Looking for information on Organizational Behavior.
October 13, 2013 5:27 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for recommendations for books on Organizational Behavior. I have a textbook that I picked up at a yard sale, and it got me hooked. I am overwhelmed by the choices recommended by Amazon. I am interested in all aspects of OB, so organization theory and the human elements like decision making, motivation, psychology, etc. I just do not know what other books/sites/journals are worth reading, either because of my newness to the material and concepts or because they are just poorly written.
posted by awesomelyglorious to Education (7 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Coursera has a class that is currently on about Organizational Behavior. They have a custom made textbook for the course but here's (pdf) the syllabus with references to further reading.
posted by Lucubrator at 5:53 PM on October 13, 2013 [3 favorites]

You might like to read up on Elliott Jaques, one of the earliest and still influential thought leaders in this space.

His insights to 'time span of discretion' are still used (often described as 'levels of work'). The theory being that each level of work is responsible for a specific time-span within the organisation. Level one would be daily, such as a cashier who shows up, works, and checks out. A supervisor might have a horizon of a few weeks, managing schedules of level 1 employees. Level 3 would be looking out 6 months, 4 two years, etc until you get to the CEO who's looking out 10 to 20 years.

The insight Jaques (pronounced 'Jacks') had was that most organisations had too many levels and that they overlapped. How many senior managers are stuck in the day-to-day minutiae? The kind of effort effects the strategy, outcomes, and moral of the organisation, as there often isn't any clear direction and lower level staff are not empowered to make decisions within their time frame of responsibility.

Interestingly, the implication is that a brain surgeon is more or less a level 1 role. They are focused on the work that day, not on the growth or strategy days, months, or years ahead (oversimplification to be sure, but intriguing nonetheless).

He also coined the term "midlife crisis", so there's that.
posted by qwip at 7:11 PM on October 13, 2013

Understanding Organizations by Charles Handy is old but something of a classic. Recommended.
posted by genesta at 11:46 PM on October 13, 2013

One of the more interesting (and sometimes heartbreaking) studies of organizational behavior:
Organizational Learning at NASA: The Challenger and Columbia Accidents.
posted by 26.2 at 12:18 AM on October 14, 2013

We read excerpts from Peter Senge's The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the Learning Organization in one of my Educational Administration courses, and I found it a really readable and interesting introduction. I was definitely prepared to find all of our readings on more "business-school" topics like organizational learning boring and awful, and Senge's book pleasantly surprised me - so much that after the course was finished, I checked the book out of the library so that I could read the whole thing.
posted by augustimagination at 8:43 AM on October 14, 2013

Do you prefer academic reading, or reading geared to the educated layperson? On the more layperson side, I really enjoyed James Surowiecki's The Wisdom of Crowds. He's a staff writer for the New Yorker. It's well written, and has useful end notes referring to other books and references.

On the more academic side, James March has written a lot about the behavior of people in firms. He and Herbert Simon (Economics Nobelist and pioneer thinker in AI) wrote "Organizations" which is still considered a landmark. Also March & Cyert's "Behavioral Theory of the Firm" is worth reading.

I also like Peter Blau's work on bureaucracy (e.g.)
posted by pompelmo at 9:44 AM on October 14, 2013

Mrs. Bureaucrat offers the following:

I did a Master's degree in Industrial and Organizational Psychology. Without knowing much about what specific topics you are interested in, here's what I would suggest.

Honestly, the Wikipedia pages for I/O Psychology and Organizational Behavior look pretty thorough, so you may want to give those a look for a basic introduction.

Some topics I would recommend reading about: Some books written for the lay person:
  • Influence by Robert Cialdini - not specific to organizations, but applicable and interesting
  • Rivethead by Ben Hamper - funny, and a lot of examples of "what not to do" to motivate employees
  • The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande - a persuasive argument for using simple tools to prevent human error
  • Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi - describes the state of "flow" (a focused, concentrated state where you are not too bored but not overly challenged). Csikszentmihalyi is more of a positive psycologist than an I/O psychologist, but it touches on what kinds of work keep people motivated.
Introductory Textbooks:
  • Psychology Applied to Work by Paul Muchinsky - I haven't read it, but Paul Muchinsky's introduction to I/O Psychology textbook is considered the standard. If you run into a cheap copy you should consider picking it up (although any intro I/O Psychology book would probably be interesting reading).
  • You may be interested in picking up an introductory social psychology textbook as well, although I don't have any specific suggestions here.
A few textbooks my graduate program used:
  • Work Motivation in Organizational Behavior by Craig Pinder
  • Leadership: Theory and Practice by Peter Northouse
  • Group Dynamics for Teams by Daniel Levi
  • Organization Development and Change by Thomas Cummings and Christopher Worley
There are also the more nuts-and-bolts topics of I/O Psychology (the "I" side) that you may or may not be interested in, like job analysis, performance appraisal, assessment, psychometrics, and employee training and development.
posted by FreelanceBureaucrat at 4:56 PM on October 14, 2013

« Older replacing igoogle/chrome themes   |   Cable television or like alternatives in Toronto? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.