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3.4 Perception

Learning objectives.

  • Understand the influence of self in the process of perception.
  • Describe how we perceive visual objects and how these tendencies may affect our behavior.
  • Describe the biases of self-perception.
  • Describe the biases inherent in perception of other people.
  • Explain what attributions mean, how we form attributions, and their consequences for organizational behavior.

Our behavior is not only a function of our personality, values, and preferences, but also of the situation. We interpret our environment, formulate responses, and act accordingly. Perception may be defined as the process with which individuals detect and interpret environmental stimuli. What makes human perception so interesting is that we do not solely respond to the stimuli in our environment. We go beyond the information that is present in our environment, pay selective attention to some aspects of the environment, and ignore other elements that may be immediately apparent to other people. Our perception of the environment is not entirely rational. For example, have you ever noticed that while glancing at a newspaper or a news Web site, information that is interesting or important to you jumps out of the page and catches your eye? If you are a sports fan, while scrolling down the pages you may immediately see a news item describing the latest success of your team. If you are the parent of a picky eater, an advice column on toddler feeding may be the first thing you see when looking at the page. So what we see in the environment is a function of what we value, our needs, our fears, and our emotions (Higgins & Bargh, 1987; Keltner, Ellsworth, & Edwards, 1993). In fact, what we see in the environment may be objectively, flat-out wrong because of our personality, values, or emotions. For example, one experiment showed that when people who were afraid of spiders were shown spiders, they inaccurately thought that the spider was moving toward them (Riskin, Moore, & Bowley, 1995). In this section, we will describe some common tendencies we engage in when perceiving objects or other people, and the consequences of such perceptions. Our coverage of biases and tendencies in perception is not exhaustive—there are many other biases and tendencies on our social perception.

Visual Perception

Our visual perception definitely goes beyond the physical information available to us. First of all, we extrapolate from the information available to us. Take a look at the following figure. The white triangle you see in the middle is not really there, but we extrapolate from the information available to us and see it there (Kellman & Shipley, 1991).

Three circles with a triangle taken out of each one. This gives the illusion of a triangle between the three

Our visual perception goes beyond the information physically available. In this figure, we see the white triangle in the middle even though it is not really there.

On the left, a circle surrounded by small circles. On the right, a circle surrounded by large circles. The circles in the middle appear to be different sizes, however, they are in fact the same size.

Which of the circles in the middle is bigger? At first glance, the one on the left may appear bigger, but they are in fact the same size. We compare the middle circle on the left to its surrounding circles, whereas the middle circle on the right is compared to the bigger circles surrounding it.

Our visual perception is often biased because we do not perceive objects in isolation. The contrast between our focus of attention and the remainder of the environment may make an object appear bigger or smaller. This principle is illustrated in the figure with circles. Which of the middle circles is bigger? To most people, the one on the left appears bigger, but this is because it is surrounded by smaller circles. The contrast between the focal object and the objects surrounding it may make an object bigger or smaller to our eye.

How do these tendencies influence behavior in organizations? You may have realized that the fact that our visual perception is faulty may make witness testimony faulty and biased. How do we know whether the employee you judge to be hardworking, fast, and neat is really like that? Is it really true, or are we comparing this person to other people in the immediate environment? Or let’s say that you do not like one of your peers and you think that this person is constantly surfing the Web during work hours. Are you sure? Have you really seen this person surf unrelated Web sites, or is it possible that the person was surfing the Web for work-related purposes? Our biased visual perception may lead to the wrong inferences about the people around us.


Human beings are prone to errors and biases when perceiving themselves. Moreover, the type of bias people have depends on their personality. Many people suffer from self-enhancement bias . This is the tendency to overestimate our performance and capabilities and see ourselves in a more positive light than others see us. People who have a narcissistic personality are particularly subject to this bias, but many others are still prone to overestimating their abilities (John & Robins, 1994). At the same time, other people have the opposing extreme, which may be labeled as self-effacement bias . This is the tendency for people to underestimate their performance, undervalue capabilities, and see events in a way that puts them in a more negative light. We may expect that people with low self-esteem may be particularly prone to making this error. These tendencies have real consequences for behavior in organizations. For example, people who suffer from extreme levels of self-enhancement tendencies may not understand why they are not getting promoted or rewarded, while those who have a tendency to self-efface may project low confidence and take more blame for their failures than necessary.

When perceiving themselves, human beings are also subject to the false consensus error . Simply put, we overestimate how similar we are to other people (Fields & Schuman, 1976; Ross, Greene, & House, 1977). We assume that whatever quirks we have are shared by a larger number of people than in reality. People who take office supplies home, tell white lies to their boss or colleagues, or take credit for other people’s work to get ahead may genuinely feel that these behaviors are more common than they really are. The problem for behavior in organizations is that, when people believe that a behavior is common and normal, they may repeat the behavior more freely. Under some circumstances this may lead to a high level of unethical or even illegal behaviors.

Social Perception

How we perceive other people in our environment is also shaped by our values, emotions, feelings, and personality. Moreover, how we perceive others will shape our behavior, which in turn will shape the behavior of the person we are interacting with.

One of the factors biasing our perception is stereotypes . Stereotypes are generalizations based on group characteristics. For example, believing that women are more cooperative than men, or men are more assertive than women, is a stereotype. Stereotypes may be positive, negative, or neutral. Human beings have a natural tendency to categorize the information around them to make sense of their environment. What makes stereotypes potentially discriminatory and a perceptual bias is the tendency to generalize from a group to a particular individual. If the belief that men are more assertive than women leads to choosing a man over an equally (or potentially more) qualified female candidate for a position, the decision will be biased, potentially illegal, and unfair.

Stereotypes often create a situation called a self-fulfilling prophecy . This cycle occurs when people automatically behave as if an established stereotype is accurate, which leads to reactive behavior from the other party that confirms the stereotype (Snyder, Tanke, & Berscheid, 1977). If you have a stereotype such as “Asians are friendly,” you are more likely to be friendly toward an Asian yourself. Because you are treating the other person better, the response you get may also be better, confirming your original belief that Asians are friendly. Of course, just the opposite is also true. Suppose you believe that “young employees are slackers.” You are less likely to give a young employee high levels of responsibility or interesting and challenging assignments. The result may be that the young employee reporting to you may become increasingly bored at work and start goofing off, confirming your suspicions that young people are slackers!

Stereotypes persist because of a process called selective perception. Selective perception simply means that we pay selective attention to parts of the environment while ignoring other parts. When we observe our environment, we see what we want to see and ignore information that may seem out of place. Here is an interesting example of how selective perception leads our perception to be shaped by the context: As part of a social experiment, in 2007 the Washington Post newspaper arranged Joshua Bell, the internationally acclaimed violin virtuoso, to perform in a corner of the Metro station in Washington DC. The violin he was playing was worth $3.5 million, and tickets for Bell’s concerts usually cost around $100. During the rush hour in which he played for 45 minutes, only one person recognized him, only a few realized that they were hearing extraordinary music, and he made only $32 in tips. When you see someone playing at the metro station, would you expect them to be extraordinary? (Weingarten, 2007)

Our background, expectations, and beliefs will shape which events we notice and which events we ignore. For example, the functional background of executives affects the changes they perceive in their environment (Waller, Huber, & Glick, 1995). Executives with a background in sales and marketing see the changes in the demand for their product, while executives with a background in information technology may more readily perceive the changes in the technology the company is using. Selective perception may perpetuate stereotypes, because we are less likely to notice events that go against our beliefs. A person who believes that men drive better than women may be more likely to notice women driving poorly than men driving poorly. As a result, a stereotype is maintained because information to the contrary may not reach our brain.

A man's hands on a desk during an interview

First impressions are lasting. A job interview is one situation in which first impressions formed during the first few minutes may have consequences for your relationship with your future boss or colleagues.

World Relief Spokane – Job Interviews – CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Let’s say we noticed information that goes against our beliefs. What then? Unfortunately, this is no guarantee that we will modify our beliefs and prejudices. First, when we see examples that go against our stereotypes, we tend to come up with subcategories. For example, when people who believe that women are more cooperative see a female who is assertive, they may classify this person as a “career woman.” Therefore, the example to the contrary does not violate the stereotype, and instead is explained as an exception to the rule (Higgins & Bargh, 1987). Second, we may simply discount the information. In one study, people who were either in favor of or opposed to the death penalty were shown two studies, one showing benefits from the death penalty and the other discounting any benefits. People rejected the study that went against their belief as methodologically inferior and actually reinforced the belief in their original position even more (Lord, Ross, & Lepper, 1979). In other words, trying to debunk people’s beliefs or previously established opinions with data may not necessarily help.

One other perceptual tendency that may affect work behavior is that of first impressions . The first impressions we form about people tend to have a lasting impact. In fact, first impressions, once formed, are surprisingly resilient to contrary information. Even if people are told that the first impressions were caused by inaccurate information, people hold onto them to a certain degree. The reason is that, once we form first impressions, they become independent of the evidence that created them (Ross, Lepper, & Hubbard, 1975). Any information we receive to the contrary does not serve the purpose of altering the original impression. Imagine the first day you met your colleague Anne. She treated you in a rude manner and when you asked for her help, she brushed you off. You may form the belief that she is a rude and unhelpful person. Later, you may hear that her mother is very sick and she is very stressed. In reality she may have been unusually stressed on the day you met her. If you had met her on a different day, you could have thought that she is a really nice person who is unusually stressed these days. But chances are your impression that she is rude and unhelpful will not change even when you hear about her mother. Instead, this new piece of information will be added to the first one: She is rude, unhelpful, and her mother is sick. Being aware of this tendency and consciously opening your mind to new information may protect you against some of the downsides of this bias. Also, it would be to your advantage to pay careful attention to the first impressions you create, particularly during job interviews.

OB Toolbox: How Can I Make a Great First Impression in the Job Interview?

A job interview is your first step to getting the job of your dreams. It is also a social interaction in which your actions during the first 5 minutes will determine the impression you make. Here are some tips to help you create a positive first impression.

  • Your first opportunity to make a great impression starts even before the interview, the moment you send your résumé . Be sure that you send your résumé to the correct people, and spell the name of the contact person correctly! Make sure that your résumé looks professional and is free from typos and grammar problems. Have someone else read it before you hit the send button or mail it.
  • Be prepared for the interview . Many interviews have some standard questions such as “tell me about yourself” or “why do you want to work here?” Be ready to answer these questions. Prepare answers highlighting your skills and accomplishments, and practice your message. Better yet, practice an interview with a friend. Practicing your answers will prevent you from regretting your answers or finding a better answer after the interview is over!
  • Research the company . If you know a lot about the company and the job in question, you will come out as someone who is really interested in the job. If you ask basic questions such as “what does this company do?” you will not be taken as a serious candidate. Visit the company’s Web site as well as others, and learn as much about the company and the job as you can.
  • When you are invited for an office interview, be sure to dress properly . Like it or not, the manner you dress is a big part of the impression you make. Dress properly for the job and company in question. In many jobs, wearing professional clothes, such as a suit, is expected. In some information technology jobs, it may be more proper to wear clean and neat business casual clothes (such as khakis and a pressed shirt) as opposed to dressing formally. Do some investigation about what is suitable. Whatever the norm is, make sure that your clothes fit well and are clean and neat.
  • Be on time to the interview . Being late will show that you either don’t care about the interview or you are not very reliable. While waiting for the interview, don’t forget that your interview has already started. As soon as you enter the company’s parking lot, every person you see on the way or talk to may be a potential influence over the decision maker. Act professionally and treat everyone nicely.
  • During the interview, be polite . Use correct grammar, show eagerness and enthusiasm, and watch your body language. From your handshake to your posture, your body is communicating whether you are the right person for the job!

Sources: Adapted from ideas in Bruce, C. (2007, October). Business Etiquette 101: Making a good first impression. Black Collegian , 38(1), 78–80; Evenson, R. (2007, May). Making a great first impression. Techniques , 14–17; Mather, J., & Watson, M. (2008, May 23). Perfect candidate. The Times Educational Supplement , 4789 , 24–26; Messmer, M. (2007, July). 10 minutes to impress. Journal of Accountancy , 204 (1), 13; Reece, T. (2006, November–December). How to wow! Career World , 35 , 16–18.


Your colleague Peter failed to meet the deadline. What do you do? Do you help him finish up his work? Do you give him the benefit of the doubt and place the blame on the difficulty of the project? Or do you think that he is irresponsible? Our behavior is a function of our perceptions. More specifically, when we observe others behave in a certain way, we ask ourselves a fundamental question: Why? Why did he fail to meet the deadline? Why did Mary get the promotion? Why did Mark help you when you needed help? The answer we give is the key to understanding our subsequent behavior. If you believe that Mark helped you because he is a nice person, your action will be different from your response if you think that Mark helped you because your boss pressured him to.

