Organisational Behaviour For Dummies®

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Organisational Behaviour For Dummies®




About the Authors

Cary L Cooper is Distinguished Professor of Organisational Psychology & Health at Lancaster University Management School. He is also Chair of the Academy of Social Sciences and President of the British Association of Counselling & Psychotherapy. Cary is Editor of the journal Stress & Health and the author or editor of many books and articles in the areas of organisational behaviour, stress, and wellbeing at work. He received a CBE from the Queen in 2001 for his contribution to organisational health.

Lynn Holdsworth, PhD, is a Chartered Psychologist. She lectures in work psychology and organisational behavior to undergraduate and postgraduate students at Manchester Business School (MBS) at the University of Manchester, and is a visiting researcher at MBS and Lancaster University. Prior to her academic career, she worked in human resources and in management positions in media and advertising.

Lynn is a qualified Life Coach and advises organisations and individuals in the areas of stress, empowerment, job satisfaction, and leadership development.

Sheena Johnson, PhD, is an Occupational and Chartered Psychologist. She lectures at Manchester Business School at the University of Manchester. She teaches work psychology and organisational behavior topics to undergraduate, postgraduate, professional, and international students. She is an active researcher into the topics of stress and health, and training.

Sheena is the author of numerous journal articles and book chapters on organisational behavior topics and regularly presents her work at national and international conferences.

Authors’ Acknowledgements

From Cary: I would like to dedicate this book to all my postgraduate students who educated and stimulated me.

From Lynn: Thanks to my co-authors, work colleagues, and friends for your invaluable help and wise advice. To my husband, Phil; parents, Rita and Eric; boys, Kris and Lee; and parents-in-law, Dorothy and John. Many thanks for your support during the writing of this book.

From Sheena: Thanks to my co-authors and work colleagues for being so great to work with. Thanks to my family and friends for your continued and much-appreciated support and encouragement. Special thanks and love to my mother Elva, father Gwyn, and my two wonderful daughters, Keely and Bethan.

Publisher’s Acknowledgements

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Welcome to Organisational Behaviour For Dummies! We already know that this book is of interest to you – not just because you’re reading this bit (although that does rather give it away), but because organisational behaviour is all about people at work. If you answer yes to the questions ‘Are you a person?’ and ‘Do you work or plan to work?’ then you can benefit from an understanding of organisational behaviour.

Organisational Behaviour For Dummies is meant to be fun to read, informative, and useful to you. We’ve bunched topics roughly into those that relate to employees, employers, and organisations, and you can dip into any topic you like without reading earlier chapters. Whether you’re studying organisation behaviour or just interested because of what you see happening in your workplace, we’re confident you’ll find information of interest in this book.

About This Book

We authors have many years’ experience (far too many to count and admit to) of teaching and training organisational behaviour topics. Our aim in this book is to introduce you to the key ideas and concepts that you’ll find both interesting and relevant to your studies.

We introduce you to the main organisational behaviour topics and explain why applying organisational behaviour principles at work can help make organisations more effective. We cover lots of relevant research and theories as we explain, but we also give lots of examples and descriptions so that the book is as much practical as theoretical.

We introduce you to the ideas and theories underpinning organisational behaviour and look at how to apply them in the workplace. You can therefore easily find out about the things you can do based on the theory we describe. We have as many years experience of applying psychology at work and working directly with organisations as we do of teaching the theory. This extensive experience is important because it means that we know the issues that are relevant to organisations, and we’ve worked with real people as opposed to just knowing the theory. We tell you theory throughout the book, but we also give practical advice about what this theory means to you as a manager.

For each topic, we cover the key points in the area, which can mean covering well-known theory and old research. You may have already heard of some of this information, but much of it is probably new to you. We include theory where we think doing so helps you understand the topic now. If ideas and practice have changed over time, we talk about those changes, too.

As well as covering essential background, we bring the topics right up to date and consider what they mean to the organisations of today, and what you can do with the information.

