The beginning of OB may be said to lie in the ‘Hawthorne studies’. In 1924, at the Hawthorne works of the Western Electric Company, USA, studies were being conducted to determine the effect of intensity of light on productivity. Productivity increased under both conditions of increasing and decreasing intensity of light. This was a baffling finding. The researchers then investigated the effect of rest pauses, with the same result: productivity increased under each trial. The chance findings of these Hawthorne studies was the preferences evinced by workers for factors influencing productivity: these were size of group, supervisory behaviour, earning, novelty of situation, workers’ interest in the experiment, and attention received. Thus, for the first time, the importance of ‘behavioural’ factors was discovered, and that too by chance.
The Hawthorne studies led to the human relations movement, which started in the 1950s. Its main emphasis was on the social environment to which people responded. It advocated that people were motivated more by social rather than economic needs.
- Theory X
- People do not like work and try to avoid it.
- People do not like work, so managers have to control, direct, coerce, and threaten employees to get them to work towards organizational goals.
- People prefer to be directed, so as to avoid responsibility, and want security-they have little ambition.
- Theory Y
- People do not naturally dislike work-work is a natural part of their lives
- People are internally motivated to objectives to which they are committed
- People are committed to goals to the degree that they receive personal rewards when they reach their objectives
- People will seek and accept responsibility under favourable conditions
- People have the capacity to be innovative in solving organizational problems
- People are bright but under most organizational conditions, their potential is underutilized
Organizational behaviour has been influenced by the following trends:
• The systems approach
• The socio-technical system approaches
• The democratic approach
• The contingency approach
• The interactional approach
The systems approach: Systems theory views organizations as complex systems consisting of interrelated elements functioning as a whole. The various units (human, material, information, finance) interact with each other to produce products and profits; they do not function in isolation.
The socio-technical system approaches. The technology of production was a major determinant in the organization of firms, and technology would greatly influence the culture and structure of the organization.
The democratic approach: Emphasis on democracy in the political field influenced thinking in all other aspects of life. Importance was given to democracy in the workplace, human dignity was valued, and participation and involvement of employees was seen as a good in itself as well as a means of increasing productivity.
The contingency approach: Instead of insisting on a universal solution as the best way of doing things, the contingency approach came to be more widely accepted. According to this approach, the appropriate managerial behaviour in a situation depends on the elements of that situation.
The interactional approach: Generally there is a tendency to search for cause-and-effect relationships (what causes what), so that the ‘causes’ can be influenced to manipulate the effects. The interactional approach suggests that the relationship is not simple and one-way: there is continuous interaction between the so-called ‘causes’ and ‘effects’ and the ‘effect’ can also become a cause. For example, it is believed that employee attitudes influence their perception of work. But the employees’ experience at work may also modify or shape their attitudes. There is a continuous interaction between the two.
Institute of Planning and Management, New Delhi.