Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Organizational Behavior

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Organizational Behavior

The key issues associated with organizational behavior include power, empowerment, organizational politics, and communication. Each of these things has a great impact on organizational behavior and the general way businesses operate today. Specific observations and experiences within my organization, have given me perspectives and ideas relating to these areas.

First, power is divided and split into organizational and personal types of power. Within organizational power is reward, coercive, and legitimate power. Managers often use rewards to demonstrate power. If the reward is deserved and sincere, this can be effective; however, if the rewards are being falsely given, this may be detrimental to the relationship. Coercive power, used to deny or threaten something of worth, does not earn respect. While having something to work for is an effective and motivating tool, an employee who is threatened to lose something or not receive something, will only have feelings of resentment and distrust toward a manager. Legitimate power, similar to coercive, involves the manager using his or her position to influence and control situations. I have recently been in a situation where my manager reminded me repeatedly that she could refuse my request to post for job transfer. Using this as a threat, she clung to this power in her position.

Second, personal power involves three further bases expert, rational, and referent. As they say, knowledge is power; what a true statement. Having worked in a training position, I had to be an ‘expert’ on all policies and procedures. Some managers were threatened by this knowledge because they did not have the same level of understanding and expertise. Eventually a pattern developed of subordinates preferring to ask trainers questions instead of managers. This situation caused severe tensions between management and the training department. Rational power is what I feel to be the most effective form of power. The role of a manager is to see the big picture and then make plans accordingly; subordinates are the tools to getting the job done. A manager that can present a situation to a group of subordinates and propose a realistic way to get the job done is using rational power. Within my organization, and perhaps many others, the most common of the personal power bases is referent power. A subordinate who overtly follows and obeys can be an asset to a manager using referent power. The manager can use a subordinate to his or her advantage, a ‘pawn’ if you will, to reinforce the source of that power and as an ego-booster. In addition, the subordinate uses the manager to help further his or her career for example. The term ‘brown-noser’ is most applicable in this form of power.

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Third, empowerment is defined as “the process by which managers help others to acquire and use the power needed to make decisions affecting themselves and their work.” (Schermerhorn, Hunt, Osborn, 2000). One of the best examples of empowerment I have seen is with my previous position. Working in the New Accounts department, subordinates responsibility was to analyze credit bureau reports and application information. These subordinates were given the necessary training and tools to perform the functions of the job; most importantly, these employees were given empowerment to make decisions regarding credit. While many guidelines and policies were in place, managers empowered employees to make these credit decisions. Initially this was an overwhelming responsibility, but over time, subordinates realized they had the support of management to make these decisions. As a result, employees took pride in their work, were more accountable, and more responsible. Subordinates saw this empowerment as true responsibility and took it seriously. Management realized the effects of this empowerment, and continued to emphasize and support employee importance to the overall goals of the company.

Fourth, organizational politics has a negative connotation, but actually has both positive and negative perspectives. By definition, “organizational politics is the management of influence to obtain ends not sanctioned by the organization or to obtain sanctioned ends through nonsanctioned means and the art of creative compromise among competing interests” (Schermerhorn, Hunt, Osborn, 2000). In other words, managers are often perceived as being political for taking steps to further personal career goals that may not be inline or supported by the company. Also, a manager who uses the concept of creative compromise when competing interests are involved may be perceived as political. When it comes to politics within my organization, it appears to be a battle of ego’s, positions, job titles, and perceptions; it is not what you know, it is who you know. People use the various forms of power to gain control. As within most organizations, politics are a part of regular ‘business-as-usual’. The positive aspects regarding organizational politics come with healthy competition. Surveys have shown that employees admit to playing into the politics, causing his or her performance to improve in order to stay competitive within the ‘political game’.

Finally, communication, in all its forms, impacts overall effectiveness and success more than anything else. Within my organization, as within most, communication takes place via e-mail, telephone, and through face-to-face interaction. While there are appropriate instances for each, it is important to know what those instances are. When inappropriate channels of communication are used, information may not be received as it was intended and there is more room for misinterpretation. E-mail is efficient, yet difficult for the receiver to detect tone and non-verbal communication. While it leaves much room for interpretation, e-mail continues to be the dominant channel for communicating. The telephone is more effective in that more non-verbal clues and tones can be detected, however, not efficient for most organizations. With employees working in different time zones, it is often difficult to communicate other than through voice messages. Face-to-face interaction is the best channel of communication to detect non-verbal clues and tones, yet again, not the most efficient for organizations whose employees may span across the country or even the globe. A large part of communication is the concept of active listening. An active listener is someone who participates in the conversation by letting the speaker know he or she is listening. The listener can use reinforcement and reiteration by repeating and rewording what the speaker is saying. Active listening will in turn encourage the speaker to say what he or she really means. What a difference it makes to know someone is listening when you are speaking.

While active listening is a great concept, there are often barriers that prevent it from occurring. Some common barriers include physical distractions, semantic problems, mixed messages, cultural differences, a lack in feedback, and status effects. For example, when working with previous learning teams, these barriers often occurred during learning team meetings. One team member would always get cell phone calls during team meetings. Rather than turning the ringer off or leaving the phone in the car, he would bring it to meetings and often have lengthy conversations; this was a huge physical barrier. Group discussions were regularly interrupted by this barrier. Semantic problems occurred when one group member would explain ideas and suggestions in an extremely complex manner in an attempt to feel more intelligent. This caused misinformation and serious confusion when trying to follow what he was saying. As a result, discussions were interrupted and put on hold until clarification could be received. Mixed messages were also common occurrences with a particular group member. This individual would always communicate her willingness to participate and do her fair share, yet when it came time to work on the assignment, she would distract the group by changing the subject and bringing up irrelevant conversation; this caused the group to lose focus and would break the flow of relevancy. Cultural differences can also cause misinterpretation based on background and experience. One who speaks English as a second language might struggle with slang and indirect communication. There is definitely more room for confusion. Feedback is necessary for effective communication. Within learning teams, often assignments are distributed via e-mail and all group members are expected to review and give feedback. One particular group member would never respond to the group discussions online. This caused frustration for other group members not getting his feedback and input. The status effect barrier is common within organizations. Managers solicit feedback and opinions for improvement and development. Subordinates, fearing the repercussions that come along with honesty, give feedback they feel managers would want to hear.

In conclusion, these key areas covered are is extremely relevant and applicable within organizations and business today. Not only are these things relevant to business, they are applicable to life in general. Power and communication play a key role in relationships in general. The more educated and aware we are in these areas, the better.

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