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Defining organisational behaviour

To find a definition of the concept ‘organisational behaviour’, we will start by looking at the different ways the individual words ‘organisation’ and ‘behaviour’ can be defined.


In the literature, organisation is defined from various perspectives, depending on the context.

The Business Dictionary defines organisation as:

A social unit of people that is structured and managed to meet a need or to pursue collective goals.

(Business Dictionary 2018)

Levitt extends the definition to include various systems, such as:

… lively sets of interrelated systems (task, structure, technology, people, and the environment) designed to perform complicated tasks.

(Levitt 1972)

While the Lexico online dictionary agrees with a people or group-based focus of definitions, like the one by Business Dictionary, it adds another definition that views organisation as an abstract noun. In this regard, organisation is defined as:

The action of organising something.

(Lexico n.d.)


The way in which the elements of a whole are arranged.

(Lexico n.d.)


The well-known English saying ‘action speaks louder than words’ would, in itself, make a good and simple definition of behaviour. However, there is more to go into the definition than just the actions.

The Oxford English dictionary defines the behaviour as

The way in which one acts or conducts oneself, especially towards others… in response to a situation or stimuli.

(Oxford Dictionary 2018)


The way in which a machine or natural phenomenon works or functions.

(Oxford Dictionary 2018)

The definitions of the term are made clearer when it is associated with particular entities such as animals, humans and organisations – as we will see below.

Organisational behaviour

Now that we have an accurate definition of the individual words ‘organisation’ and ‘behaviour’, let’s see if we can define the concept of ‘organisational behaviour’. Business management literature offers a number of definitions, for example:

Buchanan and Huczynski define organisational behaviour as:

… the study of the structure and management of organisations, their environments, and the actions and interactions of their individual members and groups.

(Buchanan and Huczynski 2013)

Investopedia defines it more simply:

… the study of the way people interact within groups.

(Investopedia 2018)

As you learn more about organisational behaviour within the context of the AEC industry, you may want to note down the different definitions you come across in your studies and look for examples that support them.

Your task

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak once said ‘Wherever smart people work, doors are unlocked’. Thinking about the definitions we discussed in this article, would you agree with this thought?

Share your thoughts with other learners in the comments.


Business Dictionary (2018) Organisation [Online] available from http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/organization.html [2 August 2018]

Buchanan, D.A., and Huczynski, A.A. (2013) Organisational Behaviour. Harlow: Pearson.

Investopedia (2018) Organisational behaviour [online]. available from https://www.investopedia.com/terms/o/organizational-behavior.asp [2 August 2018]

Levitt (1972) ‘What is an Organization?’. An Introduction to Organizational Communication [online]. available from https://2012books.lardbucket.org/books/an-introduction-to-organizational-communication/s03-01-what-is-an-organization.html [2 August 2018]

Lexico (n.d) Organisation [online]. available from https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/organization [2 August 2018]

Oxford Dictionary (2018) Behaviour [online]. available from https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/behaviour [2 August 2018]

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This article is from the free online course:

Organisational Behaviour in Construction: An Introduction

Coventry University