Organizational behaviour a background

1'he roots of studies in OB can be traced back to work done in the late I9"1 and early 20lh centuries by Frederick Taylor. By studying the way that manual workers did tasks, he attempted to work out the most productive way of doing these tasks. The workers were then trained to do the work in this way. Taylor had three basic objectives:

• to select the best person for the job:

• to instnict such people in the best methods:

• to give incentives in the form of higher wages to the best workers.

'Taylorism' is often represented as crude and mechanistic these days. Interestingly though, the Taylorist approach is one that is adopted, in part, in modern sports coaching. A coach will attempt to get a javelin thrower, for example, to throw a javelin in a very exact manner in order to get the maximum effect. In the more mundane world of software development, the growth of

Frederick Win slow Taylor. 1856-1915, is regarded as the father of scientific management' of which OB is a part.

Elton Mayo arxj his colleagues did this research at the Hawthorne Works of Western Electric in Chicago, hence the Hawthorne Effect'.

structured methods is an example of this emphasis on best practice. Both Amanda and Brigette will be concerned that tasks are carried out in the proper way. As we w ill see. more contentious is Taylor's emphasis on the exclusively financial basis of staff motivation, although Amanda and Brigette will be sure to find many colleagues who hold Taylor's view on the importance of 'performance-related pay'. Unfortunately, Amanda and Brigette are likely to have very little control over the financial rewards of their staff. However, they should be encouraged by findings that motivation rests not just on such rewards.

During the 1920s. OB researchers discovered, w hile carrying out a now famous set of tests on the conditions under which staff worked best, that not only did a group of workers for whom conditions were improved increase their work-rates, but a control group, for whom conditions were unchanged, also increased their work-rates. Simply showing a concern for what workers did increased productivity. This illustrated how the state of mind of workers influenced their productivity.

The cash-oriented view of work of some managers can thus be contrasted with a more rounded vision of people in their place of work. The two attitudes were labelled Theory X and Theory Y by Donald McGregor. Theory X holds that:

• the average human has an innate dislike of work;

• there is a need therefore for coercion, direction and control;

• people tend to avoid responsibility.

Theory Y. on the other hand, holds that:

A reward does not have to • work is as natural as rest or play; be a financial reward - it external control and coercion are not the only ways of bringing about effort directed towards the company's ends;

could be something like a sense of achievement.

• commitment to objectives is a function of the rewards associated with their achievement;

• the average human can learn to accept and further seek responsibility;

• the capacity to exercise imagination and other creative qualities is widely distributed.

One way of judging whether a manager espouses Theory X or Theory Y is to observe how the manager's staff react when the boss is absent: if there is no discernible change, then this is a Theory Y environment; if everyone visibly relaxes, it is a Theory X environment. McGregor's distinction between the two theories also draws attention to the way that expectations influence behaviour. If a manager (or teacher) assumes that you are going to work diligently and do well, then you are likely to try and meet these expectations.

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