory considering that the company members will be interacting only when needed.

General Administrative Theory

The general administrative theory is also a classical theory developed by Henry Fayol who defined 14 principles of management. Described as the father of modern management, Fayol is among the theorists who believed that management is a dynamic process of performing organizational activities. The 14 principles are division of work, authority, discipline, unity of command, subordination of individual interests, unity of direction, degree of centralization, order, equity, remuneration, initiative, esprit de corps, scalar chain, and stability of tenure (Uzuegbu & Nnadozie, 2015). These principles explain how managers treat employees and how workers behave and interact within the company. As such, it can be argued that the adoption of the general administrative theory of management means defining the right behaviors to be instilled upon the staff. Rather than study them, the theory proposes a framework for developing those behaviors that maximize organizational productivity.

Contingency Theory

The contingency theory also focuses on the employee and managerial deeds in specific situations. According to Hussain et al (2019), OB is studied through the contingency theory by outlining the contingent factors such as technology, culture, and the external environment influencing the corporation’s design and functionality. Researchers have attempted to incorporate thoughts from different schools because the principles and concepts in many theories are not universally applicable to all situations. This is where the contingency approach comes to the rescue by stressing the significance of situational factors. In the OB context, management practices include developing the right skills to handle various situations. The employees and their superiors are all required to adapt to situations as necessary.

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Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory

Abraham Maslow developed the hierarchy of needs theory categorizing five types of employee needs. The most basic needs (physiological ones) are at the bottom of the pyramid, including food, water, shelter, and other physical needs. Upon the achievement of these wants, the second phase of the desires called safety necessities is pursued. The pattern goes on to the top of the pyramid with self-actualization (Hussain et al., 2019). From a managerial perspective, the theory is used to inspire the employees to achieve the highest possible productivity. As mentioned earlier, motivation is a key aspect of OB. The impetus determines how the staff works and their efforts and attitudes towards work. The theory is founded on the notion that people toil to achieve unaccomplished needs. When managers offer the employees basic needs, they no longer are motivated by the same and their behaviors at the workplace may change. To continue with the productive performances, the employees pursue those needs higher up in the hierarchy.

Systems Theory

The systems theory is a modern model that seeks to adopt a holistic approach to an organization. The problems faced by managers are addressed through an integrated methodology that focuses on the systems serving people. The modern theories have attempted to fill the gaps left by classical models that are concerned with efficiency, task, and structure and the neoclassical frameworks that have people as the central theme. Expectedly, therefore, the modern notions such as the systems theory interweave the key themes in the classical and neoclassical philosophies to address the ‘organization as a whole (Hussain et al., 2019). The systems model addressed issues such as adaptability, relationships, complexity, value, knowledge, and quality. In the OB context, the systems concept will focus on employee behaviors as part of the organizational success factors. The management dwells on developing employee capabilities through knowledge acquisition and sharing which reflect on positive behavioral changes and productivity.

Traditional versus Modern Forms of Organizational Structures

Organizations comprise elements and configurations and underlying relationships. The term structure can be defined as the relations between the corporate components. Organizational structure, therefore, means an association framework consisting of jobs, operating processes, people, systems, and groups pursuing set business goals (Ahmady et al., 2016). From this definition, it is apparent that the organizational structure determines the formal interactions and reporting within a business. Additionally, it establishes the positions of people working in groups by dividing units across the business. Lastly, the corporate structure includes system designs through which the teams are coordinated and interactions governed within the firm. The traditional and modern forms of organizational structures differ significantly from the traditional models built on hierarchies while the modern ones are boundary-less and founded on concepts such as agility. A comparison between these two forms shows a shift from task management to people management and knowledge sharing among other changes.

One aspect that can be used to compare the two models is the power relationships within a firm. The traditional models have hierarchical structures where power flows vertically (Jahan, 2016). Additionally, the employees are departmentalized, so that each department focuses on specified tasks that are unique for it. The chain of command in such systems means that employees report to the person immediately above them in the hierarchy. Any issues will then be reported to superiors further up until the final destination. Another key aspect of the traditional structure is that each unit pursues independent business strategies aimed at maximizing the outcomes in that department.

In contrast, modern structures are characterized by the absence of boundaries. The businesses are networked together where the various units collaborate in the pursuit of common goals (Jahan, 2016). Such institutions are well-suited for rapid innovations that require connectivity and knowledge sharing, the corporate strategy guides the actions of all business units where the operational strategies are derived. Rather than management, modern structures adopt leadership which depends on soft people skills such as listening, consensus building, understanding, team building, and relationships. Such characteristics mean that, unlike the traditional structure, the modern ones are more horizontal with shorter chains of command. Rather than directing and reporting, deliberations and feedback allow the leaders to engage the employees to make them more committed to their work and to improve their productivity.

One of the key themes featured in modern corporate structures is agility. Agile structures are necessary because modern businesses continually innovate to capture changes in the environment. Such innovations mean that a firm needs to be able to adapt and modify its model timely and effective. Agility, according to Liao et al (2019), entails the capability to quickly respond and exploit external changes through practices such as rapid improvement of products and services. In comparison, traditional enterprises had rigid structures not suited for a modern business climate where innovations are essential for success. Such entities are slow to adapt due to bureaucracy and lengthy procedures in decision-making.

