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Theories of Organizational Behaviour

Info: 6926 words (28 pages) Dissertation
Published: 1st Nov 2021

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Tagged: Management

There are many definitions of organisational behaviour, including:

“Organizational behaviour is the study and application of knowledge about how people act within organizations. It is human tool for the human benefit. It applies broadly to behaviour of people in all type of organization such as business, government, schools, etc. it helps people, structure, technology, and the external environment blend together in to an effective operative system” (Davis, 1971).

Stephen Robbins defines it as a “field of study that investigates the impact that individuals, groups, and structure have on an organization for the purpose of applying such knowledge and improving an organization’s effectiveness”.

“Organizational behaviour is the study of human behaviour in organizational settings, the interface between human behaviour and the organization, and the organization itself” (Gregory Moorhead, 1995).

OB research can be categorized in at least three ways, including the study of: individuals in organizations (micro-level), work groups (meso-level) and how organizations behave (macro-level).

Throughout the many definitions of organisational behaviour, the majority make reference to three key points:

(1) organisational behaviour is the study of human behaviour,

(2) it’s the study regarding behaviour in organisations and

(3) knowledge about human behaviour would be useful in improving an organisation’s effectiveness.

Organisational behaviour is the study of what an individual thinks, feels or does in and around an organisation, both as an individual and in a group. It investigates people’s emotions and behaviour, performances in a team, systems and structures of organisations. It helps to explore and provide an understanding of all the factors that are necessary to create an effective and successful organisation. While OB is primarily a management discipline, it is multidisciplinary in nature and borrows heavily from psychology and sociology, as well as, on a smaller scale, anthropology, political science and economics.

History of OB

The core aspects of organisational behaviour date to as far back as the Greek philosophers, when Plato wrote about the essence of leadership. However, it wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution of the 1750s in the United Kingdom that the discipline of management was created. The Revolution came about as a result of a number of factors, such as, economic, social, political and technological. These factors were partly responsible for a growth in the population which generated a need for more products and provided a labour market. As a result of the increase in population, the factory system, a method of manufacturing using machinery and division of labour, was created and with it came the need for management.

There are two primary schools of thought in management, the first being Frederick Taylor’s Principles of Scientific Management. Taylor started scientific management in his studies at the Midvale Steel Company in the early 1900’s. Being an industrial engineer, he was concerned with efficiency in manual labour jobs and believed that by scientifically studying the specific actions that made up the total job, a more effective method of performing the job could be created and installed in companies. In his early years as a supervisor in the steel industry, he saw different workers performing the same job in different ways. He believed that each man could not be doing the task in the optimal way, and he set out to find the “one best way” to perform the job efficiently. His research proved to be correct and in some cases “Taylorism” resulted in productivity increases of 400 percent. In almost all instances, his methods improved productivity over existing levels (Frederick Winslow Taylor – Wikipedia, 2018).

Taylor had engineering experience and therefore was well accustomed with tools, and various machining and manufacturing operations. His well-known cutting experiments, better known as “time and motion studies”, demonstrated the scientific management approach. Over a period of twenty-six years, Taylor tested every conceivable variation in speed, feed, depth of cut, and kind of cutting tool. The result of this research was high speed steel, thought to be one of the most significant contributions to the progress of large-scale production (Frederick Taylor and Scientific Management, 2002).

Coupled with Taylor’s logical engineering-like approach to management, was a simple theory of human behaviour: people are primarily motivated by economic rewards and will take direction if given the opportunity to improve their economic positions. Taylor’s theory stated three distinct points: that physical work could be scientifically studied to determine the ideal method of performing a job; that workers could thereafter be made more efficient by being given instructions for how they were to do their jobs; that workers would be willing to adhere to these instructions if paid on a “piece work” basis (Taylorism and Scientific Management, 1996).

In addition to advocating the use of scientific means to develop the best method to carry out a task, Taylor argued that several other principles were important. Firstly, workers with appropriate skills had to be selected and trained in the specified task method. Secondly, supervisors needed to create cooperation among the workers to ensure that they followed the designated method of work. This meant soliciting workers’ suggestions and being willing to discuss ideas for improved work methods. Thirdly, there needed to be a clear division of work responsibilities. Previously, the employees planned how to approach a task, and then they carried it out. Under the Taylor scheme, it was up to management to plan the task, using scientific methods (Frederick Taylor and Scientific Management, 2002).

