Organisational behaviour may be defined as the study of behaviour of people in a formal organisation in given circumstances.

Organisational Behaviour: Definition, Features, Scope, Elements, Approaches and Merits


  1. Definition of Organisational Behaviour
  2. Features of Organisational Behaviour
  3. Scope of Organisational Behaviour
  4. Elements of Organisational Behaviour
  5. Approaches of Organisational Behaviour
  6. Merits of Organisational Behaviour
  7. Limitations of Organisational Behavior

# 1. Definition of Organisational Behaviour:

Organisational behaviour may be defined as the study of behaviour of people in a formal organisation in given circumstances. It focuses on the individuals, groups and interactions between them. It attempts to understand individuals in formal organisation as a basis of meeting individual needs and achieving organisational objectives.

It seeks to shed light on the whole complex human factor in the organisation by identifying causes and effects of behaviour. According to Keith Davis, “organisational behaviour is the study and the application of knowledge about human behaviour in organisations as it relates to other system elements such as structure, technology and external social system.”


This definition focuses on organisational behaviour as a mix of people, structure, technology and external social system. In the words of Joe Kelly organisation behaviour is the “systematic study of the nature of organisations, how they begin to grow, develop and their effect on individual members, constituent groups, other organisations and larger institution.”

To quote S.P. Robins organisational behaviour is “a field of management that is primarily concerned with understanding, predicting and influencing human behaviour in organisations.”

Thus the study of organisation behaviour seeks to shed light on the whole complex human factor in the organisation by identifying causes and effects of behaviour.

# 2. Features of Organisational Behaviour:

The features of organisational behaviour are:


(a) It has assumed the status of a distinct field of study. It is a part of general management. It represents behavioural approach to management.

(b) It contains a body of theory, research and application associated with a growing concern for people in workplace. Its study helps in understanding the human behaviour.

(c) The study of theories and research experiences of organisation facilitates managers for creative thinking to solve human problems in organisations.

(d) This discipline is heavily influenced by several other behavioural sciences and social sciences like psychology, sociology and anthropology. As a separate field of study it attempts to integrate the various aspects and levels of behaviour.


(e) It provides a rational thinking about people. It concentrates on three levels of behavior. They are individual behaviour, group behaviour and behaviour of the organisation.

(f) This is mainly concerned with the behaviour of people in the organisational setting. It may be considered as human behaviour at work.

(g) Organisational behaviour seeks to fulfill both employee needs and organisational objectives. The people in the organisational satisfy their needs through organisational activities and the organisation’s responsibility is to provide behavioural climate in the organisation. The object is to maintain a balance between human and technical values at work by combining productivity with employee satisfaction.

(h) Organisational behaviour has psychological foundations. The concepts like learning, perception, attitude, motivation, personality moral etc., are borrowed from psychology, sociology, and anthropology. It is an electric field of study that integrates knowledge of behavioural sciences.


(i) Organisational behaviour is both an art as well as a science. It is considered as a science because it contains knowledge about behaviour of people in the organisation.

It is an art because it involves the application of science. In essence it is an inexact science and a developing field of study.

(j) Organisational behaviour is dynamic rather than static. Every change in the social system is reflected in organisational behaviour through change in the behaviour of individuals.

(k) It attempts to reduce the wasteful activities through economic and psychological means and thus increasing the effectiveness of the people and the organisation.

# 3. Scope of Organisational Behaviour or Foundations of Organisational Behaviour:

The concept of organisational behaviour revolves around two basic elements.


They are:

(i) Nature of people and

(ii) Nature of organisation.

(i) Nature of People:


Nature of people in an organisation can be well understood with the help of basic factors like individual differences, a whole person, caused behaviour and human dignity.

(a) Individual Differences:

The basic assumption in behavioural science is that every person is different from others. There are differences in physical characteristics and mental capabilities. Research studies have established that these differences affect their performance at work and behaviour. The mental differences may be related to intelligence, aptitudes, attitudes, skill etc.

Scientific techniques are to be evolved to identify and measure differences in psychological factors so that they can be effectively used in the selection and placement of right people for various jobs. Selection and training can be tuned accordingly. The principle of individual differences has wide applications in selection and placement and designing, training programmes.


This will facili­tate the organisation in knowing the motives of employees and their behaviour so that supervision can be made effectively. To achieve maximum co-operation from employees a suitable style of leadership and supervision can be developed and the right type of motivation can be provided. So the individual differences form the nerve centre of organisational behaviour.

(b) A Whole Person:

Some organisations generally believe that they employ only the brain or skill of the person. But they are wrong in their approach. Though we can make a study of each characteristic separately but in final analysis, they are a part of one system making up a whole person. We cannot separate each other. Skill cannot be separated from knowledge or background. Home life cannot be separated from work life.

