workplace Behavior

How workplace behaviors can directly or indirectly influence organizational effectiveness

By definition WORKPLACE BEHAVIOR is a pattern of action by the members of an organization that directly or indirectly influences organizational effectiveness.

Important workplace behaviors include performance Opens in new window and productivity Opens in new window, absenteeism Opens in new window and turnover Opens in new window, and organizational citizenship Opens in new window. Unfortunately, a variety of dysfunctional behaviors can also occur in organizational settings.

1.   Performance Behaviors

Performance behaviors are the total set of work-related behaviors that the organization expects the individual to display. Thus they derive from the psychological contract.

For some jobs, performance behaviors can be narrowly defined and easily measured. For example, an assembly-line worker who sits by a moving conveyor and attaches parts to a product as it passes by has relatively few performance behaviors. He or she is expected to remain at the workstation and correctly attach the parts. Performance can often be assessed quantitatively by counting the percentage of parts correctly attached.

For many other jobs, however, performance behaviors are more diverse and much more difficult to assess. For example, consider the case of a research and development scientist at Merck. The scientist works in a lab trying to find new scientific breakthrough that have commercial potential.

The scientist must apply knowledge learned in graduate school with experience gained from previous research. Intuition and creativity are also important elements. And the desired breakthrough may take months or even years to accomplish.

Organizations rely on a number of different methods for evaluating performance. The key, of course, is to match the evaluation mechanism with the job being performed.

2.   Withdrawal Behaviors

Another important type of work-related behavior is that which results in withdrawal practices; namely, absenteeism and turnover.

2.1   Absenteeism

Absenteeism occurs when an individual does not show up for work. The cause may be legitimate especially when it is occasioned by illness, jury duty, death in the family, etc. or feigned (reported as legitimate but actually just an excuse to stay home). When an employee is absent, his or her work does not get done at all, or a substitute must be hired to do it.

In either case, the quantity or quality of actual output is likely to suffer. Obviously, some absenteeism is expected. The key concern of organizations is to minimize feigned absenteeism and to reduce legitimate absences as much as possible. High absenteeism may be a symptom of other problems as well, such as job dissatisfaction and low morale.

2.2   Turnover

Turnover occurs when people quit their jobs. An organization usually incurs cost in replacing individuals who have quit, but if turnover involves especially productive people, it is even more costly.

Turnover seems to result from a number of factors, including aspects of the job, of the organization, and of the individual; the labor market; and family influences. In general, a poor person-job fit is also a likely cause of turnover.

The labor shortage among some knowledge-related jobs has resulted in higher turnover in some companies as a result of the abundance of more attractive alternative jobs that are available to highly qualified individuals.

Efforts to manage turnover directly are frequently fraught with difficulty, even in organizations that concentrate on rewarding good performers. Of course, some turnover is inevitable, and in some cases it may even be desirable. For example, if the organization is trying to cut costs by reducing its staff, having people leave voluntarily is preferable to terminating them.

And if the people who choose to leave are low performers or express high levels of job dissatisfaction, the organization itself may benefit from turnover.

3.   Dysfunctional Behaviors

Dysfunctional behaviors are behaviors that detract from, rather than contribute to, organizational effectiveness. Absenteeism Opens in new window and turnover Opens in new window (described above) are two of the more common ones. But other forms of dysfunctional behavior may be even more costly for an organization.

Theft and sabotage, for example, result in direct financial costs. Sexual Opens in new window and racial harassment Opens in new window also cost an organization, both indirectly (by lowering morale Opens in new window, producing fear, and driving off valuable employees) and directly (through financial liability if the organization responds inappropriately). So, too, can politicized behavior, intentionally misleading others in the organization, spreading malicious rumors, and similar activities.

Workplace violence is also a growing concern in many organizations. Violence by disgruntled workers or former workers results in dozens of deaths and injuries each year.