Fluidity often requires that firms have to adopt hybrid structures to help them achieve aims such as knowledge sharing in a dynamic environment. According to Laihonen and Huhtamäki (2020), knowledge is regarded as the most strategically significant resource that a company can have. Innovative businesses, therefore, need to build infrastructure which allows them to make the most of organizational knowledge and learning. Such features of modern structures make contemporary corporations flexible and adaptable. The aspects that improve modern organizations’ performance include teamwork used as a recipe for success and employee morale achieved by granting them more freedom. Other benefits include greater diversification and the adoption of new technologies that drive organizational success. The traditional business structures also have their advantages (Jahan, 2016). For example, they offer more stability in their activities, thus, making their future less uncertain. In risk management, the specific policies and stable processes allow traditional organizations to perform better.

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There may still be a role for traditional forms, though it would be minimal. Even modern organizations need direction because innovation processes cannot go unchecked. The guidance, however, can be given by modern leaders who may have to make certain decisions on their own as opposed to consulting. Managing stakeholders means that all the interests are accounted for. When innovations disrupt certain interests, the management sets in to make the necessary adjustments. Stability, as highlighted by Jahan (2016), may also assure success and reduce uncertainty. Maintaining stability in a continually innovating business may require the adoption of more traditional forms of structures. The concept of hybridity as discussed by Laihonen and Huhtamäki (2020) may be best seen where the traditional forms play a role. In order words, a hybrid mixing the best elements of the traditional and modern forms of structures may help address the need for both innovation and stability. However, modern businesses cannot afford rigidity and any attempts to build mixed forms of structure should be keen to address any inflexibility.

Change Management Process

Change management processes are not easy to implement as manifested by the fact that few major change initiatives are fruitful. Kotter’s model proves that a successful change process comprises a series of phases that often require a considerable length of time (Odor, 2018). An effective change management process, therefore, gives the firm time to implement the modification in incremental steps. It is argued that Kotter’s 8-step model of change management is the most effective process. The reasoning for this argument is that the model is comprehensive and offers a framework and a checklist of all actions critical for a successful implementation. The phases in this model and their significance are highlighted further as evidence of the efficacy of the framework.

The first phase of Kotter’s change process is the establishment of a sense of urgency. About half of the change processes fail at this stage because organizational members are not properly motivated. A sense of urgency means making them understand that the change is needed immediately for the sake of the firm’s survival. The second phase entails building a powerful guiding coalition comprising those who back the change. The ability to gather the support of powerful staff means the entire business will embrace the change process. Such coalitions can only be built if all the senior executives are on board. When transformations and initiatives are fragmented and members are divided, the implementation is rigged with turmoil and the adjustment will not be successful. An attempt at major transformations means getting people with the right amount of influence to support the modification. The second phase is where the serious issue of change resistance is addressed.

The third phase focuses on the creation of a vision that directs the change efforts. A major revolution involves a shift from the current state of affairs to a desired one which is considered to be better. The idea of an organization with improved features is the vision and it should be accompanied by the right strategies to guide the firm towards that state (Kotter, 2005). A vision in itself is not enough if not made known to the right people. The fourth step, therefore, involves communicating the vision and its strategies to the corporate members. This step also involves adapting the behaviors of the staff to the examples set by the guiding coalition. In essence, some major changes require overhauling the entire culture.

When people are aware of the change vision, they may still be unable to implement it. The fifth step seeks to empower them to act on the vision by removing any hindrances, changing systems and structures, and encouraging risk-taking among the employees (Kotter, 2005). The sixth step involves planning and creation short-term wins. Performance improvements and their indicators are developed and employees are rewarded for their accomplishments. The short-term wins are milestones that inform the workers that change implementation is progressing so they can remain motivated. The seventh phase entails consolidating the improvements made and pursuing more change. In essence, the change process is seen as incremental where small variations are effected after which further alterations are sought. Such a breakdown makes this model the perfect one for most organizations. Lastly, the eighth phase is where new approaches after the change has been successfully implemented are institutionalized. New behaviors and systems are embedded in the new culture where an organization sustains the achieved state of affairs.

The breakdown of Kotter’s 8-step model allows it to address all the key elements determining the success of change implementation. The process is not linear but rather cyclical meaning it can be applied for any change efforts within a business. The most important element that makes it the most effective is that the model allows organizations to implement major transformations in smaller batches such that the firm is not overwhelmed. The fact that short-term wins are created means that smaller tasks are identified and handled one by one to their completion. Successful implementation of each smaller task allows the members to pursue the next until all the changes needed are successfully effected. Even though no comparison is made with other models, it can be argued that some models undertake the change as one huge task implemented at one. Viable changes following Kotter’s (2005) change model are manifested by the presence of a vision. Additionally, the implementation only starts when all elements supporting the change are set up thus assuring greater success.


Organizational behavior is a broad concept that covers the behaviors and interactions of staff in the workplace. The notion also included the aspects of organizational structure and change management that show the application of OB concepts within various organizational contexts. This paper evaluates a statement defining OB and shows that the statement comprehensively outlines all constructs and the scope of the terminology. A comparison between modern and traditional forms of business structures reveals that the traditional forms have only a small role to play in the contemporary business environment. Lastly, Kotter’s 8-step model of change management is recommended as the most effective framework.


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