Despite Taylor’s work being criticised for dehumanising the work place and treating workers like machines, his overall contribution to management was significant. His ideas on standardization of work practices, goal setting, money as a motivator, scientific selection of workers and rest pauses have all proved to be successful techniques of management today.

The second school of thought in management was the Human Relations School which was the series of writers in industrial psychology, such as Maslow, McGregor and Herzberg. Elton Mayo is considered the founder of the Human Relations Theory. Before this trend, Mayo had already begun an experiment in the Hawthorne plants in 1924 known as the Hawthorne experiment. The 30,000 workers in the Hawthorne plants in Chicago were extremely dissatisfied. This was unusual because the plant already acted progressively towards its workers in that they gave them pensions and sickness benefits, which in that period was extremely uncommon (Mulder, 2017).

Elton Mayo and his assistants carried out research into changing working conditions. They experimented with light, duration of breaks and working hours. A group of women were exposed to either more or less light. It turned out that, regardless of the amount and duration of lighting, this had a positive effect on their performances. The same was true for rest periods; shorter or longer breaks both led to an increase in labour productivity.

The conclusion drawn from the Hawthorne research was that giving attention to employees resulted in improved performances. The group of workers who were involved in the search felt their voices heard and experienced a feeling of greater personal freedom. The workers were pleased that their assistance was requested, which they believed led to their higher job performances. Furthermore, during the study, senior officials often visited the workplace, making the workers feel like they were included in a certain elite group. This personal attention encouraged the group to work harder as a team and give their maximum effort for the benefit of the organisation. Collaboration in an informal group is also one of the main aspects of the Human Relations Theory.

Mayo determined that the needs of workers were often based on sentiment, such as belonging to a group, and that this could lead to conflicts with managers, who mainly focused on cost reduction and efficiency. He arrived at the following final conclusions: individual employees must be seen as members of a group; salary and good working conditions are less important for employees and a sense of belonging to a group; informal groups in the workplace have a strong influence on the behaviour of employees in said group; managers must take social needs seriously (Mulder, 2017).

The Integration thesis comes from combining both of these schools of thought, Taylor’s focus on technology and Mayo’s focus on people management. The theory being that organisations that use the latest cutting edge technology while also employing skilled and well managed workers will achieve a system that produces maximum productivity and therefore high profits.


Gordon Allport defined personality as “the dynamic organization within the individual of those psychophysical systems that determine his characteristic behaviour and thought.”

“Personality is defined as the set of habitual behaviours, cognitions and emotional patterns that evolve from biological and environmental factors” (Personality-Wikipedia, 2018).

“Personality refers to individual differences in characteristic patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving” (Personality).

One of the major debates regarding personality is the concept of Nature vs Nurture. Some researchers believe that a large portion of human behaviour is governed by nature, in other words, primal instincts and genetic compulsions dictate what people do and why they do it. Others, however, believe that the environment in which human beings live, their education and the influences to which they are exposed nurture their personality, actions and decision-making capabilities. The nature versus nurture debate has also appeared in business circles, especially in research on organisational management.

The idea of nature as the driving force in business practice and organisation, proposes that some human beings are innately suited to leadership roles. Supporters of this view believe that individuals are born with the potential for greatness and responsibility in business, and not that those are skills that can be learned.

However, many in the business world believe that innovation and business skills can be taught and nurtured. Authors Clayton Christenson, Jeff Dyer and Hal Gergerson, who wrote “The Innovator’s DNA,” interviewed company executives to determine which business skills could be taught. According to their research, they learned that 60 to 75% of innovation skills come from learning.

The debate over Nature vs Nurture in business has been used to redefine how managers run organisations. Authors with controversial views on nature advocate letting upper management freely express their emotions to their employees. On the nurture side of the debate, researchers show managers which skills can be cultivated in employees and how to go about nurturing their skills.