An attribution is the causal explanation we give for an observed behavior. If you believe that a behavior is due to the internal characteristics of an actor, you are making an internal attribution . For example, let’s say your classmate Erin complained a lot when completing a finance assignment. If you think that she complained because she is a negative person, you are making an internal attribution. An external attribution is explaining someone’s behavior by referring to the situation. If you believe that Erin complained because finance homework was difficult, you are making an external attribution.

When do we make internal or external attributions? Research shows that three factors are the key to understanding what kind of attributions we make.

Consensus : Do other people behave the same way?

Distinctiveness : Does this person behave the same way across different situations?

Consistency : Does this person behave this way in different occasions in the same situation?

Let’s assume that in addition to Erin, other people in the same class also complained (high consensus). Erin does not usually complain in other classes (high distinctiveness). Erin usually does not complain in finance class (low consistency). In this situation, you are likely to make an external attribution, such as thinking that finance homework is difficult. On the other hand, let’s assume that Erin is the only person complaining (low consensus). Erin complains in a variety of situations (low distinctiveness), and every time she is in finance, she complains (high consistency). In this situation, you are likely to make an internal attribution such as thinking that Erin is a negative person (Kelley, 1967; Kelley, 1973).

Interestingly though, our attributions do not always depend on the consensus, distinctiveness, and consistency we observe in a given situation. In other words, when making attributions, we do not always look at the situation objectively. For example, our overall relationship is a factor. When a manager likes a subordinate, the attributions made would be more favorable (successes are attributed to internal causes, while failures are attributed to external causes) (Heneman, Greenberger, & Anonyou, 1989). Moreover, when interpreting our own behavior, we suffer from self-serving bias . This is the tendency to attribute our failures to the situation while attributing our successes to internal causes (Malle, 2006).

Table 3.1 Consensus, distinctiveness, and consistency determine the type of attribution we make in a given situation.

How we react to other people’s behavior would depend on the type of attributions we make. When faced with poor performance, such as missing a deadline, we are more likely to punish the person if an internal attribution is made (such as “the person being unreliable”). In the same situation, if we make an external attribution (such as “the timeline was unreasonable”), instead of punishing the person we might extend the deadline or assign more help to the person. If we feel that someone’s failure is due to external causes, we may feel empathy toward the person and even offer help (LePine & Van Dyne, 2001). On the other hand, if someone succeeds and we make an internal attribution (he worked hard), we are more likely to reward the person, whereas an external attribution (the project was easy) is less likely to yield rewards for the person in question. Therefore, understanding attributions is important to predicting subsequent behavior.

Key Takeaway

Perception is how we make sense of our environment in response to environmental stimuli. While perceiving our surroundings, we go beyond the objective information available to us, and our perception is affected by our values, needs, and emotions. There are many biases that affect human perception of objects, self, and others. When perceiving the physical environment, we fill in gaps and extrapolate from the available information. We also contrast physical objects to their surroundings and may perceive something as bigger, smaller, slower, or faster than it really is. In self-perception, we may commit the self-enhancement or self-effacement bias, depending on our personality. We also overestimate how much we are like other people. When perceiving others, stereotypes infect our behavior. Stereotypes may lead to self-fulfilling prophecies. Stereotypes are perpetuated because of our tendency to pay selective attention to aspects of the environment and ignore information inconsistent with our beliefs. When perceiving others, the attributions we make will determine how we respond to the situation. Understanding the perception process gives us clues to understand human behavior.

  • What are the implications of contrast error for interpersonal interactions? Does this error occur only when we observe physical objects? Or have you encountered this error when perceiving behavior of others?
  • What are the problems of false consensus error? How can managers deal with this tendency?
  • Is there such a thing as a “good” stereotype? Is a “good” stereotype useful or still problematic?
  • How do we manage the fact that human beings develop stereotypes? How would you prevent stereotypes from creating unfairness in decision making?
  • Is it possible to manage the attributions other people make about our behavior? Let’s assume that you have completed a project successfully. How would you maximize the chances that your manager will make an internal attribution? How would you increase the chances of an external attribution when you fail in a task?

Fields, J. M., & Schuman, H. (1976). Public beliefs about the beliefs of the public. Public Opinion Quarterly , 40 (4), 427–448.

Heneman, R. L., Greenberger, D. B., & Anonyou, C. (1989). Attributions and exchanges: The effects of interpersonal factors on the diagnosis of employee performance. Academy of Management Journal , 32 , 466–476.

Higgins, E. T., & Bargh, J. A. (1987). Social cognition and social perception. Annual Review of Psychology , 38 , 369–425.

John, O. P., & Robins, R. W. (1994). Accuracy and bias in self-perception: Individual differences in self-enhancement and the role of narcissism. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology , 66 , 206–219.

Kelley, H. H. (1967). Attribution theory in social psychology. Nebraska Symposium on Motivation , 15 , 192–238.

Kelley, H. H. (1973). The processes of causal attribution. American Psychologist , 28 , 107–128.

Kellman, P. J., & Shipley, T. F. (1991). A theory of visual interpolation in object perception. Cognitive Psychology , 23 , 141–221.

Keltner, D., Ellsworth, P. C., & Edwards, K. (1993). Beyond simple pessimism: Effects of sadness and anger on social perception. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology , 64 , 740–752.

LePine, J. A., & Van Dyne, L. (2001). Peer responses to low performers: An attributional model of helping in the context of groups. Academy of Management Review , 26 , 67–84.

Lord, C. G., Ross, L., & Lepper, M. R. (1979). Biased assimilation and attitude polarization: The effects of prior theories on subsequently considered evidence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology , 37 , 2098–2109.

Malle, B. F. (2006). The actor-observer asymmetry in attribution: A (surprising) meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin , 132 , 895–919.

Riskind, J. H., Moore, R., & Bowley, L. (1995). The looming of spiders: The fearful perceptual distortion of movement and menace. Behaviour Research and Therapy , 33 , 171.

Ross, L., Greene, D., & House, P. (1977). The “false consensus effect”: An egocentric bias in social perception and attribution processes. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology , 13 , 279–301.

Ross, L., Lepper, M. R., & Hubbard, M. (1975). Perseverance in self-perception and social perception: Biased attributional processes in the debriefing paradigm. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology , 32 , 880–892.

Snyder, M., Tanke, E. D., & Berscheid, E. (1977). Social perception and interpersonal behavior: On the self-fulfilling nature of social stereotypes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology , 35 , 656–666.

Waller, M. J., Huber, G. P., & Glick, W. H. (1995). Functional background as a determinant of executives’ selective perception. Academy of Management Journal , 38 , 943–974.

Weingarten, G. (2007, April 8). Pearls before breakfast. Washington Post . Retrieved January 29, 2009, from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/04/AR2007040401721.html .

Organizational Behavior Copyright © 2017 by University of Minnesota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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3.1 The Perceptual Process

  • How do differences in perception affect employee behavior and performance?

By perception , we mean the process by which one screens, selects, organizes, and interprets stimuli to give them meaning. 1 It is a process of making sense out of the environment in order to make an appropriate behavioral response. Perception does not necessarily lead to an accurate portrait of the environment, but rather to a unique portrait, influenced by the needs, desires, values, and disposition of the perceiver. As described by Kretch and associates, 2 an individual’s perception of a given situation is not a photographic representation of the physical world; it is a partial, personal construction in which certain objects, selected by the individual for a major role, are perceived in an individual manner. Every perceiver is, as it were, to some degree a nonrepresentational artist, painting a picture of the world that expresses an individual view of reality.

The multitude of objects that vie for attention are first selected or screened by individuals. This process is called perceptual selectivity . Certain of these objects catch our attention, while others do not. Once individuals notice a particular object, they then attempt to make sense out of it by organizing or categorizing it according to their unique frame of reference and their needs. This second process is termed perceptual organization . When meaning has been attached to an object, individuals are in a position to determine an appropriate response or reaction to it. Hence, if we clearly recognize and understand we are in danger from a falling rock or a car, we can quickly move out of the way.

Because of the importance of perceptual selectivity for understanding the perception of work situations, we will examine this concept in some detail before considering the topic of social perception.

Perceptual Selectivity: Seeing What We See

As noted above, perceptual selectivity refers to the process by which individuals select objects in the environment for attention. Without this ability to focus on one or a few stimuli instead of the hundreds constantly surrounding us, we would be unable to process all the information necessary to initiate behavior. In essence, perceptual selectivity works as follows (see Exhibit 3.2 ). The individual is first exposed to an object or stimulus—a loud noise, a new car, a tall building, another person, and so on. Next, the individual focuses attention on this one object or stimulus, as opposed to others, and concentrates his efforts on understanding or comprehending the stimulus. For example, while conducting a factory tour, two managers came across a piece of machinery. One manager’s attention focused on the stopped machine; the other manager focused on the worker who was trying to fix it. Both managers simultaneously asked the worker a question. The first manager asked why the machine was stopped, and the second manager asked if the employee thought that he could fix it. Both managers were presented with the same situation, but they noticed different aspects. This example illustrates that once attention has been directed, individuals are more likely to retain an image of the object or stimulus in their memory and to select an appropriate response to the stimulus. These various influences on selective attention can be divided into external influences and internal (personal) influences (see Exhibit 3.3 ).

External Influences on Selective Attention

External influences consist of the characteristics of the observed object or person that activate the senses. Most external influences affect selective attention because of either their physical properties or their dynamic properties.

Physical Properties. The physical properties of the objects themselves often affect which objects receive attention by the perceiver. Emphasis here is on the unique, different, and out of the ordinary. A particularly important physical property is size . Generally, larger objects receive more attention than smaller ones. Advertising companies use the largest signs and billboards allowed to capture the perceiver’s attention. However, when most of the surrounding objects are large, a small object against a field of large objects may receive more attention. In either case, size represents an important variable in perception. Moreover, brighter, louder, and more colorful objects tend to attract more attention than objects of less intensity . For example, when a factory foreman yells an order at his subordinates, it will probably receive more notice (although it may not receive the desired response) from workers. It must be remembered here, however, that intensity heightens attention only when compared to other comparable stimuli. If the foreman always yells, employees may stop paying much attention to the yelling. Objects that contrast strongly with the background against which they are observed tend to receive more attention than less-contrasting objects. An example of the contrast principle can be seen in the use of plant and highway safety signs. A terse message such as “Danger” is lettered in black against a yellow or orange background. A final physical characteristic that can heighten perceptual awareness is the novelty or unfamiliarity of the object. Specifically, the unique or unexpected seen in a familiar setting (an executive of a conservative company who comes to work in Bermuda shorts) or the familiar seen in an incongruous setting (someone in church holding a can of beer) will receive attention.

Dynamic Properties. The second set of external influences on selective attention are those that either change over time or derive their uniqueness from the order in which they are presented. The most obvious dynamic property is motion . We tend to pay attention to objects that move against a relatively static background. This principle has long been recognized by advertisers, who often use signs with moving lights or moving objects to attract attention. In an organizational setting, a clear example is a rate-buster, who shows up his colleagues by working substantially faster, attracting more attention.

Another principle basic to advertising is repetition of a message or image. Work instructions that are repeated tend to be received better, particularly when they concern a dull or boring task on which it is difficult to concentrate. This process is particularly effective in the area of plant safety. Most industrial accidents occur because of careless mistakes during monotonous activities. Repeating safety rules and procedures can often help keep workers alert to the possibilities of accidents.

Personal Influences on Selective Attention

In addition to a variety of external factors, several important personal factors are also capable of influencing the extent to which an individual pays attention to a particular stimulus or object in the environment. The two most important personal influences on perceptual readiness are response salience and response disposition .

Response Salience. This is a tendency to focus on objects that relate to our immediate needs or wants. Response salience in the work environment is easily identified. A worker who is tired from many hours of work may be acutely sensitive to the number of hours or minutes until quitting time. Employees negotiating a new contract may know to the penny the hourly wage of workers doing similar jobs across town. Managers with a high need to achieve may be sensitive to opportunities for work achievement, success, and promotion. Finally, female managers may be more sensitive than many male managers to condescending male attitudes toward women. Response salience, in turn, can distort our view of our surroundings. For example, as Ruch notes:

“Time spent on monotonous work is usually overestimated. Time spent in interesting work is usually underestimated. . . . Judgment of time is related to feelings of success or failure. Subjects who are experiencing failure judge a given interval as longer than do subjects who are experiencing success. A given interval of time is also estimated as longer by subjects trying to get through a task in order to reach a desired goal than by subjects working without such motivation.” 3

Response Disposition. Whereas response salience deals with immediate needs and concerns, response disposition is the tendency to recognize familiar objects more quickly than unfamiliar ones. The notion of response disposition carries with it a clear recognition of the importance of past learning on what we perceive in the present. For instance, in one study, a group of individuals was presented with a set of playing cards with the colors and symbols reversed—that is, hearts and diamonds were printed in black, and spades and clubs in red. Surprisingly, when subjects were presented with these cards for brief time periods, individuals consistently described the cards as they expected them to be (red hearts and diamonds, black spades and clubs) instead of as they really were. They were predisposed to see things as they always had been in the past. 4

Thus, the basic perceptual process is in reality a fairly complicated one. Several factors, including our own personal makeup and the environment, influence how we interpret and respond to the events we focus on. Although the process itself may seem somewhat complicated, it in fact represents a shorthand to guide us in our everyday behavior. That is, without perceptual selectivity we would be immobilized by the millions of stimuli competing for our attention and action. The perceptual process allows us to focus our attention on the more salient events or objects and, in addition, allows us to categorize such events or objects so that they fit into our own conceptual map of the environment.

