Work and Organizational Behaviour

Second edition

by Peter Sawchuk, Carolyn Forshaw, Militza Callinan & Martin Corbett

Web-based Assignments

A series of web-based assignments for each chapter of the book. These can be used to help develop your research skills and apply the knowledge you have learned. Click on the links below to jump to each chapter.

Part 1: Work and organizational behaviour

Part 2: Individuals and work Part 3: Groups and social interaction Part 4: Organizational change, processes and performance

Additional online web-based assignment
This exercise can be used to support Chapter 9, alongside the section on group structure on page 249. It is also relevant to the section on personality testing in Chapter 4, beginning on page 121, and the OB in focus box on page 115. Click on the link below to jump to the additional assignment.


Chapter 1: Capitalism and organizational behaviour

To help you develop your understanding of the subject, we have developed an activity that requires you to maintain a learning journal or log. A learning journal is a simple and straightforward way to help you integrate content, process, personal thoughts and personal work experience of organizational behaviour. Learning logs operate from the stance that people learn from reflection and through writing.

We suggest you make an entry in your log after each completed week of class time. Properly understood and used learning journals assist the learning process by becoming a vehicle for understanding the complex nature of human behaviour in the workplace. Visit the website http://olc.spsd.sk.ca/DE/PD/instr/strats/logs for information on the value of learning journals.

Learning journals are concise, objective, factual and impersonal in tone. The following questions could be used to guide you in making thoughtful entries in your learning journal about organizational behaviour:

  • What did I learn in class this week?
  • What did I find interesting?
  • How well does the material connect with my work experience?
  • How well does the organizational behaviour material connect with my other management courses?
  • What questions do I have for the instructor about what I learned?

You can also use your completed learning journal to help evaluate your studies of organizational behaviour.

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Chapter 2: The social nature of work

Central to the advance of organizational behaviour as a field of critical inquiry is an openness to expanding our understanding of both work and the ‘workplace’. We believe it is important to understand that work expands beyond the boundaries of ‘paid work’, and importantly, the place where work is performed extends beyond the formal organization. The notion of work–life pattern has increasing relevance to workers, particularly to women, in the early twenty-first century.

On an individual basis, or working in a small group, visit the following websites and write a brief report of the research and practical issues associated with (a) home-working, and (b) work–life balance:

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Chapter 3: Studying work and organizations

How are we to make sense of the competing assortment of theoretical approaches to organizational behaviour? We address this question here with reference to the classical accounts of sociology and contemporary approaches to studying formal organizations. Our collective experience in teaching and researching aspects of organizational behaviour has made it clear that the contemporary student of organizational behaviour cannot understand the discipline without an appreciation of the works of Marx, Weber and Durkheim. In their own way, each addressed the following two fundamental questions:

  • What is the source of societal and organizational conflict?
  • What is the relationship between consciousness (the ‘self’ or ‘inside’) and society or social structure (the ‘outside’)?
On an individual basis, or working in a small group, visit the following websites and write a brief summary of how Marx, Weber and Durkheim have fundamentally shaped the modern debate about work and organizations:
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Chapter 4: Personality and identity

Form a group of three to five people, and visit the websites of any of the following organizations:

What personality attributes are these organizations seeking when they recruit new employees?

Go to www.queendom.com/tests.html and www.psychometricadvantage.co.uk (search for psychometrics) and examine the psychometric tests. Some of these you may take yourself without applying for a job. How accurate, in your view, is your personality profile as revealed by any of the psychometric tests? Do your close friends agree with the assessment? Which kind of psychometric tests do you suppose would be more effective in revealing the more important aspects of your personality? Why? How much weight should organizations give to psychometric test results in employment selection? Explain your reasoning. Write a report detailing your findings.

Click here to jump to an additional web-based assignment for Chapter 4 on personality testing.

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Chapter 5: Perception and emotion

What attracts you to some organizations and not others? Get a copy of the recruitment pages of a national newspaper or a professional publication, such as People Management or The Economist. From the advertisements, identify a selection of the recruiting organizations that differ from each other and provide details of their websites. Browse each of the sites, particularly looking at the pages aimed at potential job applicants. It would be ideal if you could do this with a colleague or friend so you can have a discussion about it.

Consider these questions:

  • What are your perceptions of each organization as a potential employer? Are they your kind of place?
  • Try to identify what perceptual cues from the advertisement and websites captured your attention, and the prior knowledge and expectations that led you to your conclusions.
To what extent can you apply social categorization theory to explain your attraction or aversion to each organization?

