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An examination of work psychology as it can be used in businesses today.

Book Review: ‘Organisational Behaviour for Dummies’ by Cary L Cooper, Lynn Holdsworth and Sheena Johnson

Organisational Behaviour for Dummies addresses one of the core concepts of running a successful organisation. While financials, profit and loss statements, shareholder interest are central to corporate organisations, utilising the applied work psychology to manage the organisation from overall and micro level is one of the responsibilities of the management and supporting HR. Organizational behaviour would, simply put, include work psychology and applying such psychology in workplaces for organizations to be successful. This topic is part of most basic courses of general management.

Work psychologists use principles of psychology to study people and behaviour in organizations across three main areas — individuals, employers, organisations.

The book addresses topics under individual behaviours such as personality and individual differences, work attitudes, working in teams and groups, health and well-being at work, how emotions work differently with different people according to their personality types.  Important individual factors are personality, intelligence and attitudes. Work impacts on people differently in terms of stress and emotional reactions, and accordingly management/HR have to fine-tune the job matching.

Employer behaviours such as leadership at work, motivational abilities, maintenance of  the psychological contract, unwritten agreements between employer and employee, the importance of fairness at work primarily across peer job roles — and secondarily across vertical path of the organisation — are explained in great detail.

The book also discusses topics under organisation behaviour such as job designing to fit cultural types and growth of individual through the organisation, developing and maintaining organisational culture and climate, managing organisations and change, the  impact of the global workplace on organisation and of new technology with different modes such as remote work or work from home options, hiring new employees to fit organisation culture and job description for stable employee turnovers, assessing and appraising employees for bi-directional feedback and growth, training and developing employees on their targeted career goals.

Some of applications of organisation behaviour studies such as discussed in this book include predicting the trend of changing jobs and career development, managing happiness at work based on organisational culture and personality types of employees, ensuring health and wellbeing by mapping correct person to correct job descriptions, managing constant change in organisations , and dealing with post-recession organisation effects. Other applications can be an aging workforce and its impact on organisations, new industrial relations terms and techniques, understanding evolving management styles, workforce engagement to match the expectations, giving better options of work-life balance.

The book elucidates on the well-known personality theories — biological theory, environmental theory, social learning theory, psychoanalytic theory, humanistic theory, type theory, trait theory. At the simplest level there are two personality types in organisations. First is Type A: competitive, aggressive, controlling. Second is Type B:  relaxed, fun loving. Due to higher stress, responsibility and expectation levels, health risks are identified as higher for Type A personality types.

Most commonly used personality trait in current corporate workplace is called Big 5 with the terms Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness, Neuroticism. Matching personality to job is critical and organisations may use more than one technique for job candidates. The book explains the use of such techniques.

At the organisational level there is always a requirement of leadership at highest levels followed by senior and junior management levels. Behaviours used by leaders have to be different in terms of communication and controlling the deliverables. Typical behavioural styles such as autocratic leadership, bureaucratic leadership, democratic leadership, hands off approach leadership is discussed in detail here. The book explains how leaders need to know their natural style and know the pitfalls of each. For example, charismatic leaders need to encourage their subordinates to disagree an debate with them to avoid falling into charisma trap where followers do not question leaders and lead to errors getting multiplied.

The other topics discussed in detail here are motivational theories (Maslow’s theory of needs, two factor theory, McClelland’s acquired needs theory, equity theory, X and Y theory) , goal setting,connection between employees and organisational success, handling big cultural changes such as company mergers and acquisitions, keeping pace with global workplace social and technological enhancements.

The book covers fairly large ground, and one may wonder why it would be called Organisational Behaviour for Dummies whereas the text is more suitable for on the job professional managers through leaders of organisations who are looking at ways to manage organisational perceptions, culture, facets of organisation behaviour and thereby ensure success on financial and social terms.

About Ganadeva Bandyopadhyay

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