Measuring Personality

Personality can be measured by conducting personality tests which are devised by psychologists. The objective of a personality test is to identify individual traits such as extroversion, introversion, assertiveness, the ability to cope with stress and determine possible future patterns of behaviour. These tests try to determine whether the candidate really wants to carry out certain tasks or activities, rather than if they possess the ability to do so. However, the results can be highly subjective and there are several issues that must be considered. Candidates who are aware that their personality is being examined will try to present themselves in the best light possible, thus rendering the results inaccurate. Attitudes and behaviour can change over time and in extreme circumstances, meaning tests taken by the same person at different time in their life could produce different results. Due to the subjectivity in interpreting results, candidates might be given diverse personality descriptions by several assessors (Bennet, 1997).

The Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is an introspective questionnaire with the purpose of indicating differing psychological preferences in how people perceive the world around them and make decisions.

The MBTI was developed by Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers in the 1960s. It is based on the theory proposed by Carl Jung who had speculated that people experience the world using four principal psychological functions – introvert or extrovert, intuitor or sensor, thinker or feeler, perceiver or judger – and that one of these four functions is dominant for a person most of the time.

Although popular in the business sector, the MBTI exhibits significant psychometric deficiencies, such as poor validity, poor reliability, measuring categories that are not independent (some traits have been noted to correlate with each other), and not being comprehensive. The four scales used in the MBTI have some correlation with four of the Big Five Personality Traits, which are a more commonly accepted framework (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, 2018).

Big Five Personality Traits were discovered by several independent sets of researchers. Ernest Tupes and Raymond Christal advanced the initial model, based on work done at the U.S. Air Force Personnel Laboratory in the late 1950s.J.M. Digman proposed his five factor model of personality in 1990, and Goldberg extended it to the highest level of organisations in 1993 (Big Five personality traits, 2018).

Openness to experience – this trait concerns an individual’s willingness to try to new things, to be vulnerable, and the ability to think outside the box.

Conscientiousness – a trait that can be described as the tendency to control impulses and act in socially acceptable ways, behaviours that facilitate goal-directed behaviours. Conscientious people excel in their ability to delay gratification, work within the rules, and plan and organize effectively.

Extroversion has two ends of the spectrum: extroversion and introversion. It relates to where an individual draws their energy and how they interact with others. In general, extroverts draw energy or “recharge” from interacting with others, while introverts get tired from interacting with others and replenish their energy from solitude.

Agreeableness concerns how well people get along with others. While extroversion concerns sources of energy and the pursuit of interactions with others, agreeableness concerns your orientation to others. It is a construct that rests on how you generally interact with others.

Neuroticism is the one Big Five traits in which a high score indicates more negative characteristics. Neuroticism is not a factor of meanness or incompetence, but one of confidence and being comfortable in one’s own skin. It encompasses one’s emotional stability and general temper.

For managers, the major benefit of understanding an employee’s personality has to do with selection. The likelihood of having high-performing and satisfied employees is far greater if consideration is given to matching personality types with compatible jobs. If their employees are satisfied then managers are likely to see a decrease in turnover and therefore higher profits or savings as money is not being spent on recruiting and training new employees.


“Perception is a process by which individuals organize and interpret their sensory impressions in order to give meaning to their environment” (Robbins, 1992)

“Perception is the organization, identification, and interpretation of sensory information in order to represent and understand the presented information, or the environment” (Perception , 2018)

“Perception is the process through which the individual interprets sensory inputs – sight, sound, smell, taste, feelings of being hot or cold, etc.” (Bennet, 1997).

How things are perceived depends upon several factors: individual experience of similar events, preconception of how things ought to be, current circumstances, the perceiver’s background, education, personality and the cultural norms of the environment in which the individual lives. However, perception can be distorted and when this occurs there can be several different outcomes.

Stereotypes are notions about what certain types of people are thought to be like. Any individuals belonging to the same group, (such as minorities, religions, professions etc.), are assumed to possess identical characteristics. Stereotyping is a convenient method of categorising individuals, however, stereotypes are generally exaggerated or overgeneralised, the information on which they are based may be out of date and they can result in the unfair treatment of people.

The Halo Effect can be understood as an inclination to judge certain qualities from a general idea about just one quality. An individual who works under the impact of the halo effect unreasonably assumes that because someone exhibits one characteristic then that person must possess certain other characteristics as well. If an individual is admired for one of his trait, he will be rated well on other traits as well (Robbins, 1992).

