Author Topic: History of Organizational Behavior  (Read 135 times)

Suraya Yasmen

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History of Organizational Behavior
« on: September 28, 2018, 08:58:37 PM »
History of Organizational Behavior

While organizational behavior as a field of academic study was not fully recognized by the American Psychological Association until the 1970s, its roots go back to the late 1920s when the Hawthorne Electric Company set up a series of experiments designed to discern how changes in environment and design changed the productivity of their employees.

Their various studies, conducted between the years of 1924 and 1933, were broad and meticulously measured over large periods of time. The studies included the effect of various types of breaks (lots of small breaks, a few long ones, etc.) on productivity, productivity in isolation, and productivity in varying levels of light. The most famous finding resulting from the Hawthorne Studies is what is now called the Hawthorne Effect, the change in behavior of a test subject when they know they are being observed.

To focus on that one finding, some have argued, is to ignore a wider set of studies that would become credited for the development of organizational behavior as a field of study and the human resources profession as we now know it. The idea of looking scientifically at behavior and productivity in the workplace with the goal of increasing the amount and quality of work an employee can get done, was coupled with the idea that workers were not interchangeable resources. Workers were instead unique in terms of their psychology and potential fit with a company. These ideas were radically new when Hawthorne first began the studies, and they helped create a field of study and an entire professional field.

Organizational behavior has focused on various different topics of study. In part because of the Second World War, during the 1940s, the field focused on logistics and management science. During this period, the emphasis was on using mathematical modeling and statistical analysis to find the best answers for complex problems. Studies by the Carnegie School of Home Economics in the 1950s and 1960s furthered these rationalist approaches to decision making problems.


In the 1970s, theories of contingency and institutions, as well as organizational ecology, resource dependence, and bounded rationality came to the fore as the field focused more on quantitative research. These findings and sets of theories helped organizations better understand how to improve business structure and decision making.

Since the 1970s, a good deal of the work being done in the field of organizational behavior has been on cultural components of organizations, including topics such as race, class, gender roles, and cultural relativism and their roles on group building and productivity. These studies, a part of a shift in focus in the field towards qualitative research, and among other things, take into account the ways in which identity and background can inform decision making.

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