6 Most Widely Known Organizational Behavior Theories

Organizational behavior is the study of how people behave in an organization. It is an interdisciplinary field that combines insights from psychology, sociology, and management to understand and improve the attitudes and behaviors of individuals and groups in organizational settings. The goal of organizational behavior is to create a better understanding of how people behave at work and how this behavior affects organizational performance.

Organizational behavior theories are frameworks and models that help explain and predict the behavior of individuals and groups within an organization. Some of the most widely recognized organizational behavior theories are as follows:

Taylor’s Scientific Management Theory or Taylorism

Frederick W. Taylor’s Scientific Management Theory, also known as Taylorism, is a management approach that was developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The theory argues that the most efficient way to manage workers is to apply scientific principles and techniques to every aspect of work, including task design, work processes, and management practices.

The main components of Taylor’s theory are:

  1. Time and motion study: the systematic analysis of work processes to identify the most efficient method for completing tasks.
  2. Division of labor: breaking down work into smaller, specialized tasks and assigning each task to a specific worker.
  3. Task specialization: training workers to perform a specific task with maximum efficiency.
  4. Management control: using standardized procedures and detailed record-keeping to monitor and control worker performance.
  5. Incentive pay: rewarding workers based on their efficiency and productivity.

Taylor’s Scientific Management Theory had a significant impact on the way work was organized and managed in the early 20th century and is still studied and discussed in the field of organizational behavior. However, it has also been criticized for its narrow focus on efficiency and disregard for the human side of work, such as worker autonomy and job satisfaction.

McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y

It is quite famous among all the organizational behavior theories. Douglas McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y are two opposing views of human motivation and work behavior.

Theory X assumes that:

  1. Employees are inherently lazy and need to be coerced, controlled, or threatened to work.
  2. Employees have little ambition and dislike work, so they must be offered financial rewards or punishments to perform.
  3. Employees are not trustworthy and need to be closely supervised.

Theory Y, on the other hand, assumes that:

  1. Employees are naturally motivated and want to contribute to their work.
  2. Employees are capable of self-direction and self-control and can be trusted to make decisions.
  3. Work can be as natural as play and rest, and employees will be motivated by the satisfaction they derive from their work.

McGregor’s theory suggests that managers’ assumptions about their employees’ motivations and work behaviors will influence their management practices and the work environment they create. If a manager adopts a Theory X mindset, they may create a highly controlled and authoritarian work environment, while a manager who embraces Theory Y may create a more participatory and empowering work environment.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Proposed by Abraham Maslow in 1943, this theory states that human needs are arranged in a hierarchy, and individuals must satisfy lower-level needs before they can pursue higher-level needs.

The hierarchy of needs consists of five levels:

  1. Physiological needs: These include the most basic human needs, such as food, water, shelter, and clothing.
  2. Safety needs: These are the needs for security, stability, and protection from physical and emotional harm.
  3. Love and belonging needs: These are the needs for social interaction, love, affection, and a sense of belonging.
  4. Esteem needs: These are the needs for self-esteem, self-respect, and the respect of others.
  5. Self-actualization needs: These are the needs for personal growth, fulfillment, and realizing one’s full potential.

According to Maslow, individuals must satisfy lower-level needs before they can focus on higher-level needs. For example, an individual who is struggling to meet their basic physiological needs will not be motivated to pursue self-actualization until their basic needs are met.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is widely recognized and widely used as a framework for understanding human motivation and behavior. It has been applied in a variety of fields, including organizational behavior, education, and counseling.

Human relations management theory

This organizational behavior theory, also known as the Hawthorne Studies, is a management approach that emerged from a series of experiments conducted by Elton Mayo and his colleagues at the Hawthorne Works factory of Western Electric Company in the 1920s and 1930s. The theory focuses on the social and psychological factors that influence worker behavior and productivity.

The Hawthorne Studies found that workers’ productivity and satisfaction were not solely determined by working conditions, such as lighting and temperature, but also by social and psychological factors, such as the recognition and appreciation they received from management and their colleagues.

