Organizational behavior and change management are often viewed as dry, academic subjects. They are not as exciting as sales and marketing or project management, for example, where one can draw a straight line between action and result. Both of them are hard to quantify. How do you define or even enforce certain organizational behaviors? How can you know in advance that you are managing change the right way and that it will produce the right results?
And yet time and time again, we have seen that businesses that maintain certain behaviors among employees and take a strategic approach to change management do better than those that don’t. If you want to be a successful manager, these are two areas that you must understand and learn how best to put into practice.
Many online MBA programs include management strategy in their curriculums. For example, St Bonaventure University Online teaches modules such as organizational management, business policy, business analytics, change management, and the business environment. All these are designed to help managers develop the necessary skills to supervise those who work for and with them effectively.
While MBAs impart important knowledge on how to manage change and organizational behavior, it is only within a proper organizational structure that the lessons learned in the classroom are truly tested.
When managers come face to face with the challenges involved in managing real people within a real business, many find that it takes far more than what they covered in their studies. It helps to know why organizational behavior and change management are important for small business managers and what they can do to become better people managers.
Why should small business managers understand organizational behavior?
Organizational behavior is about understanding, controlling, predicting, and sometimes directing human behavior. It has evolved, and it is hardly what it was when the term was first coined by Fredrick Winslow Taylor in the 1890s.
Taylor came up with a system to reward employees as a way to motivate them and came up with different compensation systems, testing them to see which ones worked best. Unfortunately, we have learned in the intervening years that organizational behavior is one of the hardest things for managers to understand and control. In a workplace made up of diverse people from different backgrounds, countries, training, discipline, values, and priorities, it can be challenging to forge a culture that gets everyone’s support. The first step towards remedying this may be to understand why organizational behavior is important in the first place.
Better communication among employees and departments
A business that promotes good organizational behavior maintains better communication than one that does not. If employees feel they can talk to each other freely and to managers without fear, it is easier to pass on critical information that can make or break a small business.
In an organization where orders always come from above, employees are not free to report what they see or even air opinions. If something goes wrong, an employee may choose to pretend that they are not aware of the problem, or they may decide to hide it. Sooner or later, it begins to affect the bottom line, and the business suffers.
However, in an organization where there have been deliberate efforts to shape organizational behavior, communication channels remain open, and everyone can pass on information as it becomes available because they understand that it helps the business.
A comfortable workplace for everyone
Imagine a workplace where there is plenty of gossip between employees, management never communicates its intentions, and there is always fear among employees because they don’t know the state of the business or what the future holds.
Many of us don’t have to imagine this sort of workplace. We have lived it. It is an organizational culture that is prevalent in many businesses. Rather than foster a friendly, open environment, managers hold on to knowledge and information because they think it gives them power.
It creates a workplace rife with distrust, and it becomes difficult to rally employees toward a cause. A strategic approach to organizational behavior can help managers know the elements they need to put in place to create a workplace where everyone is open and trusting.
It determines the management style
There are different styles of management, and they are widely determined by the existing organizational culture. If there is a prevailing culture of authoritarianism, for example, a business is more likely to hire dictatorial managers. They will not listen to what employees have to say and would rather pass down orders than have open discussions. If the culture is about communication and building trust, the business will be looking to hire managers who are servant leaders.
As a manager, it is important to understand that the people you hire will work within the organizational culture that you have created. If you want to improve, it starts from within. The first step is to improve the culture and then bring in new people who will bolster it.
It helps HR determine protocols to deal with employees
The human resources department is guided by the kind of environment you have created within your business. If you are the kind of manager who fires employees without giving them a chance to explain themselves, or promotes them without considering merit, human resources, in a bid to please you, will do the same.
The best tool for conflict resolution
Conflict is inevitable in the workplace. So long as people work together, they are bound to clash from time to time. How those clashes are resolved is determined by how hard management has worked to create a good workplace environment.
Employees must not be made to feel that conflict will lead to them losing their jobs or demotion. Instead, each person should be heard, and all conflicts should be resolved using compromise.
It will encourage good organizational behavior; everyone will feel that they get a fair chance and will be willing to treat others in the same way.
