We all know that when you get a group of people together, the sum of the parts doesn’t always add up in predictable ways. A group can be stronger than its individual members, but it can also be ineffective if the team members are not in sync. Organizational behavior is the study of how people interact with one another within a group. In the business world, insight into organizational behavior can help managers more effectively direct a group and produce results.

The study of organizational behavior began with fundamental experiments on the effect of physical changes within the work environment. Does the arrangement of offices make a difference in productivity? Do the colors of paint and the intensity of the lights add to or alleviate stress? What is the impact of direct and constant supervision versus hands-off supervision?

From the One to the Many

When a manager makes a new hire, he or she isn’t just adding another body to the workforce, but a new variable to an already complicated system. A candidate’s qualifications on paper are important to the business unit; nearly as important is how well that candidate will integrate with the existing unit. Or — as is the case when a unit is not functioning well — will this new addition create a shift in the environment that will result in more effective organizational behavior?

We’re not all robots. We all have our own idiosyncrasies and personal backgrounds that make us unique. When you place a group of people into a single unit, there will be differences of opinion. Successful managers and business leaders are able to assess those differences and create internal policies and chains of command that will mitigate the fallout from the less-than-ideal pairings within the unit.

For instance, Bob is a fantastic salesman. He can talk up a product and close a deal within minutes. Put him on a phone bank, and by lunchtime, he’ll have a stack of orders on his desk. Bob, however, does not understand how spreadsheets work. Does a good manager put Bob in charge of entering his orders and ensuring that they’re properly charted across the business accounts? No. A good manager lets Bob make calls and take orders, and assigns someone else to do the account work. This person will most likely be someone who is very skilled with spreadsheets but dislikes talking on the phone. This method uses the strengths of one worker to overcome the deficits of another and vice versa.

Conflict Is Real, and so Is Resolution

A successful and engaging work environment is one that empowers people and rewards them for accomplishing tasks efficiently and effectively. Additionally, successful business managers learn how to spot emerging conflict before it destroys the organization’s effectiveness. An organizational unit only moves as quickly as its least motivated member, and effective leadership strives to ensure that the work environment is positive and that the employees are well-motivated. Build a happy workplace and your employees will enjoy coming to work. Foster inclusiveness and team building, and your team will knit itself into a much more efficient and productive unit.

The study of organizational behavior is an important aspect of managing a company’s workforce. You can’t look at individual employees in isolation; you have to understand how they are going to work with other members of the organization. Knowing your employees’ strengths and weaknesses is critical to building a business structure that increases productivity and efficiency and reduces stress. Everyone plays a specific role within the business; it is the job of the effective manager to understand those roles and who fits them best.

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Investopedia: Organizational Behavior — OB

Leadership Archways: What Is Organizational Behavior and Why Does it Matter?

Houston Chronicle: How to Explain the Importance of Organizational Behaviors