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Chapter 6: Learning and innovation

There are competing views on the purpose of work-related learning. One school of thought believes that creativity and innovation are more likely to be fostered in organizations where learning is valued and of high quality. In this sense, workplace learning has an instrumental purpose: to ‘unfreeze’ employee work attitudes and practices to bring about change. Learning can also enhance an organization’s performance and increase a nation’s productivity. (See OB in Focus on ‘The Learning Age’, page 164)

Specifically, this assignment requires you to critically evaluate these assumptions. First, go to the following websites for more information on life-long learning:

Second, choose two companies, enter their websites, and evaluate how each company provides for continuous work-related learning:
  • What are the company’s objectives with regard to work-related learning?
  • How does the company’s learning strategy relate, if at all, to its business strategy?
  • Is there any evidence that work-related learning benefits both individual employees and the company?
  • What role should work-related learning play in the workplace?
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Chapter 7: Motivation at work

Form a study group of three to five people, and go to the website of any of the following organizations, or a similar one that interests members of the group:

When there, go to the ‘Company overview’ and the human resource management section of the site, and look at the language, assumptions and espoused values. Evaluate the organization’s dominant culture in the light of our discussion in this chapter. Write a report that draws out the common features.

Alternatively, go to the websites of a number of universities, and compare and contrast your own university with others in the UK or abroad. As a guide to your search, ask the following questions:

  • What artefacts are displayed that expresses the institution’s culture? (Hint: do departments display the publications of the teaching faculty?)
  • In the advertising material, does the institution emphasize teaching excellence, research or both?
  • What are the President’s espoused values?
  • What rituals and ceremonies dramatize the institution’s culture?
  • What practices shape the university’s culture? (Hint: ask your lecturer what is the most important criterion for promotion – excellence in teaching or the number of articles/books published.)
  • Do the visible artefacts and processes provide a guideline for behaviour at the university? If so, why?
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Chapter 8: Gender, race, disability and class

This chapter covered many areas of inequity in organizations, but it certainly did not cover them all. Issues of ageism (discrimination based on age) and discrimination based on sexual orientation are two of the key ones that were not explored. The latter forms the basis of this case study. With over 75,000 employees worldwide and 16 billion in revenue, one of the leading corporations in the area of support for employees who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) is Raytheon.

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Chapter 9: Work groups and teams

Work groups and teams is one of the most important topics of organizational behaviour, and given that many students have experienced group working and will be called upon to work in groups in organizations, it is important to reflect on how groups influence human behaviour.

For this assignment, we would like you to gain more information on work teams by visiting www.workteams.org and www.berr.gov.uk. In addition, you are asked to explore examples of team working in European and North American companies by visiting the following websites:

What main principles can be identified as ‘good’ job design when applied to work teams? Looking at the companies that have introduced teams, what behaviours or ‘norms’ are expected of employees? How does the team-based model impact on other aspects of management such as human resource management? Discuss your findings with other students on your course.

Click here to jump to an additional web-based assignment for Chapter 9 on group structure.

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Chapter 10: Organizational design

This chapter discusses the different types of organizational design, and the interconnectedness between structure and restructuring, and organizational behaviour. Organizations can adopt a large number of structures to match their strategy, size, technology and profit-making imperative. Restructuring affects job design and individual workers’ perception of the employer and work motivation.

This web-based assignment requires you to explore the web to find a site that displays an organizational chart, or that discusses a method of managing its structure. For example, enter the website of Dell Computers (www.dell.com), Canadian TV and media company Globalmedia (www.globalmedia.ca) or car manufacturer Saturn (www.saturn.com) for an example of a ‘flatter’ organizational structure.

Consider these questions:

  • What kind of organizational structure does the company have (for example, in terms of decision making, is it centralized or decentralized)?
  • In what ways is the organizational structure appropriate for the company?
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Chapter 11: Technology in work organizations

There are few words that appear as often as the word ‘technology’ on the Internet today. In many ways computers, the Internet and technology are thought of as synonymous with one another. However, one of the goals of this chapter is build a more ‘social’ analysis of technology, and to encourage you to think carefully about what technology really means. Building a basic historical awareness of different sorts of tools, devices, machines and so on can be helpful in this respect.

Visit http://inventors.about.com/od/astartinventions/a/FamousInvention.htm, which does not present a definitive historical account of the origins of different technologies (in the broader sense), but is worth exploring to begin to gain a sense of how technology developed. Based on this, you can then build a deeper and more critical appreciation for how and why specific forms of technology emerged, and in turn, why they affect organizations in the way that they do.

