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Defining organisational behaviour

‘The people make the place’ (Porter and Schneider 2014).

Now that you have an idea of why the study of organisational behaviour (OB) is important, let’s start off by exploring what organisational behaviour means to you.

When you hear the phrase ‘organisational behaviour’, what comes to your mind? Is it a positive or a negative emotion? Do you think of management and control? Do you think it concerns management, organisation, team or the individual?

There are numerous definitions of OB. Let’s take a look at three definitions, proffered by leading OB scholars, that focus on the study of people within organisations with the overall aim of improving organisational effectiveness.

Organisational behaviour …

‘involves the study and application of knowledge about how people act within organizations, as individuals and within groups’ (Newstrom and Davis 2002: 4).

‘is an interdisciplinary field of study seeking to understand the behaviour of individual, group and organizational processes in organizational settings which can be applied to better understand and manage people at work’ (Kreitner and Kinicki 2007: 5).

‘investigates the impact that individuals, groups, and structure have on behaviour within organisations, for the purpose of applying such knowledge toward improving an organisation’s effectiveness’ (Robbins and Judge 2013: 10).

OB is one of the most complex, central and unique fields but also perhaps one of the least understood academic elements of modern general management.

Before we delve deeper into what OB is, let’s take this opportunity to brainstorm as a group and exchange our initial ideas.

Your task

When you think about organisational behaviour, what comes to mind?

Explore the different words used to describe OB. How would you define OB from your own experience?

Post your thoughts and ideas to our AnswerGarden.

Once you have shared your thoughts (which are anonymous), take some time to look at the comments and ideas posted by your fellow learners. Reflect on the AnswerGarden results and discuss anything you notice in the discussion area.

  • Are there elements of OB you hadn’t previously considered?


  • You do not need to sign up for an account to use AnswerGarden.
  • Respond to the question by typing in the answer field or by clicking an existing answer. Then, press the submit button to add/post your response. Once you have posted your response, you will not be able to edit it.
  • You can submit an unlimited number of responses. Each response can contain up to 20 characters.
  • Your responses will be anonymous.
  • Once you have posted your response(s) it will be displayed in the word cloud.
  • The words/responses towards the centre of the ‘garden’ are the high-frequency responses, while the ones towards the edge are the least common responses. By clicking on a word/phrase/response, the number of times the word/phrase is used in the answers will be revealed.

  • Below you will find an example of a completed AnswerGarden.

Answer Garden


Kreitner, R., and Kinicki, A. (2007) Organizational Behavior. 7th edn. New York: McGraw-Hill Inc

Newstrom, J., and Davis, K. (2002) Organizational Behavior: Human Behavior at Work. 11th edn. Boston: McGraw-Hill/Irwin

Porter, L., and Schneider, B. (2014) ‘What Was, What Is, and What May Be in OP/OB’. Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior [online] 1, 1-21. available from https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-orgpsych-031413-091302 [12 July 2018]

Robbins, S., and Judge, T. (2013) Organizational Behavior. 15th edn. Boston: Pearson Education Group

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This article is from the free online course:

An Introduction to Organisational Behaviour: How to Understand Your People

Coventry University