No one knows when man first started observing and categorizing human behavior and how to manage it. Organizational behavior probably started with the sentient parents in human history, however that began.
There are five predominant theoretical views on organizational communication; the classical management, human relations, human resources, systems and cultural perspectives. These have grown sequentially as organizations and management methodologies have evolved. We will discuss and define each of these perspectives to help develop an understanding the viewpoints.
The classical management perspective grows from the early management work of Taylor, Fayol, and Weber in the early years of the development of management theory. The classical management perspective view communication as a necessary component for efficiency, without respect to the workers’ needs beyond financial. Workers were employed to perform tasks and management theories were developed to manage the work, not the workers (Miller, K. 2012).
The human relations approach developed as scholars focused on the human side of communication and personal interaction. This approach views the organization regarding how members connect and relate and how the needs of the individual influence performance within the organization. The perspective moves away from the job specific functional performance perspective of the classical approach to a human relationship perspective. This perspective focused on trying increase productivity by creating happy employees. The approach falls short because happy employees are not necessarily productive. This leads to the next perspective, human resources.
Resources are defined as things of value, like monetary stockpiles, stockpiles of goods, and with the organizational perspective of human resources, people (Cambridge Dictionary, n.d.). Human resources have value and are assets that can be used by an organization for functionality. The development of the human resources perspective changed employees from things that perform tasks to entities of value both from a production view and intellectually capable of involvement in decision making processes (Hahn & Paynton, 2018).
A systems perspective developed out of the concern regarding the problems of relationships, structure and interdependence (Hahn & Paynton, 2018). Prior perspectives viewed personnel as independent objects. The systems perspective focuses on the integration of people, the communication and development of interdependence.
Last in the discussion is the cultural perspective. Cultures exist as a summation of collective human behavior and intellectual attributes. Language, history, social habits are all components of culture. The cultural perspective views organizations with respect to the organizational society, including habits, language, behavior, artifacts, common values, climate and the like. It treats the organizational as a society. As such, within the larger structure of an organization, subcultures may form much like a country has many subcultures (Miller, K. 2012).
I have worked multiple organizations, each working with different perspectives. While working for an aerospace company, I would say that they employed the human resources approach. Employees were regarded as resources, with intellectual and productive value, to be used and maintained.
My time working at Hewlett Packard was very interesting. It was a conversion time where it moved from a cultural perspective to a human resource perspective. Hewlett Packard was one of the original cultural companies. It developed a culture called the HP Way, which began as a vision of common values and behavior the founders defined early in company history. The culture was pervasive when I began working there in 1993. All CEOs believed in and worked within the HP Way. HP was a hometown, neighborhood and family, all in one package.
A major change came to the company when the company brought in the first-ever non-HP CEO, Carly Fiorina. In one of her first moves, she declared that there was not enough turnover in the ranks of the company and that the lower 5% of the workforce should improve their rankings or they would be fired. She did not truly understand the culture. Additionally, HP had been hiring engineers out of the 95th percentile of graduating engineers for over 40 yrs. It was famous for its engineering capabilities. The 5th percentile of HP engineers were the equivalent of the high-end engineers of most other companies. This move struck a dagger into the heart of the HP culture. The HP Way quickly collapsed from a culture into a buzzword. I left HP in 2005. HP moved from world class R&D innovator to a me-too product developer and re-brander (Kalb, 2012). It happened because core cultural values were not understood and sacrificed for ego and money.
When I started at HP, it was a revered company. Revered for both the culture, both personal and innovative. When I left, it was a company without a soul, and every employee felt it.
Contrast that with the cultural shift achieved at Aetna in 2000. A new CEO was brought in. He listened to the employees, developed a communication rapport, understood the situation of the culture and changed it for the better (Katzenbach, J.R., Steffen, I. & Kronley, C, 2012)
Each organization has its own culture. The management and communication perspectives used in the organization changes behavior. And, developing an understanding of organizational communication perspectives gives both managers and employees the ability to understand and modify behavior. The perspective used points a cultural direction. The management team must be aware of the direction desired and adopt the perspective that will deliver the desired results.
Cambridge Dictionary (n.d.). Resource. Retrieved from https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/resource
Hahn, L.K & Paynton, S.T (28 Sept, 2018). Survey of Communication Study. Creative Commons
Kalb, I. (May 27, 2012) Everything at Hewlett-Packard Started to go Wrong When Cost-Cutting Replaced Innovation. Retrieved from https://www.businessinsider.com/heres-where-everything-at-hewlett-packard-started-to-go-wrong-2012-5
Katzenbach, J.R., Steffen, I. & Kronley, C (July 2012). Cultural Change that Sticks. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2012/07/cultural-change-that-sticks
Miller, K (2012) Organizational Communication, Wadsworth
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