Organizational behavior (OB) is a broad branch of business study that analyzes how people in an organization act, and what an organization can do to encourage them to act in certain ways beneficial to the company. Organizational behavior borrows from many disciplines, including management theory, psychology and efficiency analysis. While pinning down exactly what organizational behavior is or how it works can be difficult, key components of organizational behavior relate to leadership, culture, structure and communication.

Leadership Aspects of Organizational Behavior

Leadership refers to who leads a company and what type of leadership styles are used, from the lowest managers with only a few direct reports to founders and CEOs. Leadership styles should fit both the company and its goals.

When implementing strategy in a timely manner is most important, a company can benefit from a more commanding leader who makes key decisions and expects workers to do whatever they're told. Other businesses that focus more on nurturing employee talent and taking input from employees work better with a leader who shows strong relationship building and emotional intelligence, taking time to coach each employee in new skills and listen to new ideas.

Company Culture and Attitudes

Organizational behavior is primarily concerned with company culture, the attitudes and mores that make up how employees are expected to treat one another, their jobs and customers. Companies should encourage a strong culture and adopt the values necessary for success in the business and development of all employees. For example, companies focused highly on customer service should develop a culture where workers carefully and respectfully listen to customers and share the goal of helping them fix their problems in a timely manner.

Physical Organizational Structure

The company structure is how the business is actually built, and it is one of the key elements of OB. This is a major factor when it comes to leadership styles and company culture, and is often discussed in detail as part of organizational behavior studies. All structures have their benefits and their disadvantages.

A tall structure has many layers of management and can become very bureaucratic. This kind of structure may exist in a large finance company that has a CEO, several top executives and directors, department managers and lower-level managers. A flat structure has only a few layers and tends to be more organic. Lean organizations like these reduce waste and increase efficiency whenever possible.

Methods of Communication

Leaders and employees must have ways to communicate with each other, so another one of the key elements of organizational behavior involves the study of communication options at a workplace. Body language and nonverbal cues are important, but technology is also necessary. Workplaces regularly use email, chat and mobile systems, each of which have their own effect on how messages are perceived and used.

For example, a software company might have its development teams collaborate on a chat system like Slack to share files and discuss their code. Sales companies, in contrast, may rely more on telephone communication to call potential leads, in addition to using online marketing and customer relationship management platforms.