Expanding Around the Globe

Which car would you buy.

When General Motors teamed up with Toyota to form California-based New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. (NUMMI), they had a great idea. NUMMI would manufacture not only the popular Toyota Corolla but would also make a GM car called the Geo Prizm. Both cars would be essentially identical except for minor styling differences. Economies of scale and high quality would benefit the sales of both cars. Unfortunately, General Motors forgot one thing. The North American consumer holds a higher opinion of Japanese-built cars than American-made ones. As a result, from the start of the joint venture, Corollas have sold rapidly, while sales of Geo Prizms have languished.

With hindsight, it is easy to explain what happened in terms of perceptual differences. That is, the typical consumer simply perceived the Corolla to be of higher quality (and perhaps higher status) and bought accordingly. Not only was the Prizm seen more skeptically by consumers, but General Motors’ insistence on a whole new name for the product left many buyers unfamiliar with just what they were buying. Perception was that main reason for lagging sales; however, the paint job on the Prizm was viewed as being among the worst ever. As a result, General Motors lost $80 million on the Prizm in its first year of sales. Meanwhile, demand for the Corolla exceeded supply.

The final irony here is that no two cars could be any more alike than the Prizm and the Corolla. They are built on the same assembly line by the same workers to the same design specifications. They are, in fact, the same car. The only difference is in how the consumers perceive the two cars—and these perceptions obviously are radically different.

Over time, however, perceptions did change. While there was nothing unique about the Prizm, the vehicle managed to sell pretty well for the automaker and carried on well into the 2000s. The Prizm was also the base for the Pontiac Vibe, which was based on the Corolla platform as well, and this is one of the few collaborations that worked really well.

Sources: C. Eitreim, “10 Odd Automotive Brand Collaborations (And 15 That Worked),” Car Culture , January 19, 2019; R. Hof, “This Team-Up Has It All—Except Sales,” Business Week, August 14, 1989, p. 35; C. Eitreim, “15 GM Cars With The Worst Factory Paint Jobs (And 5 That'll Last Forever),” Motor Hub , November 8, 2018.

Social Perception in Organizations

Up to this point, we have focused on an examination of basic perceptual processes—how we see objects or attend to stimuli. Based on this discussion, we are now ready to examine a special case of the perceptual process— social perception as it relates to the workplace. Social perception consists of those processes by which we perceive other people. 5 Particular emphasis in the study of social perception is placed on how we interpret other people, how we categorize them, and how we form impressions of them.

Clearly, social perception is far more complex than the perception of inanimate objects such as tables, chairs, signs, and buildings. This is true for at least two reasons. First, people are obviously far more complex and dynamic than tables and chairs. More-careful attention must be paid in perceiving them so as not to miss important details. Second, an accurate perception of others is usually far more important to us personally than are our perceptions of inanimate objects. The consequences of misperceiving people are great. Failure to accurately perceive the location of a desk in a large room may mean we bump into it by mistake. Failure to perceive accurately the hierarchical status of someone and how the person cares about this status difference might lead you to inappropriately address the person by their first name or use slang in their presence and thereby significantly hurt your chances for promotion if that person is involved in such decisions. Consequently, social perception in the work situation deserves special attention.

We will concentrate now on the three major influences on social perception: the characteristics of (1) the person being perceived, (2) the particular situation, and (3) the perceiver. When taken together, these influences are the dimensions of the environment in which we view other people. It is important for students of management to understand the way in which they interact (see Exhibit 3.4 ).

The way in which we are evaluated in social situations is greatly influenced by our own unique sets of personal characteristics. That is, our dress, talk, and gestures determine the kind of impressions people form of us. In particular, four categories of personal characteristics can be identified: (1) physical appearance, (2) verbal communication, (3) nonverbal communication, and (4) ascribed attributes.

Physical Appearance. A variety of physical attributes influence our overall image. These include many of the obvious demographic characteristics such as age, sex, race, height, and weight. A study by Mason found that most people agree on the physical attributes of a leader (i.e., what leaders should look like), even though these attributes were not found to be consistently held by actual leaders. However, when we see a person who appears to be assertive, goal-oriented, confident, and articulate, we infer that this person is a natural leader. 6 Another example of the powerful influence of physical appearance on perception is clothing. People dressed in business suits are generally thought to be professionals, whereas people dressed in work clothes are assumed to be lower-level employees.

Verbal and Nonverbal Communication. What we say to others—as well as how we say it—can influence the impressions others form of us. Several aspects of verbal communication can be noted. First, the precision with which one uses language can influence impressions about cultural sophistication or education. An accent provides clues about a person’s geographic and social background. The tone of voice used provides clues about a speaker’s state of mind. Finally, the topics people choose to converse about provide clues about them.

Impressions are also influenced by nonverbal communication—how people behave. For instance, facial expressions often serve as clues in forming impressions of others. People who consistently smile are often thought to have positive attitudes. 7 A whole field of study that has recently emerged is body language , the way in which people express their inner feelings subconsciously through physical actions: sitting up straight versus being relaxed, looking people straight in the eye versus looking away from people. These forms of expressive behavior provide information to the perceiver concerning how approachable others are, how self-confident they are, or how sociable they are.

Ascribed Attributes. Finally, we often ascribe certain attributes to a person before or at the beginning of an encounter; these attributes can influence how we perceive that person. Three ascribed attributes are status, occupation, and personal characteristics. We ascribe status to someone when we are told that the person is an executive, holds the greatest sales record, or has in some way achieved unusual fame or wealth. Research has consistently shown that people attribute different motives to people they believe to be high or low in status, even when these people behave in an identical fashion. 8 For instance, high-status people are seen as having greater control over their behavior and as being more self-confident and competent; they are given greater influence in group decisions than low-status people. Moreover, high-status people are generally better liked than low-status people. Occupations also play an important part in how we perceive people. Describing people as salespersons, accountants, teamsters, or research scientists conjures up distinct pictures of these various people before any firsthand encounters. In fact, these pictures may even determine whether there can be an encounter.

Characteristics of the Situation

The second major influence on how we perceive others is the situation in which the perceptual process occurs. Two situational influences can be identified: (1) the organization and the employee’s place in it, and (2) the location of the event.

Organizational Role. An employee’s place in the organizational hierarchy can also influence his perceptions. A classic study of managers by Dearborn and Simon emphasizes this point. In this study, executives from various departments (accounting, sales, production) were asked to read a detailed and factual case about a steel company. 9 Next, each executive was asked to identify the major problem a new president of the company should address. The findings showed clearly that the executives’ perceptions of the most important problems in the company were influenced by the departments in which they worked. Sales executives saw sales as the biggest problem, whereas production executives cited production issues. Industrial relations and public relations executives identified human relations as the primary problem in need of attention.

In addition to perceptual differences emerging horizontally across departments, such differences can also be found when we move vertically up or down the hierarchy. The most obvious difference here is seen between managers and unions, where the former see profits, production, and sales as vital areas of concern for the company whereas the latter place much greater emphasis on wages, working conditions, and job security. Indeed, our views of managers and workers are clearly influenced by the group to which we belong. The positions we occupy in organizations can easily color how we view our work world and those in it. Consider the results of a classic study of perceptual differences between superiors and subordinates. 10 Both groups were asked how often the supervisor gave various forms of feedback to the employees. The results, shown in Table 3.1 , demonstrate striking differences based on one’s location in the organizational hierarchy.

Location of Event. Finally, how we interpret events is also influenced by where the event occurs. Behaviors that may be appropriate at home, such as taking off one’s shoes, may be inappropriate in the office. Acceptable customs vary from country to country. For instance, assertiveness may be a desirable trait for a sales representative in the United States, but it may be seen as being brash or coarse in Japan or China. Hence, the context in which the perceptual activity takes place is important.

Characteristics of the Perceiver

The third major influence on social perception is the personality and viewpoint of the perceiver. Several characteristics unique to our personalities can affect how we see others. These include (1) self-concept, (2) cognitive structure, (3) response salience, and (4) previous experience with the individual. 11

Self-Concept. Our self-concept represents a major influence on how we perceive others. This influence is manifested in several ways. First, when we understand ourselves (i.e., can accurately describe our own personal characteristics), we are better able to perceive others accurately. Second, when we accept ourselves (i.e., have a positive self-image), we are more likely to see favorable characteristics in others. Studies have shown that if we accept ourselves as we are, we broaden our view of others and are more likely to view people uncritically. Conversely, less secure people often find faults in others. Third, our own personal characteristics influence the characteristics we notice in others. For instance, people with authoritarian tendencies tend to view others in terms of power, whereas secure people tend to see others as warm rather than cold. 12 From a management standpoint, these findings emphasize how important it is for administrators to understand themselves; they also provide justification for the human relations training programs that are popular in many organizations today.

Cognitive Structure. Our cognitive structures also influence how we view people. People describe each other differently. Some use physical characteristics such as tall or short, whereas others use central descriptions such as deceitful, forceful, or meek. Still others have more complex cognitive structures and use multiple traits in their descriptions of others; hence, a person may be described as being aggressive, honest, friendly, and hardworking. (See the discussion in Individual and Cultural Differences on cognitive complexity.) Ostensibly, the greater our cognitive complexity—our ability to differentiate between people using multiple criteria—the more accurate our perception of others. People who tend to make more complex assessments of others also tend to be more positive in their appraisals. 13 Research in this area highlights the importance of selecting managers who exhibit high degrees of cognitive complexity. These individuals should form more accurate perceptions of the strengths and weaknesses of their subordinates and should be able to capitalize on their strengths while ignoring or working to overcome their weaknesses.

Response Salience. This refers to our sensitivity to objects in the environment as influenced by our particular needs or desires. Response salience can play an important role in social perception because we tend to see what we want to see. A company personnel manager who has a bias against women, minorities, or handicapped persons would tend to be adversely sensitive to them during an employment interview. This focus may cause the manager to look for other potentially negative traits in the candidate to confirm his biases. The influence of positive arbitrary biases is called the halo effect , whereas the influence of negative biases is often called the horn effect . Another personnel manager without these biases would be much less inclined to be influenced by these characteristics when viewing prospective job candidates.

Previous Experience with the Individual. Our previous experiences with others often will influence the way in which we view their current behavior. When an employee has consistently received poor performance evaluations, a marked improvement in performance may go unnoticed because the supervisor continues to think of the individual as a poor performer. Similarly, employees who begin their careers with several successes develop a reputation as fast-track individuals and may continue to rise in the organization long after their performance has leveled off or even declined. The impact of previous experience on present perceptions should be respected and studied by students of management. For instance, when a previously poor performer earnestly tries to perform better, it is important for this improvement to be recognized early and properly rewarded. Otherwise, employees may give up, feeling that nothing they do will make any difference.

Together, these factors determine the impressions we form of others (see Exhibit 3.4 ). With these impressions, we make conscious and unconscious decisions about how we intend to behave toward people. Our behavior toward others, in turn, influences the way they regard us. Consequently, the importance of understanding the perceptual process, as well as factors that contribute to it, is apparent for managers. A better understanding of ourselves and careful attention to others leads to more accurate perceptions and more appropriate actions.

Concept Check

  • How can you understand what makes up an individual’s personality?
  • How does the content of the situation affect the perception of the perceiver?
  • What are the characteristics that the perceiver can have on interpreting personality?

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case study perception in organizational behavior

Perception in Organizational Behavior

Concept map.

case study perception in organizational behavior

Exploring the role of perception in organizational behavior, this content delves into how it shapes interactions, decision-making, and business dynamics. Perception is influenced by personal attributes, target characteristics, and situational context. It affects team dynamics, leadership, and conflict resolution, with perceptual biases like stereotyping and the halo effect playing a significant role. Case studies illustrate the practical implications of perception in business, emphasizing the need for strategic management of perceptual influences.

Definition and Importance of Perception

Cognitive process of interpreting and understanding environment.

Perception is the cognitive process by which individuals interpret and understand their environment, influencing their behavior and decision-making in organizations

Factors influencing perception

Perceiver's attributes

Perception is shaped by the perceiver's attitudes, motives, and experiences, which can impact their behavior and decision-making in organizations

Characteristics of the target being perceived

Perception is also influenced by the characteristics of the target being perceived, such as its novelty or motion, which can affect how individuals interpret and understand their environment in organizations

Situational context

The situational context, including time and social setting, can also impact perception and influence behavior and decision-making in organizations

Impact of perception in the business world

Perception significantly impacts decision-making, conflicts, communication, and performance evaluations in organizations

Perception Process

Reception and interpretation of sensory information.

