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Understanding Individual and Group Behavior in Business

Problem Statement

The Superior Slate Company experienced the drastic decrease of its productivity, and the company’s CEO Mr. North and superintendent Mr. Williams connect the issue with the formerly started technological modernization of the slate mill. For Superior Slate Company, technological modernization brought the results opposite to the expected ones.

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Meme’s Theory

The major problem raised in the case study of the Superior Slate Company is the decrease of productivity that followed the erection of the large slate mill that housed all slate splitters and trimmers employed by the company. To inquire about the reasons of the productivity decline, the theory of memes can be of use as the theory explaining how people build their ideas about the phenomena of the reality and how the actual way the things develop often contradicts the imagined results. There are three major meme groups that include distinction, strategy, and association (Silby, 2009). From this viewpoint, the issue of Superior Slate Company can be considered as non-coincidence of the memes of Mr. North and Mr. Williams who were confident about the progress that the large mill will bring to the company but obtain productivity decrease.

Rational Emotive Behavior

Rational emotive behavior theory can also be used for this case analysis, as the theory assuming that human actions are conditioned by feelings and assumptions about phenomena of reality rather then by the phenomena as such (Froggatt, 2005). Drawing from this, the problem of Superior Slate Company can be viewed as the issue of perception rather than actuality. In more detail, before launching the large mill, the company’s officials had no guarantee of the instant positive feedback from the idea. The potential progress of the company was rather an assumption and a hope cherished by Mr. North and Mr. Williams. So, they acted according to this assumption, as rational emotive behavior theory presupposes (Froggatt, 2005), but the results of their activities did not meet their expectations.

VABEs (Values, Assumptions, Beliefs, and Expectations)

The VABEs theory is another way to try to explain what caused the problem in Superior Slate Company. According to RZ (2008), VABEs is the third level of the human personality that combines basic values, assumptions, beliefs, and expectations about the world. Drawing from this, the contrast between the expected and actual outcomes of Superior Slate Company modernization can be viewed as the result of non-coincidence of those assumptions held by Mr. North and Mr. Williams and actual outcomes of the activities they took up. If VABEs are used to view the situation, it might be supposed that the company’s officials unconditionally connected technological modernization with productivity increase but failed to consider other factors relating to their company exclusively (like preferences of Welsh workers for manual work contrasted to machine-based one, etc.)

The Self Concept Theory

Going further, one might want to explain the problem of Superior Slate Company using the dual perspective, meaning that not only higher officials but ordinary employees are also involved in the problem emergence. For this purpose, the self concept theory might be addressed as the way to approach the possible implicit conflict between the self concepts of the company’s CEO and superintendent and ordinary employees. Thus, every person has three ways he/she assessed and perceives him/herself (Self Concept, 2009). The point here might be that the company officials perceived themselves as the progressive leaders aimed at keeping with the modern reality in slate production, while the workers, especially the skilled Welsh ones, were committed to their tradition of manual work and identified themselves with this activity only. As the result of the modernization, the self concept of the Welsh workers was disregarded, and this resulted in their implicit incompatibility with machine production. Although in other conditions such technological modernization might succeed, in Superior Slate Company the workers did not identify themselves with machine production and because of this their productivity was steadily falling.

Defense Mechanisms

In connection to self concept theory, the defense mechanism can also be applied to the situation in Superior Slate Company. The discussed productivity decrease in the company might be the result of the workers’ using protective mechanisms against the company’s attempts to modify their identities. According to Grohol (2007), there are primitive unhealthy unproductive, dangerous, moderately productive, and healthy productive defense mechanisms, and Superior Slate Company workers might have used the dangerous or primitive unhealthy unproductive defense mechanisms including denial, acting out, and passive behavior, which resulted in the decrease of the company’s productivity. If so, the blame for the company’s problems is on the CEO and Mr. Williams who failed to monitor the overall attitudes of the workers towards the modernization and launched their idea without taking into account the needs and preferences of their workers.

Nature vs. Nurture

Further on, the attempt to explain the productivity issue in Superior Slate Company can be made through the nature vs. nurture theory. According to Powell (2006), human behavior is conditioned by both genetics and environmental influence. Assuming this is the case with Superior Slate Company, the productivity decrease observed after the launching of the new large slate mill might be viewed as the domination of nature over nurture in the personalities of the Welsh workers on whom the very productivity depended. In the case study, there are numerous examples of the commitment the Welsh workers had to manual work that was their nature. When faced by the need to change for the machine production, the nature of the Welsh manifested its influence and resulted in them producing fewer amounts of slate given the conditions for producing more.

