Applying Organizational Behavior Theory

Applying Organizational Behavior Theory


Argosy University

B7401—Organizational Behavior

Module 4, Assignment 2


Applying Organizational Behavior Theory

The researcher was part of planned change within the researcher’s current organization in the 2007 to 2008 timeframe. Schermerhorn, Osborn, Uhl-Bien, and Hunt (2012) state that “planned change is the result of specific efforts led by a change agent. It is a direct response to (…) a performance gap—a discrepancy between the desired and actual state of affairs” (p. 337). The purpose of the planned organizational change effort was to increase the number of personnel in the researcher’s section based on increased responsibilities across the entire enterprise. The inception of the plan occurred in 2004 based on a top government review of similar programs that existed in three other similar organizations. The plan called for the researcher’s section to expand from three to seven personnel. When the organization was created in 1987 the responsibilities for the researcher’s section only involved the main headquarters and demanded only one staff member. By 1997, the organization had almost doubled in size and the responsibilities of the section increased significantly and ultimately three staff members were assigned to the section.

By 2004 the organization had grown even larger due to requirements for a persistent global presence and coordination efforts with various external agencies were required after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. As indicated earlier, the top-level review in 2004 identified a requirement for four additional personnel to be assigned to the researcher’s section due to the increased scope of requirements to oversee the training, education, and assessments for eight other subordinate organizations located within the United States and overseas.

Problem within the Organization

However, the road from inception in 2004 to implementation took four years and was not realized until the end of 2008. In August 2007, the researcher was the hired for the section to augment the three personnel already in place. This was the start of the expansion of the section to handle the additional responsibilities. However, the increase for three additional personnel was not readily pursued by the department leadership under which the researcher’s section came under. The reason was partly due to existing personality conflicts between the researcher’s immediate supervisor at that time and the department leadership. Schermerhorn et al. (2012) state that “a key aspect of understanding organizational behavior [OB] is considering the situations, or contexts, in which the behavior occurs (p. 9). Schermerhorn et al. (2012) also promote that understanding organizational culture and organizational climate are important factors for understanding OB. As the newcomer to the section and the department, the researcher was not fully aware of the “situations, or contexts, in which the behavior” (Schermerhorn et al., 2012, p. 9) was occurring. One possible reason for the delay in expansion of the section could have been the authoritarian and hierarchical nature of the organization. Schermerhorn et al. (2012) point out that “cultures that are more authoritarian and hierarchical, people are hesitant to make decisions and take action on their own, so they tend to show little initiative and wait for approval (p. 10).

The researcher was assigned as the deputy for the section since the position was higher in rank than the other two existing section personnel. As the new deputy, the researcher was a buffer as well as a conduit in finalizing plans and completing required documentation to get the additional personnel in place. Nine months after the researcher was hired, the researcher’s supervisor retired and the process of hiring the additional personnel was accomplished within three months.

Lewin’s Force Field Concept

Lewin’s force-field method is a qualitative process for analyzing data (Cummings & Worley, 2009). Force-field analysis “organizes information pertaining to organizational change into two major categories: forces for change and forces for maintaining the status quo or resisting change” (Cummings et al., 2009, pp. 130-131). Cummings et al. (2009) states that to determine which category an organization’s data belongs an Organization Development (OD) practitioner may obtain data “through interviews, observations, or unobtrusive measures” (p. 131). To conduct a force-field analysis an OD practitioner should first “develop a list of all the forces promoting change and all those resisting it” (Cummings et al., 2009, p. 131). An OD practitioner must use their judgment or information provided by members of the organization to determine “which of the positive and which of the negative forces are most powerful” (Cummings et al., 2009, p. 131).

