Positive Organizational Behavior: Are you practising it?

by | Aug 5, 2020 | Management

Organizational Behaviour is a complex study of evolving ideas and practices and we are never meant to be done! (Remember this opening line.)

While OB has been around since the late 1930s or early 1940s, with current circumstances forcing leaders to re-examine and revaluate how they do business, and how they lead, several emerging trends are impacting organizational life in the workplace.

Of these emerging trends, five are relevant now more than ever: remote work, changing workforce demographic, changed expectations of the current workforce, improving productivity and workforce diversity. If not managed properly, these five emerging trends are certain to create problems for everyone; particularly now as we go through the various waves of change in our organizations.

Remote Work has taken over. It is here to stay. We are not going back to a 1990s style workplace environment where people are seated side by side in an open area allowing coughs, sneezes, and sniffles to run rampant. Nor are we going back to a shared office model where 2 or 3 people are squeezed together like sardines to save costs on office space. If you have not yet acclimated to the new remote work model: get on it. It’s here to stay for an awfully long time. Are you the type of leader who is still wearing those foggy, rose-colored glasses looking ahead to the day you can tear down those plexiglass dividers and shove more desks into a hallway to get more human capital in the office? Get with the program: lose the fuzzy glasses and start planning for the next wave. Resilience means adapting to change. Leadership means leading the change and thinking ahead.

Just because your employees are now working remotely does not automatically translate to a lower or poorer work product. How your employees learn to adjust to their new normal (like working remotely, for example) is a joint management/employee responsibility. As a leader, it is up to you to motivate your employees, and provide the necessary resources they will require to work efficiently and productively from home. Get tech-savvy. You will need to do this to stay ahead of the game. Do it now.

Look around you: The workforce demographic has changed. Our people are younger, hipper and in many instances, likely smarter than their leaders.  They are highly educated and ambitious. They like titles. They like to be encouraged. Some of them have young families or are thinking of starting a family—they are dual career couples. This limits their individual flexibility. Allowing flexibility and using a servant leadership model will set your organization apart from the traditional, old-school, outdated, hierarchal, nine-to-five setting.

The expectations of the current workforce have changed. Do you want your employees to be happy and engaged, working away from their homes like busy bees? You, as their fearless leader, must change your own behavior to accommodate these changed expectations. Traditional draws or allurements such as job security, the standard benefits package, and an attractive vacation allotment with early closure of the office on the Friday before a long weekend are no longer sufficient to attract, retain, or motivate today’s top talent. Our employees now demand empowerment and expect equality of status with their managers. They want to be mentored, appreciated, motivated, and, yes; empowered. These expectations of equality shake up the traditional relationship between employer and employee – from the top down. Traditional leadership models are outdated and no longer work. If you are not already practising Management by Walking Around (“MBWA”), start doing it (now). Your people want to see you, know you, and hear from you.

If you want to improve employee engagement and productivity (write this down—some of you will need to read it over a few times): Communicate, communicate, communicate! Sounds logical and simple, right? It never ceases to surprise me when clients ask me how they can improve employee engagement/productivity and I respond with, “Are you communicating in an authentic, transparent and effective manner?”, and those senior leaders look at me and ask, “What do you mean?”

I mean: Are you practising transformational leadership? Are you a transparent and inclusive leader? Do you practise MBWA or do you simply say that you have an “open door policy” whilst hiding out behind your laptop or your desk in your big, cushy office (even though your door is technically ‘open’)? Do your people look up to you? Are you a mentor, are you available, do you value your people?

Drawing from the foundation of positive psychology, many leaders who practise positive organizational behavior can agree on the impact that the above leadership traits have on, and can attest to, the desired work-related employee outcomes. Some of these outcomes include improved performance, job satisfaction, work happiness, and affective commitment to the organization. Isn’t this what we all want?

We live in a diverse and cosmopolitan world. As leaders, we must learn to live with diverse behaviors. Managers must learn to respect diversity. Do you think your workplace is diverse? Your employees may think otherwise. As a leader, are you intentionally employing a workforce comprised of individuals of varying gender, religion, race, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, education, and other attributes? Are you aware of the challenges which come with employing a diverse workforce? Are you culturally sensitive, for example? Diversity, if managed positively, enhances creativity and innovation in an organization as well as ensures better decision–making by providing different perspectives on problems. When not managed properly, diversity leads to increased turnover, heightened inter-personal conflict and more strained communications.

If left unchecked and not effectively managed, a company’s culture can quickly take a downward slide. It can lead to high employee turnover and poor employee motivation. Do you have a strong HR department? Are they guiding you into being a more transparent, open, and honest leader? Are you open to making your organization more positive?

Some important tips leaders will want to remember as we continue to acclimate to our new normal at work:

Partner with your HR professionals: Sustainable, happy workplace cultures are flexible. HR can help navigate workplace complexities to foster positive OB and a great work culture.

Demonstrate that you value your employees: Listen to them. Foster a culture of respect. When respect is demonstrated from the top down, it will reflect in employee satisfaction and engagement.

Recognize your employees’ achievements and reward them with things that matter to each individual employee. Take the time to tell your employees specifically why they are being recognized, and make sure their peers see that they are being acknowledged for their hard work. This is a huge morale-builder!

Diversify and Engage: By hiring diverse candidates who share similar values to those of the company, HR can foster a great cosmopolitan workplace environment.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate: You’re the leader. Your people want to hear from you! HR should be the facilitator of company culture, but it can’t start and stop with HR. Executive management’s messages must set the tone and reflect the company’s culture. Be honest and transparent. Your people’s bullshit meter is working just fine; and if you attempt to lie, hide, manipulate, or self-promote, they will know.

What not to do, you ask?

Don’t hide in your office or behind your computer screen. This isn’t a dating site. Get out there.

Don’t take credit for your employees’ work product.

Don’t lie to your employees. Don’t ignore them, undervalue them, or expect them to come to work for 8 hours a day when you are coming to work for 4 hours a day.

Lead by example and most important of all? Keep it real. Fake is out. Real is the new normal.

As we can see, many factors play a role in the complex study of Organizational Behaviour. Human beings are unique individuals with a wide range of personality traits, learned behaviors, different values, beliefs, ethics and individual motivational, hard-wired drives and needs. We have different goals and aspirations and identify with different roles. We come from different cultures.

Whether working alone or as part of a Team, one must always be cognizant of their own individual behaviour.  Positive OB is for everyone because we all (executives, managers, and employees) have a role to play in how we interact with one another, how we work together, how we learn from each other –and, remember what I said at the outset? We are never meant to be done!

“Growing a culture requires a good storyteller. Changing a culture requires a persuasive editor.”

Effie Tsergas

Founding Principal

Effie Tsergas has been a champion of positive organizational behavior for over twenty-five years. She is the Founding Principal of Tsergas Human Capital.