The perception process involves the reception and interpretation of sensory information, which is filtered through individual biases and experiences

External factors influencing perception

Nature of the perceived object or event

The nature of the perceived object or event can influence how individuals interpret and understand their environment in organizations

Context of the situation

The context of the situation, such as an employee's background and prior experiences, can affect their perception of organizational changes or new initiatives

Perceptual constancies and biases

Perceptual constancies allow individuals to see objects as unchanging, while biases can lead to systematic errors in judgment that can impact team dynamics, decision-making, and conflict resolution in organizations

Case Studies

Generational conflicts in a multinational corporation.

A multinational corporation experienced generational conflicts due to perceptions about technology adoption, which were resolved through team-building activities and open dialogue

Unilever's "Real Beauty" campaign for Dove

Unilever's "Real Beauty" campaign for Dove challenged beauty stereotypes and positively shifted consumer perceptions, leading to increased brand loyalty and sales

Interdisciplinary importance of perception in business

Perception's influence extends across various business scenarios, highlighting its importance in human resources, marketing, and maintaining a realistic and constructive organizational perspective

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case study perception in organizational behavior

Definition of Organizational Behavior

Study of individual/group dynamics in a business setting.

case study perception in organizational behavior

Influence of Perception on Decision-Making

Interprets environment, affects choices and judgments in business.

case study perception in organizational behavior

Impact of Perception on Interpersonal Relations

Shapes understanding of others, guides interactions and communication.

case study perception in organizational behavior

Misunderstandings and conflicts within teams may arise from ______, affecting communication and information exchange.

differing perceptions

case study perception in organizational behavior

Influence of Individual Biases on Perception

Perception shaped by personal biases/experiences, affecting interpretation of sensory info.

Role of External Factors in Perception

Perception influenced by object/event nature and situational context.

Perception of Project Viability by Employees

Employees' backgrounds/experiences influence their view on a project's success potential.

______ are judgment errors in business perception that stem from one's own expectations and attitudes, affecting team interactions and leadership decisions.

Perceptual biases

Generational tech perception conflict resolution

Multinational corp resolved generational conflicts by team-building and dialogue, enhancing tech adoption.

Impact of 'Real Beauty' campaign

Dove's campaign challenged beauty stereotypes, shifted consumer perceptions, increased loyalty and sales.

Strategic management of perception

Businesses must recognize and manage perceptions strategically for success, as shown in case studies.

In ______, a job seeker's view of an organization's environment can affect their desire to apply.

human resources

In ______, customer views shape buying choices and are shaped by elements like ______ and ______.

marketing branding advertising

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Perception's Function in Organizational Behavior

Perception plays a critical role in organizational behavior, which is the study of how people interact within groups in a business setting. It is the cognitive process by which individuals interpret and understand their environment, influencing their behavior, decision-making, and interpersonal relations. Perception is shaped by the perceiver's attributes, such as attitudes, motives, and experiences; the characteristics of the target being perceived, such as its novelty or motion; and the situational context, including the time and social setting. Understanding these factors is essential for effectively managing and predicting behavior in organizations.

case study perception in organizational behavior

The Impact of Perception on Business Dynamics

Perception significantly impacts various aspects of the business world. It guides decision-making processes, as individuals base their choices on their subjective interpretation of information. Conflicts often stem from differing perceptions, which can lead to misunderstandings within teams or between different organizational levels. Effective communication is contingent upon aligned perceptions, and when misinterpretations occur, it can hinder information exchange. Additionally, performance evaluations are susceptible to perceptual biases, potentially affecting fairness and accuracy in assessments.

Dissecting the Perception Process in Organizational Contexts

The perception process involves the reception and interpretation of sensory information, filtered through individual biases and experiences. External factors, such as the nature of the perceived object or event and the context of the situation, also influence perception. For instance, an employee's background and prior experiences can affect their perception of a project's viability. Understanding these external influences is crucial for managers to anticipate how employees might respond to organizational changes or new initiatives.

Perceptual Constancies and Biases in Organizational Behavior

Perceptual constancies and biases are key concepts in the study of perception within business. Perceptual constancies allow individuals to see objects as unchanging even with variations in sensory input. In contrast, perceptual biases are systematic errors in judgment that arise from personal expectations and attitudes. These biases, including stereotyping, the halo effect, projection, and attribution errors, can influence team dynamics, leadership styles, decision-making processes, and conflict resolution strategies. Awareness and management of these biases are vital for fostering a constructive organizational culture.

Case Studies on Perception's Influence in Business

Case studies provide valuable insights into the effects of perception in business. For instance, a multinational corporation experienced generational conflicts due to perceptions about technology adoption. By implementing team-building activities and encouraging dialogue, the company overcame these challenges. Another example is Unilever's "Real Beauty" campaign for Dove, which challenged beauty stereotypes and positively shifted consumer perceptions, leading to increased brand loyalty and sales. These examples underscore the necessity of recognizing and strategically managing perceptions to drive business success.

Perception in Business Scenarios Across Disciplines

Perception's influence extends across various business scenarios, highlighting its interdisciplinary importance. In human resources, a candidate's perception of a company's culture can determine their interest in a position. In marketing, consumer perceptions drive purchasing decisions and are influenced by factors such as branding and advertising. However, perceptions can be distorted by external influences, such as an employee's misconceptions about pay equity, which may not align with their actual contributions or the organization's fiscal realities. It is imperative for businesses to understand and address these perceptual influences to maintain a realistic and constructive organizational perspective.

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Table of contents (9 chapters)

Front matter, case study analysis of organisational behaviour, analysing individual behaviour in organisations, the meaning of work, motivation and commitment, the management of meaning, motivation and commitment, analysing group behaviour in organisations, interpersonal relations and group decision-making, analysing organisational behaviour, inter-group relations, organisational design and change, technology and organisation, analysing organisational environments, organisation and environment, back matter.

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Book Title : Critical Cases in Organisational Behaviour

Authors : J. Martin Corbett

Series Title : Management, Work and Organisations

DOI : https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-349-23295-6

Publisher : Palgrave London

eBook Packages : Palgrave Business & Management Collection

Copyright Information : Macmillan Publishers Limited 1994

Edition Number : 1

Number of Pages : XI, 304

Topics : Organization , Industrial, Organisational and Economic Psychology

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Getuplearn – Communication, Marketing, HRM, Tutorial

Perception in Organisational Behavior: Definition, Features, Process, Factors, Characteristics

  • Post author: Anuj Kumar
  • Post published: 29 July 2023
  • Post category: Economy / Organizational Behavior
  • Post comments: 0 Comments

Table of Contents

  • 1 Perception in Organisational Behavior
  • 2 Definition of Perception in Organisational Behavior
  • 3 Features of Perception
  • 4.1 Stimulus Situation
  • 4.2 Physiological Mechanism
  • 4.3 Interpretation is a Highly Crucial Sub-Process
  • 4.4 Feedback
  • 4.5 Perception Ends in Reaction or Respons
  • 5.1 Perceiver
  • 5.3 Situation
  • 6.1 Stimuli
  • 6.2 Selection
  • 6.3 Organization
  • 6.4 Interpretation
  • 6.5 Response
  • 7.1 Attitudes
  • 7.3 Motives
  • 7.4 Self-Concept
  • 7.5 Interest
  • 7.6 Cognitive Structure
  • 7.7 Expectations
  • 8.1 What is Perception?
  • 8.2 What is the simple definition of perception?
  • 8.3 What are the 5 processes of perception?
  • 8.4 What are the factors influencing perception?
  • 8.5 What are the 5 stages of the perceptual process?
  • 8.6 What are the characteristics of perceiver?

Perception in Organisational Behavior

We don’t see things as they are; we see things as we are.” Perception can be defined as a process by which individuals select, organize and interpret their sensory impressions, so as to give meaning to their environment.

Perception is a complex process and differs from person to person. People’s behavior is influenced by their perception of reality, rather than the actual reality.

Definition of Perception in Organisational Behavior

Perception is the process of receiving information and making sense of the world around us. It involves deciding which information to notice, how to categorize this information and how to interpret it within the framework of existing knowledge. Getuplearn
Selection and organization of material which stems from the outside environment at one time or the other to provide the meaningful entity we experience. Kolasa
Perception may be defined as a process by which individuals organize and interpret their sensory impressions in order to give meaning to their environment. S.P. Robbins
Perception includes all those processes by which an individual receives information about his environment – seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting and smelling. Joseph Reitz

Features of Perception

Following are some features of perception , which are as under:

  • Perception is a mental process, whereby an individual selects data or information from the environment, organizes it, and draws significance or meaning from it.
  • Perception is basically a cognitive or thinking process and an individual’s activities, emotions, feelings, etc. are based on his perception.
  • Perception being an intellectual and cognitive process will be subjective in nature. This means that different people may perceive the same environment differently based on the effect of the environment.

Process of Perception

Perception involves five sub-processes. They are stimulus, registration, interpretation, feedback, and consequence. The following are the steps of the process of perception :

Stimulus Situation

Physiological mechanism, interpretation is a highly crucial sub-process, perception ends in reaction or respons.

Process of Perception

Perception initiates with the presence of a stimulus situation. In organizational settings the superior forms the stimulus situation for the subordinate’s perceptual process.

Registration involves the physiological mechanism including both sensory and neural. Obviously, an individual’s physiological ability to hear and see influences his perception.

Interpretation is a highly crucial sub-process. Other psychological processes assist in perceptual interpretation. For instance, in work settings, motivation, personality , and learning process determine an individual’s interpretation of a stimulus situation.

Feedback is important for interpreting perceptual event data. In work settings, the psychological feedback that is likely to affect a subordinate’s perception may be in the form of a variation in the behavior of the superior.

Perception ends in reaction or response, which may be in the overt or covert form. As a consequence of perception, an individual responds to work demands. These sub-processes indicate the complexity of perception.

Factors Influencing Perception

A number of factors operate to shape and sometimes distort perception. These factors can reside in the perceiver, in the object or target being perceived, or in the context of the situation in which the perception is made.

Factors Influencing Perception

When an individual looks at a target and attempts to interpret what he or she sees, the interpretation is heavily influenced by the personal characteristics of the individual perceiver. Among the more relevant personal characteristics affecting perception are attitudes, motives, interests, past experiences, and expectations.

The characteristics of the target being observed can affect the perception. Loud people are more likely to be noticed than the quiet ones. There are extremely attractive and unattractive individuals. Motion, Sounds, Size, and other attributes of a target shape the way we see it.

The context in which we see the objects or events is important. Elements in the surrounding environment influence our perception. One may not notice a 25-year-old female in an evening gown and heavy makeup; yet the same woman, attired for management class would certainly catch attention.

Perceptual Process

Perception is the process that involves seeing, receiving, selecting, organizing , interpreting, and giving meaning to the environment. This meaning is built on past experiences and accumulated values. The process involves input-throughput-output.

There are various stimuli that act on a person which are cognitively processed by an individual and ultimately result in behavior or action. The steps of the perceptual process are explained below:



Perceptual Process

The process of perception starts with a stimuli. Through our sensory organs we receive various stimuli. Stimuli take five forms we see things, we hear sounds, we smell, we taste and we touch things.

Individuals are bombarded with enormous stimuli which are selectively accepted by them. They tend to pay attention to only these constituents of their environment which are consistent with or which reinforce their own expectations.

The selection is not random but depends on internal and external factors. Internal factors relate to a personal profile, age, sex, interest, etc. External factors that lead to selective selection are the intensity of stimuli, their size, color, movement, repetition, and so on.

Stimuli are organized to give some meaning to them. There are three ways by which the selected stimuli are organized. These ways are grouping closure, and simplification. Grouping is based on the similarity and proximity of various perceived stimuli.

Closure is used to fill the gaps in incomplete information to make them more meaningful. Simplification is used to make the information more meaningful and understandable. It can be said that this is the process of placing selected perceptual stimuli into a framework for “storage”.

The information collected and organized remains useless until some meaning is attached to it. Interpretation is the most important element of the entire perceptual process. The information collected and organized makes no sense without interpretation. Interpretation is basically assigning meaning.

It is the last element in the perceptual process. It is the end result of the entire perceptual process. The action may be positive or negative. Action may also be overt or covert. An overt action is easily visible and covert action relates to a change in attitudes, opinions, feelings, impressions etc.

Characteristics of Perceiver

Several characteristics of the perceiver can affect perception. When an individual looks at a target and attempts to interpret what he or she stands: for, that interpretation is heavily influenced by the personal characteristics of the individual perceiver. The major characteristics of perceiver influencing perception are:


Cognitive structure, expectations.

Characteristics of Perceiver

The perceiver’s attitudes affect perception. For example, suppose Mr. X is interviewing candidates for a very important position in his organization a position that requires negotiating contracts with suppliers, most of whom are male.

