Topic outline

  • Course Introduction

    There is no shortage of quotes in which inspirational business leaders describe the sources of their success. Their reasons are often diverse, but almost everyone comes back to the same thing: people. The people are the company; they create the success. In BUS301: Human Resource Management, you learned how to find, train, and manage these people. Please keep in mind that there is more to successful business leadership than managing human capital. You must have a suitable structure and culture at your firm in order to achieve success. Imagine the U.S. military; it boasts some of the best-trained soldiers in human history, but that talent would be wasted without a structure designed to appropriately deploy forces. In other words, the military would not be as successful without streamlined organizational behavior. Organizational behavior (OB) is the study of how people interact in organizations. These interactions are governed by a number of factors, including your personal life, the personality of your boss or your boss's boss, a direct report, the team you have been assigned to, or the direction that the top of the organization has given to you. OB researchers carefully monitor these dynamics within an organization, because any time there is friction, money is lost. A certain level of friction is to be expected (and often even desired), but most of the friction that occurs within an organization is counterproductive and detrimental to the bottom line. In this course, you will study the factors that have the greatest impact on organizational behavior. From managing individuals and understanding group dynamics to managing conflict and initiating change, organizational behavior affects everyone in a firm. Some of this material will overlap with BUS301, but all of business is cross-functional; stretching concepts across subjects is a powerful learning tool.

    This course will cover five major OB areas including managing individuals, managing groups, power and politics, conflict management, and organizational change. Before delving into more rigorous content, it is important to understand what an organization is and the history of organizational behavior as a discipline. In taking this into consideration, this course will begin with a look at the basics of an organization.

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  • Unit 1: Organizations in Business

    Let's start with the basics in considering the following question: what is an organization? An organization is a collection of individuals arranged in a particular way and embedded in an ever-changing environment in order to achieve a common goal. In this introductory unit, you will learn about organizations in business, focusing on how the individual plays a role in the success of the organization. You will learn that you must understand what influences individual behavior before you can study how individuals interact with organizations. As in psychology and sociology, the individual person is the focus of organizational behavior. Because sciences like psychology and sociology are older, more established fields of study than organizational behavior, we will take a look at them in order to better understand the purpose and applications of OB. This unit will provide you with an introduction to OB, including the history and emerging trends of OB. In addition, we will identify the micro-level factors that contribute to our understanding of the OB field. You will also learn about how OB is connected with other sciences. Finally, you will be provided with information on how to properly evaluate research in OB.

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  • Unit 2: Managing Individuals

    Organizational behavior focuses on how individuals interact within a firm. As you know, different incentives motivate and influence individuals; some people strive for success or social status, others just like to keep busy, and still others are focused on simply making money. These are important differences to consider if you are at the helm of a business, as it may influence the ways in which you motivate your workforce.

    In this unit, you will explore individual personalities and learn what inspires people to want to succeed in the workplace. You will learn the tools used to identify these traits and recognize that certain traits, such as the ability to handle stress, are more desirable than others - say, a sense of humor - in a work setting. Note that different organizations will value traits differently. For example, perhaps your organization values a sense of humor more! Knowing these traits and how to identify them in people will greatly enhance the success of a business.

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  • Unit 3: Managing Groups

    Is there a difference between a group and team? Certainly, for example, groups can exist without having a specific goal in mind. Or said another way, groups can have a goal that fluctuates or changes to adapt to the needs of the group. A book club is a group. The people with whom you discuss that month's reading are not, however, part of your team. To have a team, you must have a clear and elevating goal which supersedes all individual goals. Usually, this goal does not change or get adjusted; instead, it guides all aspects of the team's performance. This does not mean there is no place for groups within a company; many groups exist to serve other needs within the organization. You might, for example, have a committee for enhancing diversity in some way or a group of executives that are searching for a new CEO. In both of these examples, there is a goal (e.g. increase diversity or find a CEO), but the way this goal is attained can change throughout the process. Perhaps your group decided mid-way through the process to only consider internal hires for the promotion as opposed to conducting an external search when the group was first formed. Whether you are working with a group or a team, there are several characteristics that successful groups and teams share, including proper group development, the establishment of guidelines and boundaries, leadership, and strong communication channels.

    In this unit, you will learn about these topics and more. Because so much of business success relies on teams and groups, learning how to properly manage them may be the most important takeaway from this course.

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  • Unit 4: Leveraging Power

    Power is a popular topic, because it is so easily misused. We all have some kind of power over others, whether it is earned through a promotion in the organization or just a reflection of knowledge and experience. This unit may alter your understanding of power and teach you that there is nothing wrong with using power (appropriately). In fact, as an employee, you are expected to use the power you have within an organization as you were likely employed for just that reason. Power comes in many forms, but it is almost always used to influence.

    This unit will discuss how influence differs from manipulation and explain how individuals use influence within the workforce. This unit will conclude with a look at the politics within organizations and how ethics apply to power. As you are likely aware, there are too many examples in which power is used improperly in business. Responsible business schools today place extra emphasis upon ethics, especially when talking about subjects such as power.

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  • Unit 5: Conflict Management and Negotiations

    Conflict is a good thing - as long as it is productive. Insulting someone is not productive, but a healthy debate is the foundation of democracy and is valuable in business as well. Successful organizations encourage healthy conflict; it forces people to defend opinions and allows for a free flow of ideas. (Of course, managers must prevent these conflicts from getting out of hand.)

    The same ideas apply to negotiation, or conflict with an individual outside of the organization. The key to successful negotiation is preparation. Whereas conflict within a firm can be less formal, negotiations require much more due diligence. Whether it is a $10,000 contract or a $10 billion merger, the principles of negotiation remain the same.

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  • Unit 6: Managing Change

    Change is a surprisingly difficult process for firms. When two large companies merge, it can take a couple of years to reorganize and many more years before the two respective cultures truly merge. This transition process can be especially challenging if the cultures are very different. For example, if a southern bank purchases a bank based in the northeast, the two different banking styles could wreak havoc within the organization, as the southern company may rely on customer service and slow growth, whereas the northern bank prefers an aggressive strategy. Such mergers happen regularly, and OB specialists are involved in the process from the start. In cases like this one, the structure of a firm's management is just as important as its culture. Will the two banks continue to operate with a decentralized format, or will they have all of senior management in one location? What are the advantages and disadvantages of doing it one way or another? And of course, the most difficult aspect of managing change is implementing it in the first place. Humans are naturally resistant to change; making changes in an organization is no exception.

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  • Course Evaluation Survey

    Please take a few moments to provide some feedback about this course at the link below. Consider completing the survey whether you have completed the course, you are nearly at that point, or you have just come to study one unit or a few units of this course.

    Link: Course Evaluation Survey (HTML)

    Your feedback will focus our efforts to continually improve our course design, content, technology, and general ease-of-use. Additionally, your input will be considered alongside our consulting professors' evaluation of the course during its next round of peer review. As always, please report urgent course experience concerns to contact@saylor.org and/or our Discourse forums.

  • Final Exam

    Quizzes: 2