Perception is an important element of cognition, which is a more general concept than perception. Cognition is the mental process through which knowledge is attained and it involves intuition, imagination and reasoning, as well as the perception of objects, problems or events. It concerns how people create ideas and how perceptions are organised. The term “cognitive dissonance” refers to the mental conflict that occurs when someone’s perceptions of objects, events or circumstances are inconsistent. This can be an extremely uncomfortable experience. As a result, people might actively avoid information or situations that would increase dissonance, they may seek to alter their environment so as to remove dissonant elements or they may actively look for and perhaps even invent evidence to back up their initial views (Bennet, 1997).

Managers should be educated in the process of perception for several crucial reasons. They need to ensure that employees see the organisation’s goals in a similar way. Understanding the process of perception will help in understanding workers complaints and grievances. It will improve communication between managers and staff, such as ensuring both parties interpret problems in the same way. Managers will be better able to avoid stereotyping employees during recruitment and performance appraisals.


People’s perception of other individuals is different from their perception of objects because conclusions can be made about people’s actions that aren’t made about inanimate objects. Objects have no beliefs, motives or intensions, whereas people do. The result of this is that people, when they observe others, attempt to produce explanations for their behaviour. Therefore, any conclusions reached about a person’s actions will be influenced by the assumptions made about the internal state of the person (Robbins, 1992).

Attribution theory has been proposed to develop explanations for how people are judged differently depending on what meaning is given to a certain behaviour. Simply put, the theory suggests that under observation, an attempt is made to determine whether an individual’s behaviour is internally (behaviours that are believed to be under the control of the individual) or externally (the individual is seen as forced into the behaviour by the situation in which they find themselves) caused. That conclusion, however, depends on three factors: distinctiveness, consensus and consistency.

Distinctiveness refers to whether or not an individual displays different behaviour in different situations, that is, is the behaviour unusual? If it is, it is likely to be attributed an external cause but if the action is not unique then it will probably be judged as internal. Consensus occurs when people who are faced with a similar situation respond in the same manner. If several employees who take the same route to work are late then an external attribution is likely, however, if only one of those employees is late then the cause is probably internal. Finally, an observer looks for consistency in a person’s actions. The more consistent an individual’s behaviour is, the more the observer is inclined to attribute it to internal causes (Robbins, 1992).


“To learn means to absorb knowledge, acquire skills and/or assume fresh attitudes. Learning results in permanent changes in ability or behaviour” (Bennet, 1997).

“Learning is the process of acquiring new or modifying existing knowledge, behaviors, skills, values, or preferences” (Learning, 2018).

Managers need to be aware of the principles of learning due to their significance in the training of employees and in the creation of staff development systems. Not everything is understood about the learning process, however, certain methods of teaching and training are known to facilitate learning. Some techniques come from the “behaviourist” school of learning theory.

The Behaviourist Approach regards learning as a simple relationship between four variables: drive, stimulus, response, and reinforcement. Drives may be primary and innate (hunger or thirst), or secondary (desire for professional recognition). Stimuli are triggers that initiate responses, meaning they cause things to happen. A response is the result of a stimulus; they can be automatic and much work-related training is designed to instil particular responses to stimuli. Reinforcements are occurrences that strengthen responses, especially if they take place immediately after an event.

The experiment relating stimulus to response was conducted by the Russian psychologist Ivan Pavlov in the 1880’s with a number of dogs. Pavlov noted that a hungry dog presented with the stimulus of food would salivate in response. The food is the “unconditioned” stimulus and the saliva is the unconditioned response. In other words, no action is necessary to get the dog to salivate. Reinforcement was provided by allowing the dog to eat the food. Pavlov then rang a bell every time the dog was shown food and eventually the dog’s mouth would water any time the bell was rung even though no food was offered, meaning, the dog had become conditioned to respond to the bell. This became known as the stimulus-response model which contains the following important propositions.

Stimuli elicit responses; therefore learning occurs when a clear connection between a given stimulus and a certain response can be discerned. If a secondary stimulus is removed (the bell in the above example), then the conditioning response (the dog salivating) will weaken and will eventually cease to exist. Human as well as animal behaviour is the result of conditioning and changes in behaviour are the consequences of further conditioning (Bennet, 1997).