It boosts customer service
This is one of the best reasons for a business to carefully consider what kind of organizational behavior it would like to foster in the workplace. Whatever attitudes prevail within the business will trickle down to the customer.
If there is a culture of obfuscation of facts, for example, employees will never give customers straight answers, and they will tire of getting the run-around and leave. Businesses that foster an avoidance of responsibility are unlikely to take issuing refunds seriously.
This isn’t an issue that affects just small businesses. Large corporations take customer service seriously and understand that it starts with their employees.
If they encourage open communication and honesty among the people who work for them, customers can expect the same. Employees know they are held to a certain standard, whether dealing with colleagues, senior management, or customers.
The owner of Virgin, a British business said it best when he said that in his business, customers do not come first; employees do. He understands that the way customers are treated is determined by whether or not employees are happy.
It makes for effective teams
Small businesses are all about teamwork, especially in the prevailing environment where many employees prefer to work remotely. For teams to be effective, there has to be a good organizational culture.
Everyone must learn to pull together to meet deadlines and ensure tasks are accomplished promptly and effectively. When there is a problem, whether within or without the business, all concerned employees must work as one to ensure that it is solved.
It creates a positive workplace environment
Above all else, encouraging good organizational behavior creates a place that people love to work in. They are excited to go to work every morning and give their best in everything they do.
Examples of a toxic work culture
Sometimes the best way to learn is to look at what other businesses have done in the past that has landed them in trouble. Below are common examples of a toxic work culture. If you notice any of them, it is a sign that you don’t have a good organizational culture, and it is time to evaluate everyone’s behavior.
The business lacks core values
Core values define the common goals of business relationships and should be familiar to all who work there. Even stakeholders should know what the core values of your business are. If you don’t have them written down, it is time you did. If you have never defined what they are, you should. Ensure that everyone in the business knows what they are and their role in ensuring those values are met.
The office is a place of gossip
Watercooler talk isn’t good for business. If employees are always talking about each other behind each other’s backs, it fosters an atmosphere of distrust and can lead to animosity. Let everyone who works for you know that gossip is not tolerated.
Too much competition among people who should be cooperating
Managers sometimes encourage competition to get employees to do more, but there is a place for it. Often, employees are more competitive than they should be, which hurts cohesion. Never should an employee feel that they will do whatever it takes to get ahead at the expense of others.
Employees should be encouraged to cooperate whenever possible. If they all work towards the same goal, they are more likely to meet targets, and the business has a healthier bottom line.
A high rate of tardiness, even among those who are naturally diligent
If you notice a high rate of absenteeism and lateness getting to work, the people who work for you don’t enjoy the environment they step into when they get to your business. They are doing everything they can to minimize the number of hours they spend there.
Employees are over-worked and miss breaks, don’t leave work on time
It is okay for employees to work a little bit harder when a project demands a bit more time to complete, but if it is the norm, it means they are overworked or aren’t using their time at work as they should.
How does change management factor into organizational behavior?
Changing behavior requires a good knowledge of change management. Change is difficult, and getting people to adjust their behavior according to new guidelines can be problematic. More often than not, managers experience pushback, and the suggestion of change often leads to upheaval.
A good leader takes the time to study the behavioral problems within his business and then consults his employees about what can be done to improve company culture. If they feel included in the decision to make changes, they are likely to be more accepting of new rules and regulations, and a new environment will soon emerge within the business.
The power of involving employees in change management shouldn’t be underestimated. By achieving buy-in, the manager has half his work done; the rest are little kinks that can be ironed out along the way.
Change management is a broad and involving topic, so when you are looking at online MBA programs, you should seek those that include it in their curriculum. You will learn the different elements of the process and the best way to bring about change in a business.
Lastly, every manager should strive to be the change they want to see within their company. If you would like to encourage promptness, you must not be tardy. If you want to discourage gossip, you cannot be one to talk about others. If you set a good example, those who work for you will seek to emulate you.
Organizational behavior and change management are never easy, but they have to be present and properly managed for a business to run properly. As a senior manager, it is your job to make sure that there is a healthy work environment for all, and if there isn’t, you must take steps to implement the necessary changes.