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Human Resource Management : How Groups Behave Differently From Individ

This essay will attempt to answer the above question by not only studying the conduct of individuals and groups in a work context, but also by looking at the causes of behaviour. Organisational behaviour theories, experiments and case studies will be used to investigate the behaviour of first the individual and then the group in a work environment. The term group for the purposes of this assignment as been defined as a formal group which has been established by an organisation at a point in time in with the purpose of achieving a specified goal. Although it is noted that many friendship and informal groupings do develop.

When both the behaviour of the individual and the group have been assessed, a discussion will be made as to how these behavioural patterns differ, why they differ and to what extent they differ.

Individual Behaviour
There are many theories of human behaviour used for the purposes of management and these are constantly being updated. Traditional management thinking focuses on the idea that in order to understand how a person will act in a given set of circumstances, individuals motives have to be assessed. A more modern approach looks at the individuals: abilities, personality, personality traits, ethics and culture.

Traditional View
In earlier models it was first assumed that people were basically the same, that they had the same wants and needs. Leavitt [1] suggested that there are certain generalisations, which are useful in predicting human behaviour. In order to illustrate these generalisations he asked this question, What are the fundamental, unexceptionally truths of human behaviour? Some of the answers he found included: People are products of their environment. People want security. All people want is bread and butter. People are fundamentally lazy. People are fundamentally selfish. People want the chance to show what they can do. Although many of the answers that were received were contradictory, Leavitt believed that at another level the contradiction disappears and that there are three basic assumptions that can be made about human behaviour. Firstly that human behaviour is caused by outside influences this is termed as causality. Secondly is the idea of directness, which assumes that a person’s behaviour when caused is directed towards something, i.e., it is goal orientated. Thirdly is the belief that underlying behaviour there is always a motivation, a need or a want. By using these assumptions a model can be developed for understanding an individual’s conduct. It was thought that if motive influences a behaviour, which allows an individual to arrive at a goal, when the goal is reached the motive no longer exists and so a new motive is created. This has been illustrated in the diagram below.

Basic Model of Behaviour
Stimulus Need Goal
Discomfort behaviour
Source Leavitt [1]
This idea is related to Maslow’s hierarchy theory [2] were there are two basic premises. Firstly that people have needs such as: security, social interaction and self esteem, secondly that these needs are arranged in a hierarchical form. A person will attempt to attain each need in order from the bottom (the most immediate) need to the top need. Maslow’s ideas were generally accepted in business, however they were solely based on observations and never actually proved by empirical, statistical or experimental data. Mangers thought the model to be true because it sounded logical. The Hierarchy Theory has since been updated and improved most notably by Murry H A who suggested that needs are not necessarily arranged in a hierarchical form, his model is more flexible in describing people.

Contemporary View
Another way of studying behaviour is through individual differences, Steers [3] believes that these differences are the main components that will affect the way a person behaves. If we consider this from work perspective the main elements of behaviour are an individual’s distinct: abilities, personality, values and ethics and culture.

A worker’s ability, refers to their capacity and desire to respond to any given situation or problem. Capacity to respond include elements such as mental and physical skill, perception capability and stress tolerance, while desire to respond refers to motivation. It could be argued that the characteristic of ability refers