Organizational behavior looks at how people interact and behave in the workplace. This social science studies how employees work as individuals and within groups in an effort to help managers and human resource professionals understand the existing dynamics and develop management strategies that can boost effectiveness and efficiency. Studying these dynamics also helps in the development of training and retraining programs that not only benefit individual employees, but that also benefit the entire corporation in the long run.
Based on the belief that every individual is part of a larger whole, organizational behavior draws from the fields of psychology and sociology to analyze the influences that make employees tick when they're working alone or as part of a group. Analyzing these influences from the individual, group and organizational perspective helps determine how the individual worker's attitudes and perceptions affect the workplace environment and how the workplace environment, in turn, affects the quality of the work the individual produces.
When an organizational behavior study focuses on the individual employee, it looks at the person's capabilities, including his ability to learn, his perception, his creativity and his ability to cooperate with others, among other traits. His qualities are then compared to those of other workers to determine whether he needs additional training or if he's still in a role that's beneficial to his professional growth and development.
Once the organization's individuals have been studied, organizational behavior looks at each individual in the context of the group to analyze the dynamics at play. These dynamics determine roles, group perceptions of leadership and power, and cohesion, as well as other traits the group shares. A toxic work environment, for example, may show a great imbalance of perceived roles and dominance issues among a group of workers.
Once you have a snapshot of how the organization's individual personalities work within a group, you can look at broader topics, such as organizational culture, conflict, change and cultural diversity. You can also resolve any negative issues at play. If the group study, for example, finds that a toxic environment exists within the organization as a result of perceived roles or dominance issues among employees, this issue may have already become part of the organization's culture, which could be detrimental in the long run. With an understanding of the dynamics at play, management and human resources can begin to develop ways to eliminate the problem and foster new initiatives that will lead the organization's culture in a positive direction.