Conventions Used in This Book

To help you navigate through this book, we set up a few conventions:

check.png Italics are used for emphasis and to highlight new words or defined terms.

check.png Bold faced text indicates the key concept in a list.

check.png Monofont is used for web and email addresses.

We try not to use jargon in this book, and when we do, we explain what we mean. We also restrict technical terms to those we think you need to know about. We’re more interested in why things happen than using fancy words to describe them.

We have a lot of experience working directly with organisations using organisational behaviour techniques. So, where relevant, we use stories from our own experience to illustrate points we’re making. Sometimes we adapt these examples to make sure that we don’t breach confidentiality, but we leave the relevant points in.

Foolish Assumptions

We assume that you’re reading this book because

check.png You’re studying organisational behaviour and want an easy introduction to the topic.

check.png You’re a manager who wants to better understand your own, and your employee’s, behaviour at work and how this impacts other people and the organisation as a whole.

check.png You’re simply interested in the topic.

We don’t assume that you’ve work experience, and you don’t need experience of organisations in order to gain an understanding of organisational behaviour. Having said that, we do use a lot of examples set in the workplace when we explain topics, so you may find it easier to understand some of the things we cover if you do have work experience.

How This Book Is Organised

We include theory and real-life examples in this book and give lots of practical advice and suggestions about the topics we cover. We divided the book into five parts, and each part contains two or more chapters. The following sections outline each part in turn.

Part I: Getting to Grips with Organisational Behaviour

Before you look at the individual topics we discuss in later parts, check out Part I to get to grips with what organisational behaviour is and how an understanding of psychology and behaviour can help organisations.

This part gives you a good idea about the general topics that fall under the umbrella heading of ‘organisational behaviour’ and how people gather information on such topics (for example, through using workplace questionnaires or conducting face-to-face interviews with employees or managers). You find out here about changes that are happening in workplaces and how psychology can inform on these changes. You also start to discover how to best manage change (something we go into more detail about in Chapter 14).

Part II: All About the Employee

In Part II, we look at topics that relate to individuals and cover some of the ways in which people differ and how work can affect people.

Here, you find out about things like work attitudes, personality, and intelligence, and how they differ between people and what this means in the workplace. You explore the links between these things and behaviour at work and consider what this means for you as an employee or as a manager. You also find out how organisational behaviour can help you understand teams and groups, gain insight into why teams may fail and discover how to make your teams high performing.

Also within this part is a look at some of the negative things employees can experience at work, such as the costs and causes of stress, and how using your emotions in the workplace can negatively affect you. Throughout, we provide tips on how to manage stress.

Part III: All About the Employer

In Part III, we explore those organisational behaviour topics that we think are primarily under the control of employers.

Here, you find out about how different leadership styles influence people in the workplace and the different ways in which people can be motivated at work. You get to grips with some newer organisational behaviour topics such as the psychological contract, which is an unwritten agreement between employer and employee that can have negative consequences for both sides if broken or violated. This part also considers the importance of feeling fairly treated at work, and what can go wrong in a workplace if people feel they’ve been unfairly treated.

Part IV: All About the Organisation

In this part, we look at more general topics that affect organisations. You find out about the importance of job design, and how paying attention to job design issues can lead to more productive workplaces. You find out about organisational culture (the shared understanding in a workplace) and how important culture is, especially during times of change, and organisational change. You consider how people react to change and how to manage change.

Part IV also takes a look at the impact of an increasingly global workplace, and especially at how an understanding of different cultural values is becoming ever more important as organisations become more global. And in case that’s not enough, technology also gets a look in here – how it has changed, and is continuing to change, and what impact this change has on organisations and work.

Part V: All About Hiring and Developing People

How can organisations hire, and retain, the best people? Part V takes a look at an organisation’s key assets, people, from recruitment and assessment through to building the managers of tomorrow.