The implication of Pavlov’s research for human learning is that since people naturally associate ideas and events that occur together then learning can be enhanced by relating the thing to be learned with something else which is already known or acceptable to the learner.

Several theories of learning have been produced which conflict with the behaviourist approach such as the cognitive approach which sees learning as a process through which people attempt to make sense of their experiences. This theory states that people learn by constantly re-evaluating their experiences, causing them to continuously increase their ability to understand the environment in which they live. Therefore, learners need to be persistently and actively engaged with learning materials. The cognitive approach claims that learning processes cannot be divided into simple stimulus/response components as suggested by the behaviourists. The learner must perceive learning materials as valuable and worth the effort required to master the subject involved (Bennet, 1997).

The social learning theory proposes that new behaviours can be acquired by observing and imitating others. It integrates both the behavioural and cognitive theories of learning so as to provide a comprehensive model that could account for the broad range of learning experiences that occur throughout the world. As outlined by psychologist Albert Bandura, the key principles of the social learning theory are as follow: learning is not purely behavioural, it is a cognitive process that takes place in a social context; learning can occur by observing a behaviour and by observing the consequences of the behaviour; learning involves observation, extraction of information from those observations, and making decisions about the performance of the behaviour; reinforcement plays a role in learning but is not entirely responsible for learning; the learner is not a passive recipient of information. Cognition, environment, and behaviour all mutually influence each other (Social Learning Theory , 2018).

The term “learning organisation” is given to companies who facilitate the training and development of their employees on a continuous basis. The concept was coined by Peter Senge who then popularised it through his book “The Fifth Discipline” in which proposed five characteristics: systems thinking, personal mastery, mental models, shared vision and team learning.

Systems thinking gave root to the idea of the learning organisation. When assessing their company, learning organisations use information systems that measure the performance of the organisation as a whole and by its various components. The systems thinking theory states that the characteristics must all be present at the same time in an organisation for it to be a learning organisation, otherwise the company will fail to accomplish its objective.

Personal mastery is the commitment given by an individual to the process of learning. Companies can gain a competitive edge if their workforce can learn at a quicker rate than those of other companies. A significant amount of learning in the workplace is incidental, rather than the result of formal training and therefore it is important to develop a culture where personal mastery is practiced on a daily basis.

Mental models are assumptions held by individuals and organisations and these models must be challenged for a company to become a learning organisation. Organisations tend to preserve certain behaviours, norms and ideals. In creating a learning environment it is important to replace confrontational attitudes with an open culture that promotes trust.

A shared vision is important in motivating the staff to learn, as it creates a common identity that provides focus for learning. The most successful visions build on the individual visions of the employees at all levels of the organisation, thus the creation of a shared vision can be hindered by traditional structures where the company vision is imposed from the upper levels of management.

Team learning is the accumulation of individual learning. The benefit of team learning is that the company’s problem solving ability is improved through better access to knowledge and expertise.


“Motivation is the willingness to do something, and is conditioned by this action’s ability to satisfy some need for the individual” (Robbins, 1992).

“Internal and external factors that stimulate desire and energy in people to be continually interested and committed to a job, role or subject, or to make an effort to attain a goal” (Motivation, 2018).

“An employee’s motivation to work consists of all the drives, forces and influences – conscious or un conscious – that cause the employee to want to achieve certain aims” (Bennet, 1997).

Content theories of motivation (also known as need theories) seek to determine the individual’s choice of goals and why certain things are more important to some people than others. The most well-known of all the theorists who support this concept is A.H Maslow, who suggested that individuals are motivated by five levels of need. When the first level has been met the person will attempt to satisfy second level needs, then move on to third, fourth and finally fifth level needs. The first level in Maslow’s Hierarchy consists of physiological needs which must be satisfied for a person to survive and can include food, shelter and clothing. Once these basic needs have been met, the individual will attempt to satisfy security needs, which could mean obtaining a contract at work and life, home and medical insurance. The third level, social needs, can be fulfilled by joining a group whether it is religious, cultural, sporting or recreational. The fourth stage, esteem, includes needs for recognition, authority and influence over others and these can be met by securing promotions or winning awards such as Employee of the Month. The final and highest level in the hierarchy is self-actualisation. This concerns creative activity and the search for personal fulfilment. Having satisfied all other needs, the individual will want to accomplish everything that they can, which could involve developing certain skills or talents (David Crowther, 2004).

