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Human Behaviour in Organisations

(An Introduction to MDP Participants)

M.J. Arul

Man does not live by facts alone; he does by his idiosyncratic
interpretations of them.

If I asked you to share, in all candour, some facts about your job, what would you say? You would start with your job title, I guess, and go on to sample the duties or responsibilities it entails; you would also narrate the problems you encounter in carrying out your responsibilities and talk of the satisfactions and frustrations that you experience on the job. While talking of the problems and frustrations, you might feel an explanation surging within you, attributing the phenomena to inadequacies such as the hierarchy in the system, the know-it-all attitude of the superiors, the irresponsible behaviour of subordinates, lack of teamwork among colleagues, etc.

The situation, assumed above, may be at some variance with the one you face on your job. The degree of dissimilarity notwithstanding, your concern as a manager remains the same and could be summarised as: How can I work through people more effectively?

The people you get to work with are complex and, having changed many hands, they have become even more complex. Unlike parents, you managers acquire second-, third-, fourth-, and nth-hand material to work through in the people you hire!

People's ways of looking at things, events and the world are so unique that you have to study the people before attempting to extract from them the best they are capable of. Organisational scientists the world over assert that human failures (of communication, motivation, judgement, etc.) account for failure in organisations much more than any other inadequacies do. Understanding people at work, therefore, is the corner-stone of organisational success. This course capsule on Human Behaviour is a starter, which, if pursued seriously, will help develop skills for harnessing the enormous potential that resides in the humans you are to manage.

The objective of this course capsule derives from three premises: a) Understanding of oneself and others facilitates behaviour based on choice; b) choice-based, rather than urge-based, behaviour is characteristic of maturity; and c) maturity is an essential property of effective managers. The capsule has thus been designed to help develop an insight into oneself and refine one's ability to understand people at work.

We shall begin by examining the process of thinking by which we acquire knowledge. There we shall identify some of the insidiously operative perceptual quirks which, if unchecked, can vitiate the process.

Knowledge acquired must be used to make it productive. In the context of management, productive use of knowledge necessarily involves interaction with other humans. The effectiveness of these interactions is determined, inter alia, by one's ability to influence others' behaviour. This ability is in turn dependent on certain personal characteristics, such as beliefs, attitudes and styles. We shall, therefore, proceed to cover topics which relate to developable personal qualities that facilitate managerial performance.

Before you're through with this introduction, one pertinent point must needs be mentioned: Because of the particular nature of the subject matter that constitutes this course capsule, factors such as honesty, openness and personal involvement are indispensable -- if one wants to benefit from taking the course; intellectual alertness alone will not suffice.

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