Mr. X may feel that women are not capable of holding their own in tough negotiations. This attitude will doubtless affect his perceptions of the female candidates he interviews.

Moods can have a strong influence on the way we perceive someone. We think differently when we are happy. In addition, we remember information that is consistent with our mood state better than information that is inconsistent with our mood state.

When in a positive mood, we form more positive impressions of others. When in a negative mood, we tend to evaluate others unfavorably.

Unsatisfied needs or motives stimulate individuals and may exert a strong influence on their perceptions. For example, in an organizational context, a boss who is insecure perceives a subordinate’s efforts to do an outstanding job as a threat to his or her own position.

Personal insecurity can be translated into the perception that others are out to “get my job”, regardless of the intention of the subordinates.

Another factor that can affect social perception is the perceivers’ self-concept. An individual with a positive self-concept tends to notice positive attributes in another person. In contrast, a negative self- concept can lead a perceiver to pick out negative traits in another person. Greater understanding of self allows us to have more accurate perceptions of others.

The focus of our attention appears to be influenced by our interests. Because our individual interests differ considerably, what one person notices in a situation can differ from what others perceive.

For example, the supervisor who has just been reprimanded by his boss for coming late is more likely to notice his colleagues coming late tomorrow than he did last week. If you are preoccupied with a personal problem, you may find it hard to be attentive in class.

Cognitive structure, an individual’s pattern of thinking, also affects perception. Some people have a tendency to perceive physical traits, such as height, weight, and appearance, more readily.

Others tend to focus more on central traits, or personality dispositions. Cognitive complexity allows a person to perceive multiple characteristics of another person rather than attending to just a few traits.

Finally, expectations can distort your perceptions in that you will see what you expect to see.

FAQs Section

What is perception.

Perception is the process of receiving information and making sense of the world around us. It involves deciding which information to notice, how to categorize this information and how to interpret it within the framework of existing knowledge.

What is the simple definition of perception?

Perception may be defined as a process by which individuals organize and interpret their sensory impressions in order to give meaning to their environment.

What are the 5 processes of perception?

The following are the steps of process of perception: 1. Stimulus Situation 2. Physiological Mechanism 3. Interpretation is a Highly Crucial Sub-Process 4. Feedback 5. Perception Ends in Reaction or Respons.

What are the factors influencing perception?

Perceiver, Target, and Situation are the three major factors influencing perception.

What are the 5 stages of the perceptual process?

Stimuli, Selection, Organization, Interpretation, and Response are the 5 stages of the perceptual process.

What are the characteristics of perceiver?

The characteristics of perceiver are: Attitudes, Moods, Motives, Self-Concept, Interest, Cognitive Structure, and Expectations.

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case study perception in organizational behavior

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Perception →

case study perception in organizational behavior

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Library Home

Organizational Behavior

(18 reviews)

case study perception in organizational behavior

Copyright Year: 2017

ISBN 13: 9781946135155

Publisher: University of Minnesota Libraries Publishing

Language: English

Formats Available

Conditions of use.


Learn more about reviews.

Reviewed by Jalal Maqableh, Instructor - Ph.D. Candidate, James Madison University on 11/29/21

This book is comprehensive in two ways: (1) The organizational behavior topics it covers. The most important topics that new employees (fresh graduates) would need to know are included in this book. (2) The learning methodology includes the... read more

Comprehensiveness rating: 5 see less

This book is comprehensive in two ways: (1) The organizational behavior topics it covers. The most important topics that new employees (fresh graduates) would need to know are included in this book. (2) The learning methodology includes the topics' content, discussion questions, key takeaways, and exercises.

Content Accuracy rating: 5

This book is accurate and provides relevant content. In general, no key mistakes were identified.

Relevance/Longevity rating: 5

The book is relatively new (2019). It talks about current practices in today's organizations. Some topics in organizational behavior are stable while others are changing very fast. Therefore, it will be important to look to the places where there will be a need for updates.

Clarity rating: 5

The book is clear and helps the reader to move through sections smoothly.

Consistency rating: 5

The structure of the chapters is very consistent. This facilitates the learning process.

Modularity rating: 5

Although the size of the book is large and not logical to be used all in one semester. The design of the book separates the learning topics into small learning packages that can be selected based on the need.

Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 5

The flow of the book makes it logical to build each chapter based on the previous one. This is good for educational purposes because it helps the instructor during the transition from one topic to another.

Interface rating: 5

Easy to use and to move through different parts.

Grammatical Errors rating: 5

No grammar issues were found.

Cultural Relevance rating: 5

The book clearly highlights cultural diversity within the organizational context.

This is a very well-written book for university students. It gives the opportunity for readers to comprehend organizational behavior in an interesting way.

Reviewed by Brittni Heiden, Senior Director of Graduate Programs, Trine University on 4/16/21

The text, Organizational Behavior provides a comprehensive overview of several topics, including: motivation, communication, managing groups and teams, conflict resolution, power and politics, making decisions, etc. Within each chapter, the author... read more

The text, Organizational Behavior provides a comprehensive overview of several topics, including: motivation, communication, managing groups and teams, conflict resolution, power and politics, making decisions, etc. Within each chapter, the author provides key takeaways and exercises that allow the students to apply their knowledge of the topic.

Each topic is presented in an accurate manner, supported by current practices, and relevant examples.

Relevance/Longevity rating: 4

For the most part, the content with the book is supported by current practices and many relevant examples. However, some of the examples, particularly those within the case studies can be outdated. Being that the book was written in 2019, it is likely missing vital examples and case studies from 2020 and 2021.

The book flows well and is written in a manner that is easily understood by undergraduate students.

Each chapter is set up in a similar fashion, making it easy for the reader to navigate the material. Along with this, each chapter has appropriate examples and exercises that correspond with the covered material.

Modularity rating: 4

The book is extensive, but each chapter is easily navigated by students. It would be very doable for instructors to piece together important information, or prioritize chapters without disrupting the students. The textbook is very lengthy, as are many Organizational Behavior texts, so it may be difficult for each chapter to be covered during a semester. However, due to the fact that each chapter is easily and readily divisible into smaller sections, or subsections, instructors can prioritize the information they would like to cover.

The organization of the textbook is clear and logical. There are proper transitions so the students are aware regarding what they should expect next.

Navigation is very easy for students to use. There are very few, if any, distractions throughout the text.

No grammatical errors were found throughout the text.

Great examples are used throughout the text to highlight cultural diversity within the workplace.

Overall, this is a great text for undergraduate Organizational Behavior courses. It is well written, offers many opportunities for students to apply their knowledge, and also covers a diverse range of topics.

Reviewed by Amanda Hinojosa, Assistant Professor, Howard University on 4/13/21

This book covers all of the topics one might expect from an Organizational Behavior course. Where it seems to differ from other Organizational Behavior books is the level of attention devoted to topics (some might for example focus less on... read more

This book covers all of the topics one might expect from an Organizational Behavior course. Where it seems to differ from other Organizational Behavior books is the level of attention devoted to topics (some might for example focus less on negotiation, while this book has a chapter on it; other books might have a chapter devoted just to individual differences, while this one focuses on individual differences and perception within one chapter).

The book contains accurate discussion of concepts, theories, and application.

The book has several case studies (usually one at the beginning and end of each chapter). These are great, but over time they may be a bit dated, for example if they reference a CEO of a company who is no longer the CEO of that company. However, users could create their own follow-up questions that account for what has happened since the case was written. Alternatively. if any future updates were made to this content, readers could benefit from a standard set of questions to add to the end of each case that would encourage the instructor and students to find out more to see if the implications of that case still apply based on the newer information on the company/CEO/manager described. For example, they use the case of Indra Nooyi as CEO of Pepsi and talk about her as though she is currently the CEO, but her tenure as CEO ended in 2018.

The book is easy to read and all terms are appropriately explained and defined.

There is not much of an underlying framework that requires terms to be used from one chapter to the next (e.g. there are not many cases where something is defined early on and then revisited later in the book). In other words, the chapter numbers don't imply sequence so there is enough consistency across chapters to allow for users to skip around the book and still have the relevant information within that chapter without having to consult other sections to understand. There is consistency in the way each chapter is presented and the supplementary points in each. I describe more about this consistency in organization in the modularity and organization sections.

The content is very modular and can easily be referred to in larger or smaller parts. The chapters are each broken into sub-sections, which can be linked directly (e.g. https://open.lib.umn.edu/organizationalbehavior/chapter/3-2-the-interactionist-perspective-the-role-of-fit/) or the chapter as a whole could be linked https://open.lib.umn.edu/organizationalbehavior/part/chapter-3-understanding-people-at-work-individual-differences-and-perception/) Each page is dedicated to a sub-section, and the links are embedded to the sidebar table of contents which would allow users to further click through to the area that they are looking for if they know the number and/or title of the sub-section they are interested in.

The topics are presented clearly and in a logical fashion. The book does not require much sequential introduction of content, so users could easily find only chapters they want to teach in the order they wish to teach them and assign them in a way that differs from the numerical sequence in the book.

Images are displayed clearly. Content navigation is easy with the clickable sub-section links, but users might also be able to use the pdf version if they are unable to access the internet. Users of the pdf version would need information on section titles, as there are no page numbers in the web-based interface for the version. However, if they have the information for chapter and/or sub-section number and title, they would be able to sufficiently navigate the pdf to find the content needed.

I have not found any grammatical errors in my use of this book.

The book designates a chapter to demographic diversity and cultural diversity and includes one sub-section at the end of each chapter that briefly describes cultural differences in relation to the content from that chapter. It could be more comprehensive in its discussion of cultural diversity, but I have not found evidence to suggest that it is insensitive or offensive in its coverage of topics.

I have used this book in my course for three years now, and overall I really like it. The links are really easy to integrate into my LMS (BlackBoard) to guide discussions and assign specific parts of the reading. There are some places where the book makes reference to "your instructor has this information" as though there are accompanying Instructor Resources but I am unaware of how to access those if they do exist. It tends to be on active learning possibilities (e.g. the negotiation chapter references roles that the instructor would distribute). It doesn't affect the use too much, it just means that I end up choosing a different activity that doesn't reference other resources which I don't have access to.

Reviewed by Jim Hickel, Adjunct Instructor, American University on 3/15/21

The book covers all the relevant topics for organizational behavior. No index or glossary, but the search function is effective for that purpose. read more

The book covers all the relevant topics for organizational behavior. No index or glossary, but the search function is effective for that purpose.

No errors or biases were uncovered in my use of this book.

The book was current as of its 2017 publication date, which is about as high as most expectations would go for a free online textbook. Instructors will have to provide class updates, particularly in the rapidly-changing field of diversity. For example: I didn't find any reference to "inclusion" in the diversity chapter (or anywhere else in the book, if the search function was accurate), which is an important concept and should be stressed by the instructor.

The text is very clear, and written to be understood at the undergraduate level.

No inconsistences were uncovered in my use of the book.

Each chapter works effectively as a stand-alone discussion of the topic. They can readily be realigned.

Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 4

The book is generally well organized. The organization could be enhanced if there were an up-front "umbrella" model for organizational behavior that tied together all the subjects covered in the textbook. The Organization-Group-Individual model introduced in Chapter 1 doesn't easily relate to the concepts discussed in each chapter. An instructor may find it useful to present a different OB model (for example, Inputs-Processes-Outputs) that to show how all the chapter topics fit together into one overall concept, so students can track where they are in the model.

The interface worked out very well for my class. I was able to set up links to each chapter in the relevant sections of the learning management system (in this case, Blackboard). Students appreciated the ability to have direct links to the relevant textbook readings for each class -- and also appreciated that it was available at no additional cost to them.

No grammatical or language errors were uncovered in my reading and use of the book.

Cultural Relevance rating: 4

Generally sensitive to cultural issues. Instructors may want to point out to their class that the "Masculinity-Femininity" dimension of Hofstede's Cultural Framework (Section 2.3 of the book), which draws upon stereotypes that were used in Hofstede's time, has largely evolved into the "Aggressive-Nurturing" dimension.

Very useful book, as good as any fundamental Organizational Behavior textbook I've ever read from any publisher. However, because of its age and the rapid evolution of organizational behavior, instructors will have to be careful to provide in-class updates.

Reviewed by Laura Boehme, Chief Information/Human Resources Officer; Faculty, Central Oregon Community College on 1/12/21

This book is extremely comprehensive and covers a the broad variety of organizational behavior topics. Each chapter is clearly titled, provides an outline, key terms, and summary of learning outcomes. Additionally, it includes critical thinking... read more

This book is extremely comprehensive and covers a the broad variety of organizational behavior topics. Each chapter is clearly titled, provides an outline, key terms, and summary of learning outcomes. Additionally, it includes critical thinking cases and assessments to expand and practice learning concepts. One additional feature is a link to a collaborative group area to further engage in the topics.