Maslow’s theory offers a convenient categorisation of human needs and his concept is often used in management. There are, however, some issues with his approach. What one individual regards as important might hold little significance for someone else and therefore some needs might not exist in certain people. Assuming all the needs suggested by Maslow are indeed present, they might not be in the same proposed order. The theory states individuals will attempt to attain higher-level needs only when lower needs have been met. Many people, however, are aware of higher needs despite the fact that their basic needs have not been completely satisfied. For example, the poor may wish for status symbols even though they are unable to satisfy their current needs (Bennet, 1997).

Douglas McGregor further developed Maslow’s needs concept and applied it to the work place. McGregor claimed that every manager made assumptions about their employees and adopted a management approach based upon these assumptions. He proposed that there were two categories: Theory X and Theory Y.

Under Theory X, it is assumed that employees have an inherent dislike for work and will avoid it whenever possible. Since employees dislike work, they need to be coerced, controlled, directed and threatened with punishment to insure they put sufficient effort into achieving the organisation’s goals and objectives. A Theory X worker prefers to be directed, has little ambition and avoids responsibility. They value security above all other work associated factors and are generally motivated by money and financial rewards (Robbins, 1992).

For Theory Y workers, McGregor states that work is as natural as play or rest. This type of worker will exercise self-control and self-direction so as to achieve the objectives to which they are committed. They tend to not only accept responsibility but to also seek it out. The final assumption in this theory is that the ability to develop problem solving techniques is widely distributed among the population and not just an ability of those in management positions. To maximise a Theory Y worker’s motivation, McGregor suggests letting them participate in decision making processes, giving them responsibility and challenging objectives to achieve (Robbins, 1992).

Managers need to study and understand what motivates their employees as they are widely considered a business’ greatest asset. Motivated employees are not only essential for organisations to survive but to thrive and stay competitive in their respective market. If there isn’t any motivation for employees, then their quality of work will deteriorate and the business will suffer as a consequence.


“Stress is a dynamic condition in which an individual is confronted with an opportunity, constraint, or demand related to what he or she desires and for which the outcome is perceived to be both uncertain and important” (Robbins, 1992).

While stress is often portrayed in a negative light, it can have a positive value and is often used by the likes of athletes to improve their level of performance. However, stress is more often associated with constraints and demands. Two conditions are necessary for potential stress to become actual stress. There must be uncertainty about the outcome, and the outcome must be important. Regardless of the conditions, stress will only exist where there is doubt about whether the opportunity will be taken, whether the constraint will be removed or whether the loss will be avoided. The level of importance of the outcome is also a significant factor. If winning or losing is unimportant then there is no stress.

Work stress can be caused by issues relating to the organisation. Changes are a common cause of stress for employees as they are often created in a climate of uncertainty and concerning issues that are important to or affect the workers. An employee’s job and the organisation’s structure are also causes of stress, as well as excessive workloads. At the other end, job boredom can also create stress. Individuals with more challenging jobs have less anxiety and depression than those with less challenging jobs. Role conflict and ambiguity create stress. The former imposes contradictory demands on the employee, whereas ambiguity stems from unclear expectations and uncertain job requirements.

Stress shows itself in a number of ways. Individuals may develop medical problems such as high blood pressure or ulcers, or experience irritability, difficulty making routine decision, loss of appetite and accident proneness. These symptoms can be placed in three general categories: physiological, psychological and behavioural. Most of the early concern with stress was focused on the physiological effects; however, they are the least relevant to managers. The psychological effects are of greater significance as job-related stress can cause job dissatisfaction. Behaviour related symptoms could include changes in productivity and increased absence or tardiness to work (Robbins, 1992).