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Chapter 12: Organizational culture

This chapter discusses the significance of culture in work organizations and the interconnectedness between national culture, and organizational culture and behaviour in organizations and businesses. The mainstream or managerialist perspective tends to focus on changing organizational culture to match business strategy and improve efficiency and profitability. This perspective focuses on achieving an organizational culture in which all members subscribe to one set of values and beliefs, normally decided by senior management. Critical perspectives tend to focus on how multiple viewpoints, values and beliefs are controlled or ignored by senior managers.

This web-based assignment requires you to explore the Internet to find a website that provides insight into different cultures in organizations. For example, visit the websites of:

1. What kind of organizational culture do these organizations have (for example, what are their espoused values)?
2. What would critical theorists make of the cultures at these companies (or any others you have found)?

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Chapter 13: Leadership and change

You can evaluate the extent to which leadership research has influenced management education and training by visiting the following websites:

Select a particular professional group, such as engineers. What leadership competencies do individuals need to display to be effective in the profession? Do ‘leadership competencies’ appear to have a gender bias? If so, why? Report your findings to your seminar group.

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Chapter 14: Communications

We have explained that the nature of the communication process established in the organization reflects the management style, degree of employee participation, culture and efficiency of the workplace. Communication is essential for effective decision making. Ineffective communication is linked to a ‘command and control’ vision of management.

This web-based assignment requires you to investigate the extent of communication processes in workplaces in Britain. Visit the website for the Findings from the 2004 Workplace Survey –
www.berr.gov.uk/whatwedo/employment/research%2Devaluation/wers%2D2004 – and review the survey findings. What arrangements for direct communications with employees are most popular in (a) the private sector, and (b) the public sector? Based on your understanding of this chapter, what ‘downward’ communications arrangements do you believe are most effective? Explain your answer.

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Chapter 15: Decision making and ethics

Decision making has been acknowledged as the fundamental element in the manager’s job. Yet it is a complex phenomenon because it involves not only technical considerations, but also power struggles. It remains associated to a ‘command and control’ vision of management, as well as to a vision of managers as omnipresent and omnipotent. Decision making can be improved by using group processes that help to minimize the biases and errors.

This web-based assignment requires you to investigate the extent of decentralized decision-making processes. We would like you visit the websites for the findings from the 2004 Workplace Survey:

What type of manager–employee decision-making processes are you likely to find in the workplace? What issues are discussed at these decentralized committees? What appears to be excluded from discussion? Do committees make ‘good’ decisions? Explain your answer.

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Chapter 16: Power, politics and conflict

The discussion in this chapter provided the basis for a comparison of different theories of power. Take some time to obtain (either online or in your library) and read the discussion of power in the special 2002 issue of Journal of Organizational Behavior Management. Further background reading on the concept of power can be found at:
www.experiencefestival.com/ower_sociology/articleindex.

After reviewing the material, do as we began to do in the last section of this chapter: test the assumptions of the conceptualizations of power in this issue against the broader social theories of power we outlined in the first half of the chapter.

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Chapter 17: Human resource management

This chapter has discussed the importance of SHRM and the links between SHRM and organizational performance.

This web-based assignment requires you to explore the research findings from the 2004 Workplace Employment Relations Survey. Visit:
http://www.berr.gov.uk/whatwedo/employment/research%2Devaluation/wers%2D2004, and use its information to consider these questions:

  • In UK workplaces, who is ‘strategic’ about employment relations?
  • In recent years, have workplaces become more strategic in their people management? Try to explain the findings.
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Additional web-based assignment: Belbin’s team roles

This exercise can be used to support Chapter 9, alongside the section on group structure on page 249. It is also relevant to the section on personality testing in Chapter 4, beginning on page 121 and the OB in focus box on psychometric testing on page 115.

Meredith Belbin carried out research into managerial behaviour, from which he identified a range of different team ‘roles’. Go to www.belbin.com and answer the following questions:

  1. What are Belbin’s team roles?
  2. How might an understanding of team roles help or hinder team performance?
  3. Referring to Chapter 4 of Work and OB, what could the limitations of the psychometric research testing be, and do you think these are addressed in the Belbin research?
  4. Which of Belbin’s team roles do you think applies most to you? Discuss with your friends – which role is most common amongst you? Would you make a good team according to Belbin’s research?
  5. Though Belbin's work affirms the importance of leadership, team learning, open communication and support for members in effective teams, his typology of team roles has attracted much criticism. See for example, D. Hosking and I. Morely: A Social Psychology of Organizing: People, Processes and Contexts (Hemel Hempstead: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1991). What are the limitations of Belbin's team role theory?

Further information
Belbin, M: Management Teams: Why They Succeed or Fail, 2nd edition (Butterworth Heinemann, 2004)
D. Hosking and I. Morely: A Social Psychology of Organizing: People, Processes and Contexts (Hemel Hempstead: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1991)

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