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Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

The concept of self, personality and its inherent traits might also be applied to the analysis of the Superior Slate Company problem using the hierarchy of needs by Maslow (Van Wagner, 2009). Maslow singled out five levels of human needs among which physiological needs are the lowest, while self-actualization is the supreme need for all human beings. Drawing from this theory, the situation in Superior Slate Company might have formed as the result of the Welsh workers’ perception of manual work as their inherent value and the way towards self-actualizing. Therefore, aiming at satisfying this supreme need, the workers might have ignored purely materialist physiological or social needs that could be satisfied if the company’s productivity and their wages grew (Beswick, 2009).

Management by Objectives (MBO)

To approach the problem discussed from another side, the MOB theory might be used as a tool to explain why Superior Slate Company failed with technological modernization and large mill implementation. Thus, MBO is the practice according to which the company’s goals, objectives, and means of their achievement should be identified and delivered to all employees before the process of achievement is actually started (What is MBO? 2009). As Superior Slate Company intended to increase productivity but failed, it might be supposed that the goals of the organization were not agreed among all the levels of its organizational structure and were confronted by the goals of such groups as management, Welsh workers, etc. As a result, the Welsh workers pursued their goals that included the need to prove the priority of manual work but not productivity increase.

Emotional Bank Account

One more perspective to consider the problem in question, is the emotional bank account theory according to which any relations between people, in this case between employers and employees, are based on deposits and withdrawals in the forms of activities taken by one side to satisfy another and the expected outcomes of those activities (The Emotional Bank Account, 2009). The more people deposit, the better relations they built; respectively, the more they expect to receive as a feedback, the worse the relations become. Such pressure might have served as the reason for the workers of Superior Slate Company to either willingly or unconsciously rebel against the situation when they do not receive anything in the form of emotional deposit but are only to reply to the activities of their employers with effective work (Coussey, 2000).

Psychological Contract

The notion of the psychological contract is close in its essence to the emotional bank account theory as it is also based on the expected and communicated inputs and outputs from both sides, i. e. from employers and employees (Smithson and Lewis, 2003). If this theory is used for the case analysis, the productivity problem in Superior Slate Company might be treated as the matter of unsatisfied expectations and violated psychological contract (Kickul, Neuman, Parker, & Finkl, 2001). The employer might claim that the employees violated the contract according to which the work efficiency is their input to the company – workers cooperation. At the same time, the employees might argue that satisfactory working conditions are the supposed employer’s input to the contract, which was violated by leaving the manual work and transferring the production process to machinery (Conway & Briner, 2002).


Thus, the productivity decrease in Superior Slate Company might be approached from several different points of view. However, irrespective of the approach the major points that might cause the problem include the lack of intercommunication of the management and the employees of the company, lack of attention paid to the goals of the employees, as well as to their personal and cultural preferences. As the main cause of the problem is supposed to be the lack of communication and cooperation between ordinary workers and managers, Superior Slate Company is recommended to improve this component of its work.

Specifically, the first step the company could take is introducing educational courses to deliver the organizational goals and mission to all levels of the company structure. After this, the surveys need to be conducted on the regular basis to monitor the levels of the employees’ understanding of the information delivered through the courses. Third, separate classes might be introduced for managers and employees so that the former could learn more specifically the importance of employees for the company, while the latter could understand all the benefits of technological modernization in theory. After this, another attempt of modernization should be taken and assessed within, suppose, six months with the help of the designed measurement scale in which a certain figure of productivity would be taken as a landmark for success assessment.


Beswick, D. (2009). Management implications of the interaction between intrinsic motivation and extrinsic rewards. Web.

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Conway, N., & Briner, R. B. (2002). Full-time versus part-time employees: Understanding the links between work status, the psychological contract, and attitudes. Journal of Vocational Behaviour, 61, 279-301.

Coussey, M. (2000). Getting the right work-life balance. London: Chartered Institute of Personnel Directors.

Froggatt, W. (2005). A Brief Introduction to Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy. Web.

Grohol, J. (2007). 15 Common Defense Mechanisms. Web.

Kickul, J. R., Neuman, G., Parker, C., & Finkl, J. (2001). Settling the score: The role of organizational justice in the relationship between psychological contract breach and anticitizenship behavior. Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal, 13(2), 77-93.

Powell, K. (2006). Nature vs. Nurture. Web.

RZ. (2008). VABEs. Web.

Self Concept. (2009). Web.

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Silby, B. (2009). What is a Meme? Web.

Smithson, J. and Lewis, S. (2003). Psychological Contract. 

The Emotional Bank Account. (2009). Web.

Van Wagner, K. (2009). Hierarchy of Needs. Web.

What is MBO? (2009). 

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