Based on these findings, the Human Relations Management Theory argues that:

  1. Workers are motivated not only by economic rewards but also by social and psychological factors such as recognition, belonging, and job satisfaction.
  2. Managers should focus on creating a supportive and participatory work environment that recognizes and values the contributions of workers.
  3. Communication and collaboration between workers and management are essential for improving productivity and job satisfaction.

The Human Relations Management Theory has influenced the development of a number of management approaches, such as participatory management, quality circles, and team-based work structures, and remains an important concept in the field of organizational behavior.

Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory

Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory, also known as the Motivation-Hygiene Theory, is a model of employee motivation proposed by psychologist Frederick Herzberg in the 1950s. The theory suggests that job satisfaction and job dissatisfaction are influenced by different factors.

Herzberg identified two types of factors that influence worker motivation:

  1. Hygiene factors: These are maintenance or extrinsic factors that must be present in the work environment to prevent dissatisfaction, but they do not necessarily lead to motivation. Examples include salary, job security, working conditions, and company policies.
  2. Motivational factors: These are intrinsic or growth factors that can lead to job satisfaction and motivation when they are present. Examples include recognition, achievement, responsibility, growth opportunities, and meaningful work.

According to Herzberg, the presence of hygiene factors alone will not lead to job satisfaction or motivation. However, the absence of hygiene factors can lead to job dissatisfaction. On the other hand, the presence of motivators can lead to job satisfaction and motivation, but the absence of motivators will not necessarily lead to dissatisfaction.

This organizational behavior theory is widely recognized as one of the first models to differentiate between factors that influence job satisfaction and job dissatisfaction and has been widely applied in organizational behavior and management.

Social Learning Theory

Social Learning Theory is a psychological theory of learning and development that emphasizes the importance of observing and imitating the behavior of others. The theory was first proposed by psychologist Albert Bandura in the 1960s.

According to this theory, individuals can learn new behaviors and attitudes through observation and imitation of others. This process, known as observational learning or modeling, occurs when an individual observes the behavior of another person and then reproduces that behavior in a similar situation.

The theory suggests that the likelihood of an individual reproducing the observed behavior is influenced by three factors:

  1. Attention: The individual must pay attention to the behavior of the model.
  2. Retention: The individual must remember the behavior.
  3. Reproduction: The individual must be physically capable of reproducing the behavior.

Social Learning Theory has been applied in a variety of fields, including education, criminal justice, and organizational behavior. It has been used as an organizational behavior theory to explain the impact of workplace culture on employee behavior and to design training programs that emphasize the importance of observing and imitating positive workplace behaviors.

Transformational Leadership Theory

Transformational Leadership Theory is a leadership style that emphasizes the motivation and development of followers. The theory was first proposed by James MacGregor Burns in 1978 and further developed by Bernard Bass in the 1980s.

Transformational leaders focus on inspiring and motivating followers to achieve their full potential and contribute to the organization’s goals. They create a vision for the future, set challenging goals, and provide their followers with the support and resources they need to succeed.

Transformational leaders are characterized by four key behaviors:

  1. Idealized influence: Transformational leaders serve as role models for their followers and inspire them with their vision and values.
  2. Inspirational motivation: Transformational leaders create a sense of purpose and direction for their followers, helping them to see the importance of their work and to feel motivated to achieve their goals.
  3. Intellectual stimulation: Transformational leaders encourage their followers to think creatively and independently and to challenge traditional ways of thinking.
  4. Individualized consideration: Transformational leaders provide individualized support and guidance to their followers, helping them to develop their skills and achieve their potential.

Transformational Leadership Theory has been widely applied in organizational behavior and management and is widely recognized as an effective leadership style. It has been shown to increase follower motivation, job satisfaction, and organizational performance, and is associated with lower levels of turnover and absenteeism. For a deeper understanding of organizational behavior theories, explore some online resources like educational videos or free organizational behavior textbooks.