Part V delves into the variety of selection methods that are available to you and considers which of them work well and which work less well, providing advice on how you can put together a good selection process. In a similar manner, this part looks at assessment and appraisal issues and considers how you can successfully assess performance at work. Employee training and development, a consideration of the different types of training available to you and a look at how to best ensure that training transfers back to the workplace, wrap up this part.

Part VI: The Part of Tens

No For Dummies book is complete without the Part of Tens – a part full of handy chapters containing ten top topics or tips apiece. Here we offer a collection of interesting and helpful lists about hot organisational topics such as employee relations, stressed occupations, ways of managing your manager, up-and-coming organisational behaviour issues, and employee engagement.

Icons Used in This Book

Throughout this book, we use helpful icons to draw your attention to different information:

remember.eps When you see this icon, we’re highlighting a key point in relation to the topic. This icon flags information we think is worth remembering.

tip.eps We use this symbol to represent practical tips and ideas in relation to organisational behaviour that you may find handy.

warning_bomb.eps This icon signifies something you can’t or shouldn’t do, or something you should take particular care with.

example.eps The example icon highlights a real or made-up story that illustrates the topic we’re discussing.

technicalstuff.eps We use this icon sparingly, but when you see it, you find extra background or a detailed description of the topic.

Where to Go from Here

This book is an introduction to organisational behaviour. If you’re a student, you can use it to find out about the basic principles of organisational behaviour and, if you’re a manager, you’ll benefit from the helpful tips throughout on how to get the best out of your employees. Throughout the book, we introduce key organisational behaviour concepts and theories and give practical advice and tips for how to put these into practice in the workplace.

You don’t have to read this book from beginning to end (unless you really want to). We’ve organised it so that you look at employee, employer, and organisational perspectives, but each chapter also stands alone so that you can read the material in any order you like. If you’re interested in team building, head on over to Chapter 5. Likewise, if you want the lowdown on motivation, jump straight to Chapter 9 and look no further! Just use the table of contents and index to help you find exactly what you need.

We hope you enjoy finding out about organisation behaviour.

Part I

Getting to Grips with Organisational Behaviour


In this part . . .

In Part I, we introduce organisational behaviour and work psychology and explain how an understanding of psychology and behaviour can help organisations. We briefly look at the variety of topics the book covers and consider how to gather information about such topics; for example, through using workplace questionnaires or conducting face-to-face interviews with employees or managers. We also think about what’s going on in today’s workplace and why applying psychology in workplaces can help organisations to be successful.

Chapter 1

Introducing Organisational Behaviour

In This Chapter

arrow Introducing organisational behaviour

arrow Using organisational behaviour in the workplace

arrow Seeing how people behave at work

The three of us writing this book (Cary, Sheena, and Lynn) are all work psychologists, which means that we use some of the principles of psychology to study people and behaviour in organisations.

When asked, we tend to describe ourselves as work psychologists rather than organisational behaviourists. Why is that? Well, introducing yourself as a psychologist is bad enough with the questions that follow (for example, can you read my mind?). Imagine calling yourself an organisational behaviourist at a party – not the best opening line! At least people have heard of psychology, and it doesn’t take too much thought to figure out that work psychology is basically psychology applied to the workplace.

You may be wondering, then, why this book isn’t called Work Psychology For Dummies as opposed to Organisational Behaviour For Dummies? Well, organisational behaviour and work psychology look at similar ideas and have similar aims. Both involve looking at the ways in which people behave at work and what this behaviour means for organisations. However, the term ‘work psychology’ can imply a more focused look at individuals. Organisational behaviour, on the other hand, is a broader term because the name implies an overall look at behaviour (that is, from the perspective of people, groups, and the overall organisation), and that is our approach in this book.

We look at organisational behaviour in more detail throughout this chapter and focus on the application of organisational behaviour/psychology at work in Chapter 2. Reading these chapters gives you a good understanding of what organisational behaviour is and, perhaps more importantly, why it’s relevant to you and your workplace.