Realistically, stress can never be completely eliminated from a person’s life, it can, however, be reduced. Management can achieve this, first and foremost, by hiring employees whose abilities match the job requirements. When employees are overwhelmed due to work, their stress levels will tend to be high. Managers could also reduce ambiguity by giving a clear preview of the job during the selection process. A clear outline of the organisation’s goals and intentions will also help to reduce stress as it would clarify job responsibilities and provide performance objectives. If stress is being caused by job boredom or work overload then managers could rectify this by redesigning the job to increase the level of challenge or by lightening the work load. Redesigns that increase opportunities for employees to contribute to the decision making process have also shown to lessen stress (Robbins, 1992).

Stress that arises from an employee’s personal life creates two issues. Firstly, it is more difficult for a manager to control. Secondly, there are ethical considerations. Does the manager have any right to intrude in the employee’s personal life? If the manager believes it is ethical and the employee is amenable, there are several different approaches that can be considered. Employee counselling can provide stress relieve as, often, they simply want someone they can talk to about their problems, perhaps to gain perspective or to receive advice. Time management programs can assist employees who struggle with planning and organisation and help them to sort out their priorities. Physical activity has also been proven to alleviate stress and some of the larger corporations, such as Google, have their own gym and fitness facilities (Robbins, 1992).


“Communication is the transmission of information (a message) and its receipt. It involves the exchange of data, opinion and/or sentiment” (Bennet, 1997).

“Communication is the act of conveying intended meanings from one entity or group to another through the use of mutually understood signs and semiotic rules” (Communication, 2018).

“Perfect communication, if there is such a thing, would exist when a though or idea was transmitted so that the mental picture perceived by the receiver was exactly the same as that envisioned by the sender” (Robbins, 1992).

The communication process consists of seven parts: the communication source, encoding, the message, the channel, decoding, the receiver, and feedback. The source/sender initiates a message by encoding a thought. There are four aspects that affect the encoded message and these are skill, attitudes, knowledge and the social-cultural system. Communication skills include speaking, reading, writing, listening and reasoning. Attitudes influence a person’s behaviour and as people already possess ideas on various topics, communications are inevitably affected by these attitudes. Knowledge, or lack thereof, can limit the level of communication and if a person’s knowledge is extensive, the receiver may not comprehend the message. A person’s position in the social-cultural system can influence their behaviour just as attitudes do. A culture, and the beliefs and values that accompany it, can influence a person as a communicative source (Robbins, 1992).

The message is the actual product from the source encoding. When an individual speaks, the speech is the message, when they write the writing is the message, and gestures and facial expressions are also a message. The message is affected by the code or group of symbols used to transfer meaning, the content of the message itself, and the decisions made by the source when selecting both code and content.

The channel is medium through which the message travels. It is chosen by the source, who must decide between using a formal or informal channel. Formal channels are established by the organisation and transfer messages that relate to the professional activities of its members. They usually follow the chain of authority within the business. Personal or social messages tend to follow the informal channels.

Before the message can be received, the symbols in it must be decoded or translated into a form that the receiver understands.  The receiver is just as limited as the encoder was by his skills, attitudes, knowledge and social-cultural system. Just as the source must be skilful in writing or speaking, the receiver must be skilful in reading or listening. A person’s level of knowledge influences their ability to receive and their attitudes and cultural background can distort the message being sent.

In addition to the possibility of distortion during the communication process, there are a number of other barriers to effective communication. Language is a common barrier in the workplace. Evidently, if two people do not speak the same language then successful communication will be nearly impossible. However, even if people are speaking the same language there can be problems understanding each other, whether it’s because they are from different generations or different regions of the same country. Slang, professional jargon and regional colloquialisms can impede communication. A breakdown in communications can also occur due to physical conditions. Excessive noise can make it difficult to hear and concentrate on what is being said and is often an issue for workers in professions such as construction. Likewise, information overload can inhibit successful communication, as the receiver could begin to feel overwhelmed by the volume of information being sent, especially if it contains processes or concepts that are unfamiliar to the individual.

Managers looking to overcome communication barriers in the workplace can attempt several methods. The most basic is simply asking whether the message was understood, although they can follow this up by asking questions about what they told the employee, thus making sure they are on the same page. Ensuring the message is clear can be done by simplifying the language used and eliminating any jargon. Watch out for signs that the receiver is actively listening, such as eye contact, and not distracted by the surrounding environment.

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