What is Organizational Behavior? - Definition and History of the Field

  • 0:08 Organizational Behavior
  • 0:56 Internal Perspective
  • 2:06 External Perspective
  • 2:39 History of…
  • 3:51 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jennifer Lombardo
Organizational behavior is the study of both group and individual performance and activity within an organization. Internal and external perspectives are two theories of how organizational behavior can be viewed by companies.

Organizational Behavior

Why do people behave a certain way in an organizational environment? What factors affect job performance, employee interaction, job commitment, leadership and managerial styles? Individuals have studied this very topic for decades in order to find ways of increasing organizational performance. Organizational behavior is the study of both group and individual performance and activity within an organization.

This area of study examines human behavior in a work environment and determines its impact on job structure, performance, communication, motivation, leadership, etc. Internal and external perspectives are two theories of how organizational behavior can be viewed by companies. Let's take a look at how the perspectives are different through examining Ninja Corporation.

Internal Perspective

The Ninja Corporation has two human resource managers at their headquarters. Julia and Nick have different opinions regarding how to use organizational behavioral factors to improve work conditions. Julia embraces the internal perspective and believes that employees' behavior is in large part based on their own personal feelings, interactions, thoughts and experiences.

This theory revolves around the idea that, in order to understand individuals in an organizational environment, an individual must understand the person's thoughts, feelings and personal values. Recently, a manager mentioned to Julia that she was having difficulty with motivating one of her subordinates in the sales division. Julia met with the manager and employee to see what advice she could offer in this situation.

Julia spoke with the subordinate, who revealed that he wanted to achieve his sales goals and felt that his co-workers were getting the best territories and extra feedback. Once Julia was able to uncover the subordinate's internal employment issues, she then could explain what motivational techniques would improve his performance to the manager. Her human resource coworker, Nick, had the opposite view of organizational behavior.

External Perspective

Nick was also a human resource manager at Ninja Corporation. He took an external perspective of organizational behavior. He believed that external events and environmental factors affected an individual's job performance and behavior. A recent example of this theory would be when Nick told numerous managers to increase their subordinate's salaries by $5,000 in order to further motivate the sales team. Organizational behavior's history is really a combination of numerous fields of study.


The Industrial Revolution brought about the need for understanding human behavior in a work environment. The first mention of analyzing work was with Frederick Winslow Taylor (1856-1915). He viewed job tasks as a bunch of components that could be analyzed and broken down into small parts. Taylor believed you could substitute or replace individuals at any point in the labor process as you could with parts on a machine.

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