Describing Organisational Behaviour

We define organisation behaviour for you in full in this section, but first take a look at the following questions. These questions are the sort that organisational behaviourists consider when looking at people at work. Having an idea of what questions are of interest in organisational behaviour gives you an understanding of what it is and why it’s relevant to you and your studies or workplace. We provide answers to all these questions in different parts of this book.

Typical questions that an understanding of organisational behaviour can begin to answer for you are:

check.png What do you think about work?

check.png Why do you behave in certain ways at work?

check.png How do you react to the things that happen to you at work?

check.png What impact can your reactions have on the wider workplace?

check.png How does work affect you?

check.png What does your manager need to know about managing and motivating you at work?

If you’re a manager, here are some more questions that organisational behaviour can begin to answer that you’re sure to be interested in:

check.png What can I do to ensure that I recruit the best person for a job?

check.png How can I best motivate my employees?

check.png What is the best way to identify training needs in my employees?

check.png How can I instigate change without risking losing employee trust?

Offering a helpful definition

You can probably come up with an explanation of what organisational behaviour is without looking in a dictionary or searching on the Internet. It’s how organisations behave, yes? And because you know that organisations aren’t living things, then organisational behaviour has got to be about how the people and groups within organisations behave.

To elaborate a bit, here are some basic themes that cover what organisational behaviour is all about:

check.png Appreciating how people affect each other at work

check.png Applying knowledge at work based on what we know about how people act at work

check.png Understanding how people are affected by work

check.png Studying how people, individuals, and groups act at work

check.png Using organisation behaviour principles to improve an organisation’s effectiveness and productivity

What organisational behaviour isn’t

Organisational behaviour isn’t about reading minds or reading body language. Organisational behaviour helps you understand how people behave at work and what’s important to them and their organisations. But organisational behaviour doesn’t give you amazing powers of insight so that you suddenly just have to look at people to know what their attitudes are toward things.

warning_bomb.eps Organisational behaviour doesn’t enable you to perfectly predict what will happen at any given time at work. Having an understanding of some general rules about the types of behaviours you may see at work doesn’t mean that you can predict exactly how someone will behave!

Who Needs to Know about Organisational Behaviour?

Anyone who’s ever worked, or who’ll work in the future, can benefit from finding out about organisational behaviour – in other words, pretty much everyone needs to know about organisational behaviour! Organisational behaviour is all about people and work, so if you’re a person who works or has worked, then this topic is relevant to you.

Understanding the ideas underpinning organisational behaviour not only gives you insight into past events but enables you to better predict what may happen at work in the future.

remember.eps Understanding and using organisational behaviour principles in the workplace can help you keep yourself and others happier at work.

You may be reading this book because you’re studying organisational behaviour (or work psychology). Indeed, this area of study is now more popular than ever. This growing interest is unsurprising because people now generally accept that looking at issues relating to staff in the workplace is an effective way of improving organisational efficiency and of supporting and encouraging employees.

Most organisational behaviour students are within the university sector, which has vast numbers of undergraduates, postgraduates, and professional training individuals. Many of these students go on to apply the principles directly at work either in their capacity as managers or as professional advisors with expert knowledge into organisational behaviour or work psychology.

remember.eps Having work experience isn’t essential, but it does make understanding some of the things that organisational behaviour covers easier.

You may already be in a managerial or advisory role, in which case this book is also aimed at you. Perhaps you want to better understand how to manage your people, in which case you need to know about organisational behaviour, too.

Organisational Behaviour in Action

People use organisational behaviour theories all the time in the workplace in a number of diverse ways. For example, managers can use these theories to attract and recruit the best candidates to a job position and also to handle downsizing and retirement issues so as not to lose the goodwill of remaining employees. We explore a wide range of organisational behaviour topics throughout the book and split them into three main areas:

check.png Individuals: Covers things such as what we know about the differences between people and how these differences affect behaviour in the workplace.

check.png Employers: Looks at things like how different leadership and motivational styles affect employees.

check.png Organisations: Includes things like looking at the culture of an organisation and considering how change can best be implemented.

