Understanding Behaviour

a) Behaviour at work is defined by a wide range of influences and values that often interact together. This includes those values governed by individual beliefs and perceptions, organisational conventions, social interaction with colleagues, and professional values that stem from specific roles and my specialist input. Together, these shape and define: (i) how I approach my tasks and responsibilities, (ii) and how I behave towards others at work.

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Core values that are brought to the work place are likely to start at the individual level, where factors such as upbringing influence the way we think and act at work. Over time, these ‘taught’ behaviours are likely to be modified by life experiences and our interaction and development in different settings. In turn, this experience creates a ‘feedback loop’ as we begin to learn what works, and what doesn’t work in different situations. This occurs because behaviour has its own outcomes. For example, I may behave a particular way at work not only because that is what is expected of me, but also because I may want to achieve a particular goal (self-satisfaction, promotion etc). This can be explained in the diagram below:

The entities in bold italic can be considered as influences that make up my values. However, the process above is inherently adaptive as I can change my behaviour at work to influence a desired outcome. It is clear that when I am working that my behaviour is normally needs driven as sometimes I will be thinking of doing tasks that will further my career and at other times I will try and do the best for my team. It is very difficult to explain what action I will take at any particular time as it is dependant on many different variables. For example, speaking to my superiors may prompt an attitude of wanting promotion and therefore wanting to please which consequently leads to hard work. This is an attribute I have, hard working and goal driven which is a quality I possess.

b) Behaviour of colleagues will obviously be different from my own as they will have different kinds of filters that determine the way they act as they do at work. Their motives will also be needs driven. This can cause conflicts at the work place, not necessarily out of malice or intent but from them having their own team goals. The two people that I will talk about will be from opposite sides from spectrum; Peter is a new graduate who just joined the organisation a year ago and Callum is a recently promoted manager who now works in a different division of the organisation. From undertaking a repertory grid, I am able to analyse some higher order values that I think constitute proper behaviour at work. This also helps me to understand what I view to be important characteristics in people I work with.

Looking down the grid, I see much of Peter’s behaviour apparent under in the ‘contrasts’ column, which may explain why there has been a certain degree of conflict. However, in trying to understand why he acts as he does, it may be worthwhile looking at his background. Peter is a new graduate who has obviously not experienced organisational behaviour and the associating pressures that come with meeting tight deadlines. As with many graduates they build a lot of values that via university that stem around working by themselves and at their own pace. This can probably explain why I think he can be lazy and not a team player. Subsequent discussions about his behaviour at his appraisal has revealed that he simply did not understand what was expected from him within a workplace environment.

On the other hand, I find myself having a lot more respect for Callum’s behaviour as I feel he displays many of the ‘desirable’ attributes that I see (or would like to see) in myself. It is worth noting, that the values that drive his behaviour may be considerably different from mine, although the end outcome might be the same. For example, Callum has strong left wing political values, which influence his thinking around the meaning of being a public servant and therefore works hard at his job. By way of contrast, I also value hard working as a key indicator of appropriate behaviour but my values stem from religious beliefs.

c) The above discussion has highlighted the importance of understanding where an individual’s values come from, and how this might help put behavioural patterns into context. Conflicts or difference in opinions can arise because individuals, whether they be managers or staff members, fail to understand what behaviours are expected from them in their respective roles. Conflict resolution can only take place when an effort is made to identify what drives a particular behaviour.