Systematic Study of Organizational Behavior
Dave Carlson - March 2, 2009
Organizational managers face many different challenges each day. As organizations grow in today’s world, so do management challenges. There are many challenges and opportunities today for managers to use organizational behavior concepts. This article discusses three categories of challenges that influence a manager’s role: globalization, intuition, and diversity. Many organizations operate in multiple countries and must learn to deal with the issues caused by foreign travel, different cultures, and varied business values. Successful organizations are embracing the idea that diversity strengthens an organization. Recognizing and valuing differences, instead of assuming and trying to force people into the same mold, is a much more effective organizational attitude. An effective manager must master globalization, intuition, and diversity to help their organization succeed.
Systematic Study of Organizational Behavior
Organizational managers face a number of challenges each day. As organizations grow in today’s world, so do management challenges. Robbins and Judge (2009) identified several dramatic organizational changes which make understanding organizational behavior more complicated. An aging workforce, increasing numbers of women and people of color in the workplace, corporate downsizing, significant use of temporary employees, and global competition all are forcing employees and managers to cope with rapid change. “In short, there are a lot of challenges and opportunities today for managers to use organizational behavior concepts” (Robbins & Judge, 2009, p. 16).This paper will discuss three influences to a manager’s role: globalization, intuition, and diversity.
The Manager and Globalization
Many organizations operate in multiple countries and must learn to deal with the issues caused by foreign travel, different cultures, and varied business values. “Managers at global companies such as McDonald’s, Disney, and Coca-Cola have come to realize that economic values are not universally transferable” (Robbins & Judge, 2009, p. 18). Managers of global companies must modify management practices “to reflect the values of the different countries in which an organization operates” and “deal with the difficult task of balancing the interests of their organization with their responsibilities to the communities in which they operate” (Robbins & Judge, 2009, p. 18).
Globalization is not new and always has been with us in one form or another. “Ever since the first humans left their places of origin and began multiplying, spreading, and eventually migrating to other continents, globalization has been a fact of life” (Wiarda, 2008, p. 3). However, in recent decades, “the pace, spread and impact of globalization have accelerated beyond anything experienced in past history…its impacts are faster, broader, and deeper than ever before” (Wiarda, 2008, p. 3). Wiarda (2008) noted that at least one-third of American business wealth is generated by international trade, “and the figure keeps rising” (p. 11). The modern business manager must learn to deal with a steadily expanding and interdependent marketplace.
In addition to global trade, there is an increasing migration of people across borders; people who bring with them their own cultures and values. “The movement and immigration of peoples have become a worldwide phenomenon, breaking down historical isolation and involving everyone” (Wiarda, 2008, p. 11). As these immigrants blend into their new countries, they share their concept that we all are part of the same planet. In some industries, thoughts of borders are becoming more about where the planet meets space rather than where a political line is drawn on a map.
One of the many globalization challenges facing a manager is human resources management. While it is important to consider and accommodate various cultures and values, it is equally important for an organization to establish and implement company standards.
Many global organizations are in the process of scaling up their HR capabilities and seeking to manage their people consistently across all parts of their organization. It is part of the essence of a truly global business, or indeed any business that runs across different locations and organizational entities, to manage and develop its people through consistent and proven practices and processes. Visibility to the total workforce, mobility of people around organizations, and the focus on distinctive competencies and critical workforces, all require this. (Cheese, Thomas, & Crag, 2008, p. 208)
The Manager and Intuition
Some management skills cannot be taught, but must be learned through experience. Sometimes an organizational manager must rely on his internal principle of intuition -- “the power or faculty of attaining to direct knowledge or cognition without evident rational thought and inference” (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/intuition). Most of the time, intuition (or gut feeling) is gained through experience and application of the understanding of that experience.
Chhajed and Lowe (2008) suggested that intuition can help a manager determine the best solutions for when customers need to wait for a service. Managers need to understand the subtle impacts of waiting and ensure the organization takes the appropriate measures to mitigate problems and enhance solutions. “Understanding this [impact of waiting] is vital to the design and management of a wide range of production and service systems” (Chhajed & Lowe, 2008, p. 51).