Helping individuals at work

People differ in many ways. (In fact, Part II of this book is all about the individual at work.) Consider your closest friend. Clearly, you like that person, or she wouldn’t be your friend. You probably don’t agree on everything, though, which means you’ve different attitudes toward some things. You also have different personalities.

Take a minute to think about how you and your friend act (or would act) at work. Not always in the same way, right? Now think about what this means to an employer. Because people are different, they act in different ways at work. Understanding these differences can help you understand what happens at work and allow you to better manage situations.

Organisational behaviour research has taught us a lot about how people differ and also offers advice on how to understand and manage these differences to your advantage. For example, if you’re hiring a new employee, then fitting the person to the job in terms of her personality and job requirements can lead to better performance and there being less likelihood of her leaving because she doesn’t fit in. A lot is also understood about how attitudes affect behaviour at work. As an example, paying attention to keeping job satisfaction and employee commitment levels high should pay off in terms of good performance and employee willingness to help the organisation meet its aims and goals.

Topics we include under individual organisational behaviour are

check.png Personality and individual differences (see Chapter 3)

check.png Work attitudes (see Chapter 4)

check.png Working in teams and groups (see Chapter 5)

check.png Health and wellbeing at work (see Chapter 6)

check.png Emotion work: working with people (see Chapter 7)

Affecting the employer

Almost all organisational behaviour topics are of interest to employers, but in this area, we specifically focus on those topics that are mostly under the control of the employer. As an example, different leadership styles affects employees, and perceived unfairness from employers affects performance at work.

Understanding these issues and appreciating the influence an employer can have on the reactions of employees can help employers get the best out of their workforce and prevent them making expensive mistakes with how they manage people at work. (Part III of this book is all about the employer at work.)

In addition to looking at the key organisational behaviour topics such as leadership styles and motivation theories, we introduce newer topics, such as the dark side of leadership, which is where leaders behave in a manner that is destructive, and the importance of creating fairness at work if you want to get the best out of your employees.

Topics we include under employer organisational behaviour are

check.png Leadership at work (see Chapter 8)

check.png How to motivate your workforce (see Chapter 9)

check.png The psychological contract – the unwritten agreement between employer and employee (see Chapter 10)

check.png The importance of fairness at work (see Chapter 11)

Aiding organisations

Organisational behaviour doesn’t just look at individual employees and employers; it also considers the organisation as a whole, looking at things such as how organisations can design jobs to achieve high performance and what advice exists for organisations that face major change events. Issues such as the culture of an organisation, why culture is important to employees and how employees behave at work are covered under the umbrella of organisational behaviour.

Organisations are facing times of great change. In addition to change as a result of the economic downturn, other changes are evident in the world of work, such as the increasingly global market that organisations now have to work within and the technology explosion that has occurred over the last few decades. Having knowledge of organisational behaviour can help you to understand and decide how to best manage these changes.

Here are the topics we include under organisational behaviour:

check.png Job design (see Chapter 12)

check.png Organisational culture and climate (see Chapter 13)

check.png Organisations and change (see Chapter 14)

check.png The global workplace (see Chapter 15)

check.png The impact of new technology (see Chapter 16)

Some areas affect all organisations that have employees. We include these topics in the organisation section because they’re under the control of the organisation (even though they do relate to employees). These three topics are

check.png Hiring new employees (see Chapter 17)

check.png Assessing and appraising employees (see Chapter 18)

check.png Training and developing employees (see Chapter 19)

Studying People in Organisations

Organisational behaviourists go about studying people at work in a number of ways, including testing people and theories, talking and listening to people, and watching what happens in a workplace. We discuss each of these methods in more detail in the following sections.

remember.eps The theories and studies we discuss throughout the book are based on information and data collected using these methods. We also have direct experience of using each of the methods in workplaces.


Organisations commonly use psychometric tests, which measure psychological attributes, such as knowledge, ability, intelligence, and personality. Individuals are often tested during recruitment, which we focus on in Chapter 17.