The book content are accurate and rooted in current organizational practices. The topics are also relevant to existing issues in organizations such as cultural awareness, diversity, ethics, stress/well-being, and power and politics. No significant errors or bias were found in the contents. The book also includes numerous authors with a variety of expertise, further enhancing the accuracy and relevance of topics.

The book was written in 2019 and includes current and relevant topics facing organizations. Each chapter is comprised of concepts, strategies, questions, and practical applications, allowing the learner to gain an in-depth exposure to the organizational behavior content. The text is written in a way that will allow easy updates in the future and the content has staying power.

The textbook and chapters are clearly outlined with key terms, learning outcomes, and high levels of structure and consistency. The text is written in understandable terms, with appropriate introductions for the learner, relevant examples to demonstrate concepts, and opportunities to practice to further gain clarity.

The structure of the book is internally consistent for each chapter, giving the learner an opportunity to understand the layout and approach of the book and its chapters. This structure enhances the learner's ability to absorb and practice the materials, cases, and assessments.

The text is very modular and could be assigned and/or used as structured or can be utilized out of order. Chapter 1 appears to be a foundational chapter so it would be best to start there as it gives a nice overview of organizational behavior. The lower rating on this aspect of the textbook is primarily because there are so many chapters (19 total), that it might be challenging to cover all of the content in a typical term or semester. So the instructor and student would need to prioritize the most important concepts.

The organization, structure, and flow of the textbook, the chapters, and the information within the chapters is highly structured. It is consistent for both the learner and the instructor, offering predictability and ease of planning. The table of contents is well-organized with clear chapter titles, sub-sections, and additional resources. The flow of topics makes sense, but also allows for modularity and flexibility.

The interface is user-friendly, easy to find information, and intuitive. Navigation is straight-forward and there are helpful guides and prompts to ensure the reader knows how to progress through the content. The images and data within the chapters is laid out and organized in a professional manner. This is a very mature-looking OER textbook.

No obvious grammatical or spelling errors were found in the text. It appears to have been well-edited and prepared for use. There are multiple author contributors which helps ensure content validity and accuracy.

The textbook appears to be culturally aware. There are multiple chapters on diversity, inclusion, and cultural awareness. The pictures include people of color and also address diversity of approaches and perspectives in organizational behavior.

This OER textbook book is ready to go for both the instructor and student. The topic is interesting and relevant. The content is well-organized. There are additional chapter resources to enhance learning and teaching. Overall I highly recommend this textbook. The instructor would have a relatively easy time developing a syllabus and course activities that are based on the identified learning outcomes.

Reviewed by Tracey Sigler, Associate Professor, The Citadel on 11/30/20

Covers all the traditional topics read more

Covers all the traditional topics

High quality

The book is a few years old but it is easy to supplement with new concepts and current examples.

the online format makes it easy to read find and small sections of the chapters.

Well organized - make sense to the reaer

high quality


I have used this book for a couple of years for an MBA OB class. It provides good coverage of the basic concepts and some cases and activities that have been useful. I supplement the class with my own links to videos and articles. I am thinking of using this in my undergrad class as well. The author is disguised but is well-known and respected in the field. Students appreciate being to use an open resource.

Reviewed by Ken Grunes, Assistant Professor, Framingham State University on 5/27/20

The layout of the textbook follows a logical progression which is both complete and the proper depth. read more

The layout of the textbook follows a logical progression which is both complete and the proper depth.

The authors have allowed multiple perspectives and theories are supported by empirical evidence.

The most relatable topics are covered proportional to students' interest levels.

Clarity rating: 4

Most of the material could be enhanced by a terminology glossary at the beginning of each chapter.

Terms and concepts carry the same explanation and context from one chapter to the next.

Chapters and subject matter are clearly delineated and can be appreciated as a stand alone module.

The text is presented in a logical progression from "Individual", "Groups", and finally "Organizations".

Interface rating: 4

Information is presented in a straight forward manner with few distraction.

the text appears to be free from grammatical errors.

Good sensitivity to multi-cultural class composition.

The textbook appears to be complete.

Reviewed by Leslie Bleskachek, Adjunct professor, Minnesota State College Southeast, Minnesota State University System on 3/7/20

The textbook includes some valuable topics that are often not discussed in other texts, namely the study of power and politics. The first chapter also includes an introduction of why this study is important, which is an interesting inclusion. At... read more

The textbook includes some valuable topics that are often not discussed in other texts, namely the study of power and politics. The first chapter also includes an introduction of why this study is important, which is an interesting inclusion. At the start of each section, the learning objectives are listed. The toolbox and exercises are great additions that allow students to quickly apply new learning in their environment. This is a sort of embedded workbook that assists instructors in developing activities related to the text. This work is more than a narrative or relevant facts; there are a lot of activities and case studies included to aid student understanding.

The work is accurate. There are in text citations as well as bibliographies to provide opportunities for further research.

Much of the research and information included is very recent and citations are included if readers wish to read the original work. Section 1.5 on Trends and Changes could easily be updated as needed, allowing the work to remain up to date in future iterations.

The language is clear, has little jargon, and is easy to read and interpret. The key takeaways aid student understanding and ensure the main objective is understood for each section.

There is consistency throughout the document with similar formatting in each section to aid navigation and understanding.

With the learning objectives clearly outlined, it would be easy to break this work into smaller modules or recombine sections into lessons. Also, with exercises, case studies and other tools provided, this work could easily be utilized in various ways.

It was an unusual choice to include the learning style inventory in this text and unclear why it was placed after the introduction to this specific material. It might be more appropriately placed in a preface. While the information was organized clearly within sections and was well labeled, it is not clear why the authors decided to start with specifics first rather than an overview of organizational behavior first and then following with specifics. It might be more logical to begin with the content that is in sections 14 and 15.

The exercises, key takeaways, etc. are well organized and help focus learning. The use of graphics and visual representation of data was well deployed throughout to help break up long sections of text. The inclusion of case studies in each section was a great way to aid understanding and demonstrate the concepts on real world situations. The interface worked smoothly and consistently with no difficulties noted. The organization was easy to navigate for the end user.

There were no grammatical errors identified

The work uses appropriate language and displays cultural sensitivity. Although it is also addressed in other sections, there is a section that specifically addresses various concerns related to multiculturalism and the diverse nature of organizations today.

This is a comprehensive work that includes engaging, current organizational situations to illustrate concepts. This is more than just a narrative or literature review of the subject. The textbook also includes numerous current case studies, exercises, ways to apply the learning and challenge thinking. Combined with the learning objectives outlined at the start of each section, this work provides a great deal of easy to understand content and is user friendly for both students and teachers alike.

Reviewed by Yefim Khaydatov, Lecturer, LAGCC on 12/5/18, updated 12/12/18

Textbook covers the appropriate range of topics in the course. read more

Textbook covers the appropriate range of topics in the course.

Organizational Behavior - 2017 accurately

The content is up-to-date, consists of recent research and literature. The textbook reflects the most recent information and arranged in a manner that makes necessary updates easy to implement.

The textbook is written in a clear, appropriate and accessible language.

The text is consistent in terminology and framework within and throughout the chapters.

The textbook has easily divided sections to quickly navigate through the various chapters and sections of the textbook.

The textbook follows the sequence of topics as expected in the industry when compared with other textbooks written on the same subject of organizational behavior.

No issues have been encountered and use of the online version is user friendly.

No grammatical errors were noted.

The text reflects appropriate and inclusive language.

The textbook provides a wonderful resource in each chapter for discussion through the case scenarios, short vignettes, questions, group activities and a wide range of exercises. A rich selection of video clips to complement the Ethical Dilemma exercises in the chapters would be a wonderful addition to see added in the next publication or version of the textbook. Thank you.

Reviewed by Rose Helens-Hart, Assistant Professor, Fort Hays State University on 11/28/18

Text covers the major topics one would expect to see in a 200-300 level OB course. Would have liked to see more on vocational/workplace socialization. read more

Comprehensiveness rating: 4 see less

Text covers the major topics one would expect to see in a 200-300 level OB course. Would have liked to see more on vocational/workplace socialization.

Did not notice errors.

Uses relevant business cases, which will need to be updated in a few years.

Very readable but still sounds like a textbook. Formatting of bold words and summary/break out boxes makes the book conventional but also easy to access.

Terminology seemed to be used consistently.

Chapters are divided into short subsections making it easy to assign only portions of chapter reading.

Logical progression. I like that the chapter on managing demographic and cultural diversity is at the beginning. If you are following the order of information in the text, your class would begin with these important concepts.

Clear table of contents. Easy to navigate.

No grammatical errors noticed.

Text discusses "The Role of Ethics and National Culture" in each chapter, which is nice. More elements of diversity and intersectionality, however, could be considered in examples. "Managing" diversity is a very traditional way to look at difference.

Using sections of it for a professional business communication class. Many topics covered such as managing conflict and teams, are relevant to professional, business, and organizational communication classes.

Reviewed by Justin Greenleaf, Associate Professor, Fort Hays State University on 11/1/18

This book does an excellent job of providing an overview of the major topics associated with organizational behavior. Given the comprehensive nature of the book, it could potentially be a relevant resource in a variety of classes/topics related to... read more

This book does an excellent job of providing an overview of the major topics associated with organizational behavior. Given the comprehensive nature of the book, it could potentially be a relevant resource in a variety of classes/topics related to communication, group dynamics, organizational leadership, and others.

The content included in this book is both accurate and well supported. It does a good job of connecting important theories and concepts with helpful practical examples.

Relevance/Longevity rating: 3

Many of the theories and concepts in this book are up-to-date and will not be obsolete anytime soon. However, many of the examples will fail to be relevant in the near future. The book could be improved by providing permanent links to some of the external resources.

The text is easy to read and flows in a way that is engaging. The presentation of the content is free from technical jargon.

The text is consistent in the way the chapters are presented. As the reader moves from section to section, it is clear that the chapters have a unifying theme and format throughout.

The text is chunked into logical and easily readable sections. The various chapters are accompanied by tools and resources to help the reader think critically about the content in the chapter.

I was impressed with the way the book was organized. When thinking about the topic of Organizational Behavior, it can be challenging to decide where to start and how to organize the content. This book does a nice job organizing the various topics by themes and providing appropriate sub-headings to help the reader make sense of the overarching concepts of the book.

The website interface seems to be the easiest to use and navigate. When I downloaded the pdf, there were some issues with the formatting of the content. Some of the pictures were not there anymore and some of the formatting was a little off. I feel like the impact these issues had on the usefulness of the book was minimal, but they were noticeable.

I did not notice any grammatical errors, which was nice.

There was nothing in this book that I found to be culturally insensitive or offensive. If anything the book content provided insights into how to be more culturally competent.

I appreciate the time and effort that was put into creating this resource. One of the challenges of using open educational resources is finding a one that is high-quality, and I believe the content in this book to be high-quality.

Reviewed by Stephanie McWilliams, ClinicInstructor, West Virginia University on 5/21/18

This book includes many topics that others in this area do not, such as interpersonal interaction tactics and diversity considerations. Segments that are boxed that include applied ideas are especially pertinent for my internship students. read more

This book includes many topics that others in this area do not, such as interpersonal interaction tactics and diversity considerations. Segments that are boxed that include applied ideas are especially pertinent for my internship students.

The text is relatively error free that appears to be all-inclusive from my perspective.

In the area of professionalism, the dynamics are always changing, especially with the influence of technology. As a result, I imagine that this book may need updates every 5 years or so to stay relevant.

This text is easy to read and follow. Terms are used correctly, and defined if not commonly understood.

There is a definite framework to this text. Information interlaces with cases and applied examples will allow students to connect ideas to real-life scenarios.

With just 15 chapters, each is well divided in a predictable fashion. This also aligns well with a typical semester of 16 weeks.

The flow of this text makes it easy to follow and to break up into what may be presented in a lecture format and what students can work through on their own.

The flow of topics builds in a logical manner for students learning about working in a professional setting.

There do not appear to be any major distortions what would cause confusion. The clarity of some of the graphics or photos are a bit grainy, but not so much so that it is difficult to read or see.

The grammar appears correct throughout.

With a large section devoted to multicultural diversity, I would rate this text highly for cultural relevance.

It is a challenge to find a text for an internship course, but this text fits the bill nicely. I will likely supplement with a chapter or two from other text or some articles, but plan to use this book in the very near future.

Reviewed by Meredith Burnett, Professorial Lecturer, American University on 2/1/18

The text covers all areas and Ideas of organizational behavior including aspects of both demographic and cultural diversity, individual differences and perception, individual attitudes and behaviors, and theories of motivation. This text also... read more

The text covers all areas and Ideas of organizational behavior including aspects of both demographic and cultural diversity, individual differences and perception, individual attitudes and behaviors, and theories of motivation. This text also includes a table of contents.

The content includes accurate, error-free, and unbiased information. For instance, the section on diversity refers to the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act and other laws prohibiting discrimination.