The concept of whole person signifies that behaviour of a person at work cannot be studied in isolation. A person is a complete system in himself. It is not possible to separate a human mind and skills of a person. In the work spot the individual carries with him the problems of his private life. His performance is influenced by his private environment and vice versa. So his behaviour at home and office are influenced mutually.

(c) Caused Behaviour:

Industrial psychologists assume that human behaviour is caused. It is the situation that stimulates an individual to behave and perform in a particular way. Therefore it is necessary to understand the causes of behaviour before making an attempt to improve upon it.


Human behaviour is caused by needs which can be directed and controlled in order to get the desired results from human beings. This can be achieved by motivation. It turns on steam to keep the organisation going.

(d) Human Dignity:

Unlike other factors of production the employees should be treated differently as they are of higher order in the universe. The organisation must respect his emotions, sentiments and aspirations. He must be treated with respect and dignity. Then only the employees will co-operate with the organisation.

Otherwise they feel dissatisfied and it affects their performance. Ethical philosophy deals with consequences of our acts upon ourselves and other. It recognises that life has an overall purpose and accepts the inner integrity of each individual. As organisational behaviour involves people, ethical philosophy is involved in one way or the other in each action.

(ii) The Nature of Organisation:

There are two basic assumptions about organisation.

They are:


(a) Organisations are social systems.

(b) They are formed on the basis of mutual interest.

(a) Social System:

An organisation is a social system which coordinates the activities of its members for the achievement of common goals. It is a part of society and consist of people who are social beings. In every organisation there are two types of social systems exist side by side. One is called the formal social system and the other is the informal social system. The interaction of these two is responsible for their behaviour and performance.

That is why, the organisation behaviour is dynamic. All parts of the system are interdependent and influence each other. The idea of social system makes the complexibility of the human behaviour in organisations conceptually manageable. It provides a framework for considering and analysing a number of variables involved in any organisational situation.

(b) Mutual Interest:


This is the basic factor in every kind of relationship. Employees need organisation and organisation needs employees. Employees need organisation as a means to reach their goals while organisations require employees to achieve their objectives. In fact, without people, there is no organisation. Both people and organisation are benefitted by their association.

# 4. Elements of Organisational Behaviour:

Organisational behaviour relies upon scientific methods to develop, evaluate and modify theories about human behaviour in organisations. This discipline is influenced by several behavioural sciences and social sciences. The important among them are psychology, sociology and anthropology. Psychology focuses on what determines the behaviour of individual?

In an attempt to answer this question various sub-disciplines like industrial psychology, clinical psychology and experimental psychology have been developed. Sociology deals with groups, organisations and societies rather than individuals. Further it considers the actual pattern of interaction, the effects of different social status on the interaction and the effect of different roles on interaction.

Therefore, sociology is the basis of trying to understand social behaviour or the dynamics of two or more individuals interacting. Similarly Anthropology is a broad discipline that studies the origin and development of human culture, how those cultures have functioned in the past and how they continue to function in the present. This information is very useful in understanding human behaviour.

Management forms the organisation to achieve certain goals. In an organisation the efforts of the people are co-ordinated by the structure of authority-responsibility relationship. To achieve performance the organisation uses three elements known as people, structure and technology.

These elements interact with external environment and they are influenced by it. This has been aptly remarked by Keith Davis in the following words. Organisational behaviour is the “study and application of knowledge about human behaviour in organisations as it relates to other systems elements such as structure, technology and the external social system.”

(i) People:


All organisations are made up of people both individuals and groups. The groups may be formal or informal, large or small. They are inter-related and complex in nature. People are dynamic in nature and they interact with each other and also influence each other. They may form change and disband the organisation.

The organisations exist to serve the people. So the basic problem of the management is to understand the human behaviour so that they are motivated in a better way to contribute maximum performance.

(ii) Structure:

Structure refers to the organisational design which defines the roles and relationships of people in the organisation. Different people are given different roles and they have to play definite roles in the organisation. The organisation structure leads to division of work which facilitates employees in performing their duties to achieve organisational objectives.

The performance is expected from different levels in different spheres. The organisational structure relates to authority responsibility relationships and it co-ordinates performance of employees. The designed structure must be appropriate and also suit the organisational members.

(iii) Technology:

Technology imparts the physical and economic condition with which people perform in the organisation. The employees are given assistance of machines, tools, methods and resources. Nature of technology depends on organisational activities and scale of operations. Technology influences working conditions in the organisation. This places restrictions on the freedom of individuals.

(iv) Environment:

Environment refers to external environment provided by socio-cultural factors, economic factors, political conditions and geographical forces. These factors influence the attitudes, motives and working conditions of the people in the organisation. The organisation also has an influence over the environment. This type of interface continues so long as the organisation survives.

