Understanding Individual Behavior in an Organization

Understanding Individual Behavior

There are millions of stars in the sky, but every star is different. Similarly, there are millions of people in the universe, but each person is different from the multiple perspectives. Organizations are composed of individuals. Each individual is different from each other on the basis of different psychological factors such as motives, aspirations, perceptions and abilities.

Individual behavior means some concrete actions by a person. For instance, how a teacher behaves in the class reflects his behavior. Organizational behavior has a great challenge as well as responsibility to deal with the difference in individual behavior in the context of organizations.

Psychology, a discipline contributing to organizational behavior, helps to examine how people are similar, and how they differ in their thinking, feeling, and behaviors. The behavior of an individual is influenced by various factors. Some of the factors lie within himself e.g. his instincts, personality traits, internal feelings etc. while some lie outside him comprising the external environment of which he is a part, e.g. weather conditions, events conveying some information, and other people’s behavior that directly influences his behavior.

Factors Influencing Individual Behavior

Many characteristics of individual behavior (or human beings) are inherited and many others are formed because of various environmental factors. Individual behavior is influenced by personal factor, psychological factor, organizational factors and environmental factors.


1. Personal Factors

Every individual brings to the work place a variety of personal characteristics and attributes like age, sex, education, intelligence, marital status, religion and number of dependents etc.
i) Age
Age is an important factor that organizations are concern about. Age has an impact on the performance, turnover, absenteeism, productivity and satisfaction levels of employees. In the other simple words, performance depends on age. As age advances, performance is likely to decline. Similarly, aging has impact on turnover. The older people are less likely to quit the job. Age-absence relationship depends on whether absenteeism is avoidable or unavoidable. Generally, older employees have lower rate of avoidable absence than the younger employees. However, they have high rate of unavoidable absence. This probably because of poor health associated with old age. With regard to productivity, older age results in reduced productivity. This is because of the decline in individual’s skills as he grows older in age. This is a positive association between age and satisfaction.

ii) Gender (Sex)
There are important differences between men and women which is because of their inherent qualities and family responsibilities that affect their job performance. Man is expected to be tough while a woman is expected to be gentle and highly emotional, are some of the stereotyped assumption that have no basis in genetic influences. These behaviors are developed due to differences in treatment that the boys and girls receive in the family environment.

Psychological studies have found that women are more willing to conform to authority and less aggressive. On the other hand, men are more aggressive, have more expectations, and are more ambitious than women. While the stability rate is higher among women employees, the absenteeism rate is also higher; this can be attributed to the fact that they are expected to shoulder more family responsibilities than men. Research studies on male and female employees say that there are no consistent male-female difference in problem-solving ability, analytical skills and competitive drive.

Even though some work roles are assumed to be the exclusive domain of modified to accommodate man in these positions. As far as the administration of the management process is concerned, women, in general do not differ from men in their operative behaviors.

iii. Emotional Intelligence
Highly intelligent employees learn job-related skills and other organizational practices quickly, and organizations have to spend less time for training them. People with high intelligence have a good decision-making ability because of their good analytical and reasoning skills. They are very productive and have a high achievement drive. This is the age of emotional intelligence, and today’s recruiting managers make sure that candidates have it. The five components of emotional intelligence at work are:
  • Self-awareness: Self-confidence, realistic self-assessment and self-deprecating sense of humor.
  • Self-regulation: Trust worthiness and integrity, comfort with ambiguity and openness to change.
  • Motivation: A strong drive to achieve, even in the time of failure, and organizational commitment.
  • Empathy: Expertise in building and retaining talent, cross-cultural sensitivity and service to clients and customers.
  • Social Skills: Effectiveness in leading change, persuasiveness and expertise in building and leading teams.

iv) Marital Status
Marital status has influence on absenteeism, turn over and satisfaction. Married employees have fewer absences, undergo less turn over, and are more satisfied with their jobs than the unmarried ones. In fact, married employees are more conscious of their responsibilities. Satisfaction levels were found to be in equal ratio among both married and unmarried employees. Employees belonging to both categories were unsatisfied in terms of the salary they got from organizations. Marriage imposes additional responsibility hence the need for steady job and steady income.

v) Education
Education has its effect upon individual behavior largely through the level and type of education received. Increased levels of education serve to increase an individual’s expectations about positive outcomes. These outcomes are generally perceived to be a more satisfying job, higher income level and greater alternative sources for occupational choice i.e. the good life.

vi) Religion
Religion and culture also determine attitude towards work and towards financial incentives. In other words, religion and religiously based cultures that play an important role in determining some aspects of individual behavior, especially those that concern morals, ethics and a code of conduct. Highly religious people have high moral standards and usually do not tell lies or talk ill of others. They are highly contented thus strive for the goal of achievement and self-fulfillment.

vii) Abilities
Ability refers to the actual skills and capabilities that a person possesses and is required for the effective performance of activities. Ability of an individual is made up of two sets of skills i.e. intellectual ability and physical ability. Railways need to ensure that its employees possess the necessary abilities to engage in the behavior required for effective performance. This is accomplished either by careful selection of people or by a combination of selection and training.