The content is up-to-date and can be easily updated with more recent information. There is a photo of Ursula Burns, who became president of Xerox Corporation in 2007. Her photo can be replaced, for instance, by a photo of another black female who becomes president of a corporation.

In general, the text is free from jargon and US colloquialisms. However, the text defines and expatriate as as someone who is temporarily assigned to a position in a foreign country. Some readers may be sensitive to the use of the term "foreign" to describe a country.

The text is consistent is in terms of terminology and framework. The terms culture and society are used interchangeably to describe national culture and some readers may be confused by the use of both terms.

The text is easy to read and divided into sections with headings and subheadings to make it easier for readers to navigate the text.

The topics in the text are presented in a logical, clear fashion. However, organizational culture and organizational structure are near the end of the text and student might benefit from learning about those topics before being asked to understand the design of work environments and individual attitudes and behaviors.

The text is free of interface issues.

There are no obvious grammatical errors in the text.

The text includes examples of successful individuals from a variety of ethnic backgrounds including Guy Kawasaki.

The book includes exercises following each chapter. However, may of the exercises such as those in Section 2.4 are, in fact, discussion questions rather than exercises.

Reviewed by Stacey Young, Associate Professor, Northern Virginia Community College on 6/20/17

This book does a good job in covering relevant topics related to organizational behavior. The format is user friendly, along with providing discussion questions, case studies, exercises, and takeaways. There are appropriate graphics/pictures... read more

This book does a good job in covering relevant topics related to organizational behavior. The format is user friendly, along with providing discussion questions, case studies, exercises, and takeaways. There are appropriate graphics/pictures that quickly support and reinforce key concepts. Moreover, I love that there are ongoing references to the importance of ethics with an activity related to an ethical dilemma.

The book overall is accurate. There weren't any major issues identified.

The content is relevant and covers normal organizational behavior topics address in any text.

The writing in this book is rather clear. However, there are opportunities to improve the grammar and sentence structure.

This text is consistent with other text's terminology, structure, and data to support he position offered.

This text is ready to be separated into unique, standalone learning packages.

I like the book's flow. It's logically organized in a way that each chapter builds on the previous one.

No interface issues identified.

There aren't any noticeable grammar issues, but the sentence structure should be reviewed for better clarity

Cultural Relevance rating: 1

There are opportunities to select pictures that are reflective of a diverse population.

This is the first open textbook I've reviewed. Previously, I had considerations that open source material might not be that good; however, with this book, I was amazingly surprised. I will seriously consider using this text for my organizational behavior class.

case study perception in organizational behavior

Reviewed by Atul Mitra, Professor, University of Northern Iowa on 2/15/17

This OB textbook covers all major as well as supporting topics related the OB field. The last two chapters are devoted to macro topics (Chapter 14: Organizational Structure and Change and Chapter 15: Organizational Culture); thus, implying... read more

Comprehensiveness rating: 3 see less

This OB textbook covers all major as well as supporting topics related the OB field. The last two chapters are devoted to macro topics (Chapter 14: Organizational Structure and Change and Chapter 15: Organizational Culture); thus, implying authors’ intent to provide comprehensive coverage. The textbook, though, is dated both in terms of scholarly references and the case studies used to inform the reader about the relevance of OB topics. Also, the textbook is more reliant on applied sources to support concepts. The pdf version of the textbook does not have a list of scholarly references. The HTML version does have these references, but they are included in within the text and, thus, negatively impact the flow and readability. I could not find a subject index or “glossary of terms” at the end of the textbook. Finally, the book lacks instructor’s resource material.

Content Accuracy rating: 4

The book reads well and provides good examples to clarify basic concepts. The authors provide unbiased and thoughtful insights from scholarly sources in a very relatable fashion.

Relevance/Longevity rating: 1

This is one of the significant weakness of this textbook. The scholarly sources are dated. Case studies are also old, though still useful. Some of the in-text online links do not work. In short, this textbook is due for a major revision and would require the authors to revise all aspects of the textbook considerably. This revision would be a major undertaking and a challenge for the authors.

Clarity rating: 3

Each chapter is divided into several sub-sections. Each sub-section covers a major OB topic. The authors have done an excellent job of providing a logical and clear description of topics within each chapter. However, there is no overall framework that can easily connect topics across all 15 chapters. This may explain a somewhat random sequence of topics of 15 chapters. For example, “emotions,” “communication” or “decision-making” topics are useful in the understanding of concepts of motivation and teamwork. However, these topics are not covered prior to the coverage of motivation.

Consistency rating: 3

The coverage of each topic within a chapter by the authors is consistent. The formatting and style are also highly consistent throughout the textbook. An addition of an overall framework and an integrative case study would help provide consistency of topics across chapters.

The textbook is very modular. Specifically, the HTML format of this textbook allows each sub-section to act as a module. Any instructor, interested in adopting this textbook should look into HTML format based modules (sub-sections) as a way to customize the textbook. This may be this textbook’s significant strength.

Organization/structure of this textbook is clear within a chapter. As I have stated in my review in another section, the textbook can be improved by connecting topics across chapters using a broad framework as well as by incorporating an integrated case study.

Interface rating: 2

The pdf version of the textbook is difficult to navigate. Even though I found the HTML version to be more user-friendly, this format did have some weaknesses as well. The scholarly references in the HTML version are included within the text and negatively impact readability. I could not find a subject-index or “glossary of terms” at the end of the textbook. Many online links do not work anymore. Since the textbook does not include a subject index or glossary of key terms, it would make it difficult for students to find definitions easily. Overall, the textbook can significantly benefit from a much-improved interface.

The textbook is free of any grammatical errors.

Chapter 2 of the textbook offers a comprehensive coverage about the relevance and importance of demographic and cultural diversity. In addition, each chapter contains a sub-section “The Role of Ethics and National Culture” to ensure that students understand cultural relevance of OB concepts. This issue is clearly a strength of this textbook.

Overall, this textbook is a good option for those instructors that already have a good portfolio of instructional resources. The textbook does not appear to provide PowerPoint slides or a Test Bank. However, if an instructor is looking for a good OB textbook for an introductory OB course; s/he might wish to take a look at this textbook as a possible option because it is well-written and provides a comprehensive coverage of major OB topics. It also provides students with several useful applied examples, though these examples are somewhat dated. This textbook may not work for those instructors that wish to use an OB textbook based on current examples or an OB textbook that cites current scholarly references. To conclude, with significant interface improvements and a major revision, this could become an excellent option for both students and instructors.

Reviewed by Christopher Reina, Assistant Professor, Virginia Commonwealth University on 2/8/17

The major areas of OB are covered comprehensively. The textbook goes into an appropriate amount of depth for each of the expected topics. It discusses each of the topics through both an ethics and national culture lens at the end of each chapter... read more

The major areas of OB are covered comprehensively. The textbook goes into an appropriate amount of depth for each of the expected topics. It discusses each of the topics through both an ethics and national culture lens at the end of each chapter which represents a major strength of the textbook. The PDF version did not include a table of contents, index, or glossary which would further add to the comprehensiveness of the textbook.

The content was accurate and unbiased. The information was presented in a straight-forward way and cited published work from a wide variety of sources.

The topics covered are relevant and timely-- however, many of the citations are a bit dated. The case studies still are largely relevant even though there may exist better, more recent examples to discuss. I really appreciate the extent to which the authors integrate real-life examples of companies/leaders but the downside of this is that it limits the time the textbook can remain highly relevant without being updated. Additionally, there were several broken weblinks that need to be updated.

The writing is clear, easy to understand, and flows well. The authors do a good job of making concepts and ideas accessible for students. Authors avoided use of jargon without first defining it well and establishing the context.

The structure is easy to follow, straight-forward, and consistent.

The textbook does a good job of re-introducing ideas later in the text hat may have been covered earlier in the text which adds to the modularity of the textbook. I would not hesitate to assign specific chapters and/or assign chapters out of order for this reason.

The topic order makes logical sense and the topics build well off of each other. In the first chapter, the authors discuss levels of analysis (individual, team, and organizational) and they could perhaps return to this framework more frequently in order to guide the reader.

Interface rating: 3

For the most part, the figures and tables are clear and easy to understand. There are some figures that appear a bit distorted and/or difficult to read due to color choices. Bolding concepts or words that are defined in the text and adding a definition of the word in the margin would aid students in studying and easily identifying new concepts/concepts to study. In the PDF, there were several instances in which chapters did not start on a new page (and instead started mid-page) which was distracting.

Grammar was strong throughout the text.

This text's chapter on diversity as well as the reference to diversity issues throughout the text is a major strength. Ending each chapter with a discussion of how national culture and ethics is relevant to the topic was a powerful way to discuss diversity and continually challenge students to consider the topics from diverse perspectives.

This textbook is well-written, comprehensive, and is an excellent resource for students and faculty. The material is presented in an effective, accessible way and the integration of the "OB Toolbox" is especially useful for students to understand how to practically apply the concepts they are learning. I especially appreciated the attention to detail and comprehensiveness of the diversity chapter as well as the discussion of diversity topics throughout each chapter. The questions at the end of each chapter for reflection could push students a bit further in engaging with the material, and I would like to see some updates to the textbook when it comes to topics that should be covered (such as mindfulness and presenteeism) as well as case studies and examples from the last 3-5 years. A glossary, works cited, table of contents, and index would all be useful additions to the PDF version of the textbook, and it would be helpful if concept words defined in the text were also defined in the margins of the text in order to facilitate student recognition of topics they need understand and be able to define. Overall, this textbook is solid and I would not hesitate to use it for an undergraduate class in Organizational Behavior (although I would supplement it with readings and material from other sources as I would with any other textbook).

Reviewed by Rae Casey, Associate Professor , George Fox University on 2/8/17

The text was comprehensive, covering areas that are important when teaching organizational behavior. Some of the topic areas, such as diversity and ethics, are more comprehensive than others, but all topics are covered well enough for entry-level... read more

The text was comprehensive, covering areas that are important when teaching organizational behavior. Some of the topic areas, such as diversity and ethics, are more comprehensive than others, but all topics are covered well enough for entry-level students. The text included a comprehensive table of contents, but no index or glossary.

The textbook was accurate and covered a number of important topics in an interesting manner. I thought the advertised experiential approach was evident and well done.

Relevance/Longevity rating: 2

The concepts described in the text can survive over time, but the cases quickly date the contents. Since the concepts in the cases are integrated into the text, updating could be time consuming. I tried the text in both the .pdf and online formats, and found difficulties with the links in both. I had the best luck with the online format, although many of the links were no longer valid. When I copied and pasted the links from the .pdf version, I got many errors, some indicating I needed login information to access the site.

I liked this text. The information was presented in way that made it easy to understand and apply. Jargon and terms were well explained.

This text was well written and consistent throughout.

This text is well organized. The subheadings in the chapters create appropriate modules to support teachers as they create assignments, and students as they complete them.

The text is well organized and structured. The content flow is great, but, as previously mentioned, there are a number of links, some of which no longer lead anywhere.

Navigating the text by using the online Table of Contents was straightforward, although I did want to simply scroll to the next page instead of having to use a "next section" link, but that was minor. The .pdf format of the text was convenient if one wants to print the pages, but navigation of the .pdf format online required scrolling through the text. It would have been helpful to have a "bookmark" or similar feature to easily highlight important concepts or see where I stopped reading.

I noted no errors.

I especially appreciated the way this text discussed sensitive topics associated with gender, race, ethnicity, perception, etc.

I liked this textbook. I thought the exercises were generally good, as were the "Key Takeaway" and "OB Toolbox" sections. The text was dated, which tends to be noted by students and can lead to lost credibility. I appreciate the work that went into writing this text and could use portions of it, but would need to check the links before each course, or provide others for my students. Overall, this is a great text, but I recommend checking the details before adoption.

Reviewed by Marcia Hagen, Associate Professor, Metropolitan State on 8/21/16

Has chapters on the major themes such as diversity, decision making, motivation, ethics, and leadership to name a few; goes over the major theories. It does not go particularly deeply into any one area, but provides a solid look at a wide variety... read more

Has chapters on the major themes such as diversity, decision making, motivation, ethics, and leadership to name a few; goes over the major theories. It does not go particularly deeply into any one area, but provides a solid look at a wide variety of topics, concepts, and theories.

In terms of editing and proofing, this book does quite well. Writing is unbiased and reports materials that are accurate.

This is an area in which the text needs improvement. Few if any examples are from 2009 or later. The book is a good one, but cases need updating. Updating may be difficult for instructors to implemenet, due to the imbedding of cases into so many areas of the text. In addition, nearly half of the links provided in the text no longer work.

Text is very clear. I am impressed with the writing. In particular they did a good job of describing relatively complex theories with simple and understandable language.

The books is highly consistent in terms of formatting and style--as soon as Chapter 1 is complete, students should have a clear vision of what to expect for upcoming chapters.

This text is highly modular. In particular, the use of objectives for each section of each chapter allows for picking and choosing by instructors.