As previously stated, the researcher’s supervisor and his superiors had deteriorated over the years. Ultimately through the establishment of relationships with co-workers within the section and colleagues within the department more information was revealed about the conflicts that endured between the section and the department. Part of the conflict existed because there was a loss of confidence in the performance of the researcher’s supervisor. The researcher also learned that there was also a loss of confidence in the other two staff members in the section as well and who had been in those positions for at least 10 years. Leadership did not seem to be in a hurry to augment the section as long as there was doubt that the additional personnel would not be utilized effectively. This scenario seems to fall in line with Lewin’s force-field concept that there were negative forces that were inhibiting change. Also, the change within the researcher’s section occurred quickly when the restraining force was diminished when the researcher’s supervisor retired. That restraining force could be attributed to the tense relationship between the researcher’s supervisor and his superiors. Another aspect to consider is ethics. If there were deliberate efforts to delay implementation of the planned change due to personality conflicts could this be considered unethical? Any delay in implementation means that support for other departments, sections, and subordinate organizations was delayed. Did this lack of support result in degraded mission capabilities? Did this lack of support result in mission failures? The answers may never been known. According to the May, Li, Mencl, and Huang (2014) ethical issues are major issues for organizations.

Recommendations for Organization

Cummings et al. (2009) state that interventions are “a set of sequenced planned actions or events intended to help an organization increase its effectiveness” (p. 151) and “are deliberate attempts to change an organization or subunit toward a different and more effective state” (p. 151). As described earlier, a plan to augment the section was approved and set in motion to increase the organization’s effectiveness in providing support throughout the enterprise. As an OD professional conducting an intervention there may not have been time to learn about personality conflicts that exist in the organization. However, possibly with interviews with personnel in the target section and leadership it may have been possible to gain a sense of potential issues that may hinder intervention efforts.

Three criteria identified by Lewin with regard to interventions include: valid information, free and informed choice, and internal commitment. These criteria can be applied to the scenario of the planned growth of the section (Cummings et al., 2009). Valid information was obtained and presented to leadership and in turn plans were made to make changes to the section. The staff understood what needed to be done. Due to conflict, free and informed choice was made to delay implementation. Cummings et al. (2009) point out that the free and informed choice “principle also means that they [staff] can choose not to participate and that interventions will not be imposed on them” (p. 151). However, as an OD professional there would be an opportunity to ascertain the friction that was occurring in the organization and attempt to find a solution that could have reduced the negative forces and prompted the transition of the section to proceed sooner than what actually occurred. But as an OD professional the situation may have dictated that intervention efforts would not be acceptable and the only alternative may have been to step back and not interfere if leadership chose the status quo.

Leadership must learn to judiciously use power and refrain from coercion when dealing with employees in order to gain or maintain positive employee behavior or motivation. Schermerhorn et al. (2012) state that “in any manager–subordinate higher authority, and sanctions need to be replaced by appeals to reason. Friendliness must replace coercion, and bargaining must replace orders for compliance” (p. 278). Motivation in the workplace has been a focal point for organizations that seek increases in efficiency, productivity and profits. Many leaders of organizations have realized that employee motivation is a key contributor to success or failure. Schermerhorn et al. (2012) emphasize that “because motivation is a property of the individual, all that managers can do is try to create work environments within which someone finds sources of motivation” (p. 122).

Also, empowerment of the workforce appears to be a successful method of establishing trust between leaders and employees. Schermerhorn et al. (2012) state that empowerment of the workforce is growing amongst corporations. Success for any organization depends on its leaders, managers, and employees. Leaders and managers face daily challenges in creating and maintaining environments where employees can thrive and be at their best in order to maximize their contributions and help an organization succeed. The researcher promotes that besides empowerment other motivational techniques such as management by objectives can be leveraged within organizations that can address conflicts or trust issues involving leaders and those they lead.


Cummings, T. G., & Worley, C. G. (2009). Organization development and change South-Western/Cengage Learning. Retrieved from Argosy Online Bookshelf

May, D. R., Li, C., Mencl, J., & Huang, C. (2014). The ethics of meaningful work: Types and magnitude of job-related harm and the ethical decision-making process. Journal of Business Ethics, 121(4), 651-669.


Schermerhorn, J., Osborn, R., Uhl-Bien, M., & Hunt, J. (2012). Organizational behavior (12th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, Inc. Available from Argosy University Digital Bookshelf.

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