2. Psychological Factors

Psychological factors may include perception, values, attitudes, psychological needs, personality and motivation. All factors can be explained as follows:
i) Perception
Perception is an outcome of an object. It is the view point which one interprets a situation. For instance, a railway booking clerk facing a well-dressed person perceives him to be of high status and talks to him nicely, whereas he tends to ignore an ill-dressed person, or make him wait, though both the passengers want first class ticket. Perception is a major factor that contributes to individual behavior and differences, both in personal and organizational life.

ii) Values
Values are the foundation for behavioral difference among individuals, and they help in understanding the attributes and motivation. Values represent the basic conviction that a specific made of conduct is personally or socially preferable to an opposite mode of conduct. They have both context and intensity attributes. The context attribute says that a mode of conduct is important and the intensity attribute gives importance to specific. Values are judgmental by nature, and every individual has a different conception of what is right, good or desirable and what is not right, not good or undesirable.

In the today’s modern and competitive business environment, managers have to be capable of working with people from different cultures. Because values and attributes differ across cultures, and understanding of these differences will be helpful in explaining and predicting the behavior of employees form different cultures.

iii) Attitudes
The term ‘Attitude’ is very common and used in everyday life to describe people’s behavior. It is a way of organizing a perception. In other words, it is more or less a stable tendency to feel, think, perceive and act in a certain manner towards an object or a situation. It is a tendency to act in a certain way, either favorably or unfavorably concerning objects, people or events. Attitude has three elements in it that lead to measurable outcomes. These are feelings, thoughts and behavior. Feelings and thoughts can be measured by simply asking individuals about their feelings and opinions. Behavior can be measured either by actual one’s actions or simply by asking the person how he would act in a certain situation. By measuring and integrating these three elements, a person’s attitude towards a given situation can be established.

In general, a person may have a positive attitude which means a good outlook of life, or negative attitude which means continuous complaining about problems in life. For example, if you showed a glass half-filled with water to A and B and asked them to describe it.

If A says, “The glass is half-full”, B says “The glass is half-empty” then here A’s attitude is positive and that of B is negative. Positive attitude is something that organizations look for while interviewing candidates. Organizationally speaking, an employee’s negative attitude about work may be reflected by sub-standard work performance, excessive absenteeism, excessive complaining about work environment or disobedience of rules or authority. These attitudes can be changed with simply persuasion or by training and coaching.

iv) Psychological Needs
Psychological needs basically mean the internal needs of a person. Individuals differ in their patterns of psychological needs. Such needs are derived from the source within an individual. Every individual has a different kind of need. There are three basic psychological needs: need for excellence, need for affiliation and need for power. Types of psychological needs and their behavior are shown in the table.
PsychologicalCharacteristicsBehavior (Outcomes)
1. Need for Excellence
  • Compete with standard of excellence
  • Set challenging goals
  • Very persistent
  • Look for alternative paths to achieve goal
  • Desire for a challenging job and recognition

  • High productivity
  • High turnover rate
  • Low satisfaction level                                   




2. Need for Affiliation
  • Establish and maintain close personal relationship
  • Display emotions openly
  • Very warm in relationship

  • Low Productivity
  • Average turnover rate
  • Low satisfaction level


3. Need for Power
  • Authoritative
  • Hungry for status
  • Desire to be informed about everything and to monitor things
  • Do not encourage any questioning by subordinates

  • Average productivity
  • Average turnover rate
  • Low satisfaction levels                                 





v) Personality
Personality factors must be taken into account in determining the suitability of an individual for a position in an organization. It refers to personal traits such as dominance, aggressiveness, persistence and other qualities reflected through a person’s behavior. An individual’s personality determines the type of activities for which he is suited and the likelihood that the person would be able to perform the task effectively.

vi) Motivation
Happy workers are the productive workers. To make them happy proper motivation is so essential. Motivation refers to all the forces operating within a person to cause him to engage in certain kinds of behavior rather than others. Motivation may be internal e.g. a person’s skill, ability and intelligence; or external e.g., incentives, training, etc. Further, a person’s motivation is influenced by this attitudes, beliefs, values and goals.