Henry (2001) noted that intuition is learned by experience, along with managerial judgment and timing of an action. In a classic 1986 study of executives, the cognitive psychologist Agor, discovered that “the executives in his study felt intuition functioned best under situations of uncertainty, where there were no precedents; in unpredictable situations, where there were limited facts and competing plausible solutions; and where there were time constraints” (Henry, 2001, p. 56). While learned intuition adds to a manager’s effectiveness, Urbany, Reynolds, and Phillips (2008) cautioned managers about relying on “underdeveloped intuition and expedient criteria” (p. 78). Intuition must be guided by facts and meaningful experience within the context of the organization’s functions.
The Manager and Diversity
Robbins and Judge (2009) observed that in the past, organizations expected everyone in the organization to set aside their differences and find a way to automatically be assimilated into the culture of the organization. Unfortunately, the reality is that this never was the case; it never really happened. Today’s manager must accept and deal with the fact that “employees don’t set aside their cultural values, lifestyle preferences, and differences when they come to work” (Robbins & Judge, 2009, p. 19); they bring their cultural values, preferences, and differences with them. Today, successful organizations are embracing the idea that diversity strengthens an organization. Recognizing and valuing differences, instead of assuming and trying to force people into the same mold, is a much more effective organizational attitude. “In an increasingly diverse world, talent-powered organizations use demographic and geographic diversity for competitive advantage” (Cheese, Thomas, & Crag, 2008, p. 16).
Wrench (2007) organized diversities into six categories. These categories are dimensions of diversity that make up unchanging “human differences that are inborn and/or that exert an important impact on early socialization and have an ongoing impact throughout life” (Wrench, 2007, p. 8). The six primary dimensions of diversity are: age, ethnicity, gender, physical abilities/qualities, race, and sexual/affectional orientation. Wrench (2007) taught that effectively managing these diversities requires “a systematic transformation of the organization as opposed to the singular emphasis on recruitment/selection that was characteristic of the older methods” (p. 9) of managing personnel.
Organizations around the world have been giving serious consideration to the business practice of diversity management since the early 1990s (Wrench, 2007). Wrench (2007) promoted the idea that “encouraging an environment of cultural diversity where peoples’ differences are valued enables people to work to their full potential in a richer, more creative and more productive work environment” (p. 3). Wrench (2007) cited the work of Michŕlle Mor Barak to illustrate the concept of diversity in the workplace:
In depicting diverse management, I propose an image from the art world -- the painter’s palette. Like colors, when people are forced to blend and give up their unique characteristics, the result is a dull gray. Allowed to display their true colors, they shine brightly and together create an inspiring work of art. (Wrench, 2007, p. 4)
Many different factors influence the role of an organizational manager. Among the influencing factors are globalization, intuition, and diversity. Globalization and diversity management are modern external influences caused, in part, by expanding business markets and a mobile work force. Intuition, and internal influence, has been around since people started managing the activities of other people. An effective manager must master all three of these factors to help today’s organizations succeed.
Cheese, P., Thomas, R. J., and Crag, E. (2008). The talent powered organization: Strategies for globalization, talent management and high performance. Philadelphia: Kogan Page.
Chhajed, D. and Lowe, T. (2008). Building intuition: Insights from basic operations management models and principles. New York: Springer.
Henry, J. (2001). Creativity and perception in management. London: Sage.
Robins, S. P, and Judge, T. A. (2009). Organizational behavior (13th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pretence Hall.
Urbany, J. E., Reynolds, T. J., and Phillips, J. M. (Summer 2008). How to make values count in everyday decisions. MITSloan Management Review, 49(4), 75-81.
Wiarda, H. J. (2008). Globalization. Lebanon, NH: University Press of New England.
Wrench, J. (2007). Diversity management and discrimination: Immigrants and ethnic minorities in the EU. Hampshire, UK: Ashgate Publishing.