Behavioral Research and the Christian Worldview: An Analysis of Current Research in Individual, Group, and Organizational Behavior
In today's modern world, behavioral theory is one that is consistently studied and edited as it affects each and every individual who exists on the earth. While one's behavior in an individualized setting may significantly differ from their behavior in a group setting or an organizational setting, certain theories and research have existed and continue to evolve in order to understand why we as humans behave the way we do. In viewing the basic foundations of individual behavior, group behavior, and organizational behavior, as well as the current research that exists regarding each, one can better gauge what improvements and recommendations can be made in order for many different individuals to come together to achieve a desired and improved working environment. Additionally, in the context of the course at hand, one can understand which research and theories are most and least compatible with an overarching Christian worldview.
In essence, individual behavior refers to how an individual behaves in the context of their environment. An individual's behavior in this capacity is influenced by his or her attitude, personality, perception, learning and motivation, all of which influence an individual's responses to a certain internal and external stimuli. There are many varying reasons behind why we act the way we do on an individualized basis including: genetics, attitude, social norms, perceived behavioral control, faith and religion, social media, and personal instinct to name a few. On an individualized basis, our personalities and behaviors have little to do with outside stimuli or the perceptions of other people, but exist solely on a level which pleases ourselves. In sociology, for example, individual behavior is considered to have no meaning, being not directed at other people, thus exemplifying the most basic human action (Robinson, 2009, pp. 337). Overall, the basic understanding of individual behavior as depicted in research cannot be confused with social behavior at a group or organizational level, which are both exceedingly more advanced and directed at other people. Individualized behavior is a depiction of our truest selves, unhindered by any social pressures or anxieties, and as basic and true to self as humanly possible in terms of "human behavior" as a whole.
In viewing individual behavior in the context of the workplace in order to strive toward a more acceptable and pleasing work environment for the greater population of a workplace, certain relevant research exists. Recent research sought to determine the benefits of teamwork in the work setting and its benefits vs. The benefits of working individually. In such circumstances, upper management in two researched office settings found that there was a positive correlation between individualized work approaches and creativity which significantly benefited the overall working community (Hirst, Knippenberg and Zhou, 2009, pp. 281).
The aforementioned research on individual behavior in the workplace stemmed largely from a surge in group-centered behaviors being pushed in the workplace. While many upper-level managers and executives believed that increased teamwork in the work environment would increase production levels of the team members at hand, the truth remained that in most circumstances, individualized work approaches actually yielded far more productivity from workers. In this sense, one can understand that individual behavior lacks the judgment of others that often comes into play within a working environment, and can be beneficial at least in the ground stages of projects within a workplace for workers to think creatively in a fee space.
In essence, any group whether social or in an organizational setting, consists simply of individuals, and as such, these individuals bring with to the group a vast and varying set of behaviors and actions that may differ significantly from those of the other group members. Groups created to carry out a certain collective function must institute a basis of team work, which essentially involves each individualized member of the group working in order to bring about the same objective goal as his or her fellow group members. Group behavior is far more complicated to observe than individualized behavior as it takes a thorough understanding of each and every team member's individual behaviors as well as the behaviors seen in their interactions with one another.
Research has shown that the success of any group depends solely upon its group members' ability to work together in a manner that moves forward and keeps the process moving, rather than stunting productivity each and every time a disagreement is made within the group. Noted researcher R.S. Woodworth likened successful group behavior to the motion of a swing, which is set into motion by an initial hard push or in this case, idea, and kept moving through the collective focus on the task at hand (Woodworth, 1939, pp. 828). In comparing group behavior to the behavior of a swing, one can see that any disruption in the steady forward movement of the swing, or in the case of group behavior the disruption of the movement toward the goal, the swing's movement is halted, and it ceases to move in the manner in which it is designed. As such, the swing's path falls away which can be likened to the group essentially falling to pieces should it let small interferences in the task at hand override the overall goal.
This understanding is completely relevant in the work environment, as many times individual workers are called to work in a team in order to achieve a goal. Take something as simple as a group of individuals being sent as a sales team to a prospective client. Should one individual stray away from the goal, a projected sale could be lost, harming the group as well as themselves. A collective understanding and collectively high motivation regarding the task at hand is the only thing that allows a group to remain a unified group, and is the only thing that hinders a goal from being achieved (Hackman, 2010, pp. 32).
Organizational behavior is the systematic and scientific analysis of individuals, groups and organizations for the purpose of understanding, predicting, and improving the performance of individuals, and ultimately the organizations in which they work (Gloor, Olguin and Pentland, 2009, pp. 68). There are three essential building blocks that make up the field of organizational behavior: the individual, groups, and the organization (Poole, Hollingshead and Rohrbaugh, 2004, pp. 14). At the individual level, several aspects such as personality, perceptions, attitudes, and judgment are studied; at the group level, one is concerned with the way groups are formed, group dynamics and group performance; at the organizational level, different types of organizational structures and the way these structures affect the performance of the organization are studied (Pentland, 2006, pp. 63).
The study of organizational behavior is an ever-growing field, and the field is highly influential in the business world with practitioners such as Peter Drucker and Peter Senge, who turned the academic research into business practice (Ash, 2002, pp. 201). Organizational behavior is becoming more important in the global economy as people with diverse backgrounds and cultural values must work together effectively and efficiently. Organizational behavior is one that encompasses so much in terms of diversity and personal experiences, and many areas of study have since become essential facets of the study of organizational behavior such as anthropology, leadership and understanding, ethics and aesthetics, all of which come together to form the overarching study of organizational behavior (Taylor, 2005, pp. 1215).
Recommendations for Improving the Workplace
With any successful workplace comes the understanding that not all individuals are the same. Within any workplace exists an exceedingly diverse group of people who all think a different way, act a different way, process information a different way, and communicate their ideas a different way. Only in understanding this facet of the workplace and in embracing it can any work environment be both pleasant and productive.
In order to facilitate a workplace in which all individuals are not only encouraged to be productive but are encouraged to be themselves, management and higher-level executives must create opportunities for individuals to work both individually and within teams that work under the guidelines of open communication and acceptance. Only when an individual understands that their own opinions and ideas are respected and valued will they completely open themselves and their potential to the opinions of their fellow employees.
In this sense, the fostering of group behavior rather than individual behavior seems most compatible with the Christian worldview. With individual work and mentality comes a focus on competition. This competition is fueled by work and focus on an individualized level and essentially splits the workforce into single units fighting for recognition, when in reality each of these individuals is a portion of a greater whole that should be working together to achieve desired goals.
Christianity seeks to rid rivalry and competition amongst people and instead fosters the notion of groups and teams. As such, management and executives within any workplace should…