3. Organizational Factors

Individual behavior is influenced by a wide variety of organizational system and resources. Systems such as the organizational structure and hierarchy strongly influence and constrain both what individuals do and how they do. Some of the main organizational factors are organizational culture and climate, tenure, reward system, leadership style etc.

i) Organizational Culture and Climate
Organizational culture and climate also affect an individual’s behavior at work. The various dimensions of organizational culture are values, ethics, beliefs, climate and culture. Organizational climate can be divided into following four categories.
ii) Tenure
Tenure refers to the length of time an employee spends with an organization. It has a direct impact on productivity, job performance, turnover and absenteeism. There is a positive relationship between seniority and job productivity and a negative relationship with seniority and absenteeism. Tenure is another important factor that has an impact on an organization’s turnover. The longer a person continues in a job, the less likely he/she is to quit. It is also true that there is positive relationship between tenure and satisfaction. People who work longer with an organization are not only satisfied with their work, but are also loyal to the organization.

iii) Reward System
Reward system is another influencing factor to the individual behavior. There is positive relationship between rewards, and individual’s work performance. It means when people perform well, they are positively reward through awards, encouragement and appreciation. The aim of rewards should be to develop among employees pride in belonging to the organization and a feeling that people are valued.

iv) Leadership Style
Leadership style is another factor that helps in determining individual’s behavior at work. Leadership styles can be divided as autocratic, democratic, participative and consultative.

  • Autocratic Leaders: Autocratic leaders take decision on their own, without consulting other and use threats and other coercive ways to make people comply with their decisions. Autocratic leaders can only be effective when there is no need for any contribution from the others in the decision making and where the motivation of people to implement the decision will not be affected by the fact that they were not involved in the decision making.
  • Democratic Leaders: Democratic leaders involve their people in decision making. Democratic decision making may be difficult when the options differ widely and it is difficult to arrive at an equitable final decision. With this kind of leadership style, labor turnover and absenteeism rate is low and productivity is high.
  • Participative Leaders: Participative leaders involve people at all levels in the decision-making process. Participative leaders attend to people’s problems and use rewards to encourage appropriate performance. Individual performance is high with this kind of leadership style, and people have a spirit of collaboration. 
  • Consultative Leaders: In consultative leadership style, the focus of control for day-to-day decision making and problem solving shifts from the leader to the group members. Individuals display a fair amount of responsibility and ownership of the decisions made. Since a lot of responsibility is with the subordinates, turnover and absenteeism rate is low.

4. Environmental Factors

Three main environmental factors that affect individual behavior are economic factors, political status and technological changes.
i) Economic Factors
Economic factors play a very important role in determining individual behavior. All work is performed within economic framework that both directly and indirectly the individual behavior. Economic factors that influence individual behavior are:

  • Employment Opportunities: Employment opportunities have strong influence on individual behavior. Fewer job opportunities create fear of losing the present job and increase the emphasis on job and increase the emphasis on job security and can change the basic motivation pattern of the individual.
  • Salaries and Wages: Salaries and wages satisfy various individual needs. They provide food and shelter, and measurement of achievement and can even serve as status symbol. Money is a complex variable and it affects on behavior tremendously. It is well known that wages attract people to certain organizations and determine their satisfaction on jobs.
  • General Economic Outlook: The general outlook also influences individual expectations. Especially of those employed in industries, severely affected by economic cycles. In fact, some employees experience layoffs and recalls during their entire working life, while others are insulated from the economy (e.g., public sector employees). Individuals who experience frequent layoffs are more likely to be motivated by factors that affect job security, while other individuals would consider job security to be relatively unimportant and would be motivated by other factors.
  • Political Status: Political status of a country affects individual behavior in many ways. When a country’s political status (government) is stable, it increases industries, increase job opportunities and higher wages. An unstable government companies are reluctant to invest, economic status is affected, jobs are affected, and ultimately individuals get affected.

ii. Technological Change
Technological change is included as an economic factor because of its potential effects upon individual job opportunities. Technological change has its strongest impact at lower level jobs, although increased automation, robotics, computerization and more sophisticated production technologies can affect individuals at all levels. In addition to changing employment opportunities, technological change has its effect on job design. Although the individual may stay employed, the skills required to perform the job may be reduced, thus increasing the downward pressure on wage rates.

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