Looking more generally, testing is evident throughout organisational behaviour research in the form of theory testing. The term theory usually denotes something that’s been tested or proven. Usually, when a study is designed to look at a specific issue, such as stress at work, researchers form hypotheses (ideas) about the likely links, such as increased exposure to stress at work causing poorer health. Researchers can then test these hypotheses through a study where both stress and health are measured and the relationship between the two examined. Studies and accumulating evidence that supports the links between stress and health then support the general theory that stress affects health.

Questions about organisational behaviour topics are developed into hypotheses that workplace studies can prove or disprove. Organisational behaviourists and work psychologists use the evidence that comes from such studies to develop theories about organisational behaviour topics.

warning_bomb.eps An idea or thought that’s not based on evidence can be wrong or misleading.

Asking and listening

Probably the most popular methods of researching organisational behaviour come under the broad heading of asking people things (either by talking to them or asking them to complete written questions) and then listening to what they have to say. This approach makes sense really. If you want to find out about what people think about work and how they behave, then you can’t go far wrong by talking to the people involved.

tip.eps Comparing people’s responses to see whether they match can be an interesting endeavour. For example, we’ve talked to managers who state that their employees are happy, and yet the employees are quick to tell us they’re not! Looking at misunderstandings between people and groups of people can be important to understanding organisational behaviour.

In Table 1-1, we outline key methods that fit under the heading of asking and listening.

Table 1-1 Asking and Listening Methods





Cheap to use

Can be completed by many people, so you can get information across an organisation fairly quickly

Made up of fixed questions, so you’re unlikely to discover unexpected information

Can be completed dishonestly or without much care, meaning that answers are of limited use


Can give more detailed information than questionnaires

Allow for information outside the remit of the questionnaire because you’re not restricted by fixed questions

Are time-consuming

Usually involve smaller numbers of people than a questionnaire study

Focus groups (usually between six and eight people)

Gives you perspectives on an issue from different people

People can respond to each other’s comments, which can open up interesting discussions that you may otherwise not uncover

People may not be as honest in a focus group as they can be reluctant to say things in front of others, particularly if they’re people they work with and they’ve opinions that they think other people will disagree with or be unhappy about


You can find out a lot about people and workplaces just by watching what happens at work, such as through direct observation studies where you physically visit a workplace and observe behaviours directly.

warning_bomb.eps Be careful with observation studies because you can affect how people behave because they know that you’re watching. (For more on this subject, check out the Hawthorne studies that we discuss in Chapter 9.)

In addition to direct observation, organisational behaviourists also look at more general workplace information to try to understand work behaviours such as

check.png The type of work being done and the type of people in work (see Chapter 2 for more on this topic and how it is changing)

check.png Work laws, rules, and regulations, along with the changes that occur with them and the reasons for the changes

check.png Other indicators of work attitudes and behaviours, such as discrimination claims and the reasons cited

This kind of information can help you understand work attitudes and work behaviour, but you’re limited on how sure you can be about the causes and reactions without directly researching the people involved.

tip.eps Observing work behaviour indicators can give you ideas of areas you may want to investigate further.

What’s in Store for Organisational Behaviour?

In the future, organisational behaviour studies will continue to investigate and understand workplace behaviours. Workplaces are constantly changing, meaning that we need to keep looking at new issues and recognise when organisations need to change to allow successful adaptation to new and changing situations. At the moment, you can see the most obvious example in almost all workplaces as organisations struggle to survive in difficult economic conditions.

Chapter 23 takes a look at up-and-coming issues in organisational behaviour and offers detail on what we believe are the key contemporary issues:

check.png Changing jobs and career development

check.png Happiness at work

check.png Health and wellbeing

check.png Managing constant change

check.png Managing post-recession

check.png The ageing workforce

check.png The new industrial relations

check.png Understanding management style

check.png Workforce engagement

check.png Work–life balance