# 5. Approaches of Organisational Behaviour:

There are four basic approaches of organisational behaviour.


They are:

1. Inter-disciplinary approach

2. Human resources approach

3. Contingency approach

4. Systems approach

(i) Inter-Disciplinary Approach:

Organisational behaviour is an integration of all other social sciences and disciplines. This helps in understanding the behaviour of people at work in the organisation. It is neither psychology, nor sociology, nor organisational theory but it is an integration of all other disciplines.

The field of organisation behaviour is very much like that of medicine which integrates physical, biological and social sciences into a workable practice. Man is to be studied as a whole and all disciplines con­cerning men are integrated. It means the study of men is to be taken up in an integrated way to know about workable relationship of the behavioural world.

Various social sciences have facilitated the understanding of human relationships. Some of them are Economics, Psychology, sociology and organisation theories. Some areas which are used are Human needs, motivation, counseling and individual differences. The interest of various social sciences in people may be called as behavioural science and this represents the systematised body of knowledge which speaks about why and how people behave as they do.

(ii) Human Resources Approach:

Other name supportive approach. This approach is developmental in nature as it is concerned with the growth and development of people towards higher level of competency, creativity and fulfillment as people are the central theme of the organisation. The traditional management approach wants to achieve objectives by implicit obedience of employees who are subject to strict control and supervision and the employees are not taken to confidence.

The human resources approach helps employees in developing self-control, responsibilities and other abilities in them where everybody will contribute to the performance of the organisation. It will result in operative effectiveness.

Tin’s is also known as the supportive approach because this approach changes the manager’s role. It supports the employees in developing their abilities. This approach provides a good organisational climate in which people can grow and be productive.

(iii) Contingency Agency:

In Traditional approach the points focussed are:

(i) Application of universally accepted principles irrespective of the situation.

(ii) Concept of universality.

These were accepted by the followers in the field of organisational behaviour.

But the position has changed now. Behavioural researchers are of the opinion that there are some concepts that are useful in all circumstances otherwise different organisational environments require different behavioural relationship for proper effectiveness as behavioural situations are much complicated now-a-days.

This approach is known as contingency approach.

The advocations of this approach are:

(i) There is no one best way to deal into the human problem.

(ii) Each situation must be analysed carefully before taking any action and at the same time discourage universal concept about people. This approach helps in using in the most appropriate manner all the current knowledge about the organisation.

(iii) In this approach appropriate action depends on the situational variables.

(iv) Systems Approach:

Organisations are social systems. There are so many variables in the system and they are inter-related and inter-dependent. So a change in one variable may affect the other variable. So a manger is to consider the situation behind the scene before taking any action. The effects of the action is to be thought about to know its impact on organisation and a cost-benefit analysis should be made taking into consideration the organisation as a whole.

These four behavioural approaches that facilitate the understanding of organisational behaviour.

# 6. Merits of Organisational Behaviour:

(i) This facilitates a manager in predicting individual behaviour and group behaviour. The manager can develop a more retired and realistic set of assumptions about people and can plan action.

(ii) This study helps in explaining the causes of human behaviour. It tells us why people behave in a particular way. Some of the causes of behaviour are controllable and some others are beyond control. The manager if he knows the controllable factors then he can design better policies and practice to obtain the desired behaviour from his subordinates.

(iii) This helps in improving the organisational behaviour and results in smoothening the relationship between employees and organisation. The employees can be motivated to function as a team to fulfil their needs and achieve organisational objectives.

(iv) The application of organisational behaviour cannot solve all behavioural problems but it facilitates the manager in considering all tenable assumptions and important variables underlying the situation.

# 7. Limitations of Organisational Behavior:

The limitations of organisational behaviour are as follows:

(i) Members of an organisation are not free to behave in their own way. Their behavioural patterns are guided and controlled by rules, regulations, procedures and practices of the organisation. So their activities, interactions, sentiments are developed in a particular manner. Further Group behaviour of workers is largely guided by the attitude and approach of trade unions. So the members are controlled in organisations either in a formal way or in informal way.

(ii) In organisations, there are certain apathetic groups which are little concerned with environmental changes. Their reaction to the behaviour may not produce cause-effect relationship. In such a situation it is difficult for the management to formulate a behavioural policy that may satisfy all the members of the organisation.

(iii) In organisations there are certain ethnic and erratic groups in the organisation. Their reactions to the environment cannot be predicted. Similarly, certain conservative groups and vested interests may resist strongly managerial initiatives.

In spite of these limitations organisational behaviour has great potentiality for increasing managerial effectiveness. It seeks to help people and organisations and relate them more effectively to each other. It is a human tool for human benefit.