This book is well-organized and clear. Because OB is generally a set of very inter-related concepts, organization/flow is not perfect, but this book is as good as others I have seen in this area.

This is an area of improvement for this text. In particular links to outside web sites are out of date and many link to dead web sites. In addition, of the few images that are included in the text, several flow over 2 pages making them difficult to read.

Good grammar used throughout the text--few issues detected.

This text includes a good deal of discussion related to diversity, ethnicity, gender, and other issues culture in this text. I found the discussion in these areas to be both relevant and thoughtful.

There are several things about this text that I like. In particular, I think this would be a great book to use within an introductory OB course; it is well-written and thorough in terms of the breadth and depth of topics covered. The "OB Toolbox" sections give students many tips on getting, keeping, and succeeding their first professional job--that is great. However, there are a few areas of concern, as well. In particular, many links do not work and the cases are somewhat out of date (which poses a particular challenge due to the major economic changes that have taken place for several companies referred to in the text and cases). Before implementing this text, I would take time to review any potential overlap with other courses. But overall, this is a solid intro OB text.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter 1: Organizational Behavior
  • Chapter 2: Managing Demographic and Cultural Diversity
  • Chapter 3: Understanding People at Work: Individual Differences and Perception
  • Chapter 4: Individual Attitudes and Behaviors
  • Chapter 5: Theories of Motivation
  • Chapter 6: Designing a Motivating Work Environment
  • Chapter 7: Managing Stress and Emotions
  • Chapter 8: Communication
  • Chapter 9: Managing Groups and Teams
  • Chapter 10: Conflict and Negotiations
  • Chapter 11: Making Decisions
  • Chapter 12: Leading People Within Organizations
  • Chapter 13: Power and Politics
  • Chapter 14: Organizational Structure and Change
  • Chapter 15: Organizational Culture

Ancillary Material

About the book.

Organizational Behavior bridges the gap between theory and practice with a distinct "experiential" approach.

On average, a worker in the USA will change jobs 10 times in 20 years. In order to succeed in this type of career situation, individuals need to be armed with the tools necessary to be life-long learners. To that end, this book is not be about giving students all the answers to every situation they may encounter when they start their first job or as they continue up the career ladder. Instead, this book gives students the vocabulary, framework, and critical thinking skills necessary to diagnose situations, ask tough questions, evaluate the answers received, and to act in an effective and ethical manner regardless of situational characteristics.

Often, students taking OB either do not understand how important knowledge of OB can be to their professional careers, or they DO understand and they want to put that knowledge into practice. Organizational Behavior takes a more experiential angle to the material to meet both of those needs. The experiential approach can be incorporated in the classroom primarily through the "OB Toolbox." This feature brings life to the concepts and allows students to not only see how the OB theories unfold, but to practice them, as well.

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Article contents

Emotions in organizations.

  • Cynthia Fisher Cynthia Fisher Department of Business, Bond University
  • https://doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780190224851.013.160
  • Published online: 25 February 2019

There has been an “affective revolution” in organizational behavior since the mid-1990s, focusing initially on moods and affective dispositions. The past decade has seen a further shift toward investigating the complex roles played by discrete emotions in the workplace. Discrete emotions such as fear, anger, boredom, love, gratitude, and pride have their own appraisal antecedents, subjective experiences, and action tendencies that prepare people to respond to their current situation. Emotions have intrapersonal effects on the person experiencing them in terms of attention, motivation, creativity, information processing and judgment, and well-being. Some emotions have characteristic voice tones or facial expressions that serve the interpersonal function of communicating one’s state to interaction partners. For this reason, emotions are integral to social processes in organizations such as leadership, teamwork, negotiation, and customer service. The effects of emotions on behavior can be complex and context-dependent rather than straightforwardly mechanistic. Individuals may regulate the emotions they experience, the extent to which they display what they feel, and the actions they choose in response to how they feel.

Research has tended to focus on negative emotions (e.g., anger or anxiety) and their potential negative effects (e.g., aggression or avoidance), but negative emotions can sometimes have positive consequences. Discrete positive emotions have been relatively ignored in organizational research but feeling and expressing positive emotions often have positive consequences. There is considerable scope for investigating the ways in which specific discrete emotions are experienced, regulated, expressed, and acted upon in organizational life. There may also be a case for intentional efforts by organizations and employees to increase the occurrence of positive emotions at work.

  • emotions in organizations
  • affect in organizations
  • affective events theory
  • positive organizational scholarship
  • happiness at work

For many years emotions in the workplace were ignored altogether or were regarded as irrational. Hence, they had no place in organizations that were thought to be bastions of rationality, or they were considered merely a source of annoying unreliability in the reporting of more stable work attitudes and perceptions. This has been changing since the 1980s. Arlie R. Hochschild’s book The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling ( 1983 ) introduced the concept of emotional labor, in which employees are required to display prescribed emotions to customers whether or not they genuinely feel those emotions. Subsequent papers by Ashforth and Humphrey ( 1995 ), Pekrun and Frese ( 1992 ), Staw, Bell, and Clausen ( 1986 ), and especially Weiss and Cropanzano’s ( 1996 ) work introducing affective events theory, kick-started research on affect at work. By 2003 , Barsade, Brief, and Spataro were writing about an “affective revolution in organizational behavior,” and the pace of research has accelerated substantially since that time (e.g., Elfenbein, 2007 ).

Much of the early work on affect in organizations focused on mood, as defined by the dimensions of hedonic tone (pleasant to unpleasant) and arousal (high to low). More recently, research has extended to short-lived discrete emotional experiences such as anger, boredom, and gratitude. Emotions have specific targets (one is angry about something or feels love for a particular person) and most emotions have action tendencies that orient individuals to operate on the target of the emotion (e.g., approach in the case of love). The next section briefly describes psychological research on what emotions are, the functions they serve, and in general how they influence behavior. This is followed by a more specific examination of the role and impacts of emotions in organizations, a review of research related to a sample of discrete emotions relevant to the workplace, a description of how individuals regulate and/or express emotions at work, and a discussion of implications for future research including intentional efforts to increase the experience of positive emotions while working.

What Are Emotions and How Do They Work?

An emotion is an organized system of feelings, physiological responses, bodily expressions, and action tendencies that flow from an almost instantaneous appraisal of a current situation’s relevance to the individual (Scherer, 2005 ). The primary appraisal includes a quick assessment of whether an event is relevant to the perceiver and, if so, whether it is good or bad for their goals. A more detailed secondary appraisal of the specific cause, degree of threat or benefit, certainty, coping potential, and so on results in the experience of a particular discrete emotion (Lazarus, 1991 ; Smith & Ellsworth, 1985 ). For instance, fear is felt in connection with appraisals of very high uncertainty and high external control and unpleasantness. Emotions provide a read-out of one’s current state of affairs, such that positive emotions indicate that things are going well and negative emotions indicate a problematic situation. The functional approach to emotions holds that emotions evolved to serve adaptive purposes by interrupting ongoing activities, redirecting attention, and leading to a reprioritization of goals so that a current problem can be addressed. Emotions also prepare and motivate a coordinated response to the problem (Keltner & Gross, 1999 ), with different discrete emotions guiding responses to different kinds of problems (Lench, Flores, & Bench, 2011 ). For instance, fear prepares one mentally and physiologically for escape and anger prepares one to engage with the source of goal blockage. Socially functional emotions, such as embarrassment, shame, disgust, anger, gratitude, and love, also communicate internal states to others and guide interpersonal interactions (e.g., Van Kleef, 2014 ).

While emotions contain much more information than valence alone, positive or negative valence is the most fundamental differentiator between emotions (e.g., Shaver, Schwartz, Kirson, & O’Connor, 1987 ). Negative emotions have historically attracted considerably more research attention than positive ones. Negative states such as depression and stress and emotions such as anger and fear are highly relevant to individual mental health as well as to society and thus have been extensively studied by clinical and social psychologists. Lexical analyses show that there are more words in the English language for negative emotions than for positive emotions (e.g., Averill, 1980 ). In lists of the “basic emotions” considered universal, negative emotions substantially outnumber positive ones (Ortony & Turner, 1990 ). A case in point is Izard’s list ( 1977 ), with joy and interest being positive and all the rest being negative (fear, anger, disgust, contempt, distress, guilt, shame). In an extensive cluster analysis of natural categories and prototypes of emotion concepts, Shaver et al. ( 1987 ) confirmed that there are more distinct ways to feel bad than to feel good. While experiencing positive emotions is more common than negative emotions and most people feel at least a little positive most of the time (the “positivity offset,” Diener & Diener, 1996 ), we know that “bad is stronger than good” in the case of emotions and their effects (Baumeister, Bratslavsky, Finkenauer, & Vohs, 2001 ). Because they are less common, negative emotions are more distinctive and memorable than positive emotions. They also tend to be longer lasting, more intense, and generally more problematic. This may be because negative emotions and the situations that trigger them are less expected, often imply a violation of norms or values, threaten important goals, and are more likely to require a specific response (e.g., Thomas & Diener, 1990 ).

Only recently have psychologists turned substantial attention to positive emotions, flourishing, and vibrant well-being rather than the reduction of negative emotions, stress, illness, and disease (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000 ). The various positive emotions have more similar appraisal structures and less distinctive physiological signatures than the negative emotions, though some are empirically discriminable (De Rivera, Possell, Verette, & Weiner, 1989 ; Hu & Kaplan, 2015 ). Positive emotions signal that things are going well and consequently have less clear or urgent action tendencies, but they do serve a purpose. In her broaden-and-build model, Fredrickson ( 1998 ) suggested that the positive emotions of joy, interest, contentment, and love serve the adaptive function of broadening an individual’s momentary thought-action repertoire. This may result in creativity, exploration, and general approach tendencies that build intellectual and social resources, thereby enhancing resilience for the future. Further, the experience of positive emotions may fuel upward spirals of well-being and serve to “undo” the effects of stress and negative emotions. A landmark review by Lyubomirsky, King, and Diener ( 2005 ) evaluated the effect of general positive affect, concluding that it is predictively associated with personal and professional success, effective social behavior, and physical and mental well-being. I contend that positive emotions deserve more attention in organizational behavior research and that organizations and individuals may benefit from consciously cultivating the more frequent experience of positive emotions.

Emotions and Behavior

While emotions of both valences have action tendencies, they do not directly cause a specific behavior in a deterministic or hardwired process. Strong emotions may sometimes provoke impulsive action, but often action tendencies are moderated and responses chosen more carefully. In fact, the same emotion may have quite different behavioral effects depending on individual and situational differences (e.g., Tai, Narayanan, & McAllister, 2012 ). Baumeister, Vohs, DeWall, and Zhang ( 2007 ) pointed out that emotions do not automatically cause behavior, as in “fear makes you flee.” Rather, emotions trigger a more contextually sensitive process that results in action. They suggested that “behavior pursues emotion . . . people act on the basis of anticipated emotions rather than current ones” (Baumeister et al., 2007 , p. 195). For instance, Brown and McConnell ( 2011 ) showed that anticipated emotions about how one would feel if a goal was not reached predict goal-directed action. Van der Schalk, Kuppens, Bruder, and Manstead ( 2015 ) showed that anticipated regret reduced unfair treatment of others. In a work context, Grant and Wrzesniewski ( 2010 ) demonstrated that anticipated guilt and gratitude mediated the relationship between core self-evaluations and performance for employees high on other orientation. It may be most appropriate to think of emotions as the fuel, affect regulation as the brakes, and cognition, including thoughts about anticipated emotions, as the steering wheel guiding action tendencies (except when rocket fuel has been ignited).

Why Study Emotions in Organizations?

Emotions are pervasive in work organizations. First, organizations are populated by people, and people cannot help having emotions about things that matter to them. Organizations are achievement settings in which goal pursuit and professional identity often matter deeply, so emotions follow (Fisher, 2008 ; Pekrun & Frese, 1992 ). Organizations are also social settings in which individuals work with peers, bosses, subordinates, and customers. These relationships can go well or poorly and matter to people, so again, emotions are experienced. Finally, as pointed out by Ashkanasy and Dorris ( 2017 ), while emotions occur at the individual level and fluctuate within individuals over time, they also have relevance for higher levels of analysis in organizations. Both parties’ emotions are central to dyadic processes in leadership, negotiation, conflict, and customer service. Coworker’s emotions may converge to create relatively homogeneous group affective tone, which has implications for team processes and performance (Barsade & Knight, 2015 ; Collins, Lawrence, Troth, & Jordan, 2013 ; George & King, 2007 ; Menges & Kilduff, 2015 ). At the organizational level, there may be a characteristic affective climate that sets norms for the experience and expression of positive or negative emotions in that organization (Parke & Seo, 2017 ). Various combinations of emotional experience and expression norms may facilitate or inhibit performance in terms of relationships, creativity, productivity, and reliability (Parke & Seo, 2017 ). Organizations are now being urged to intentionally manage their emotional culture to maximize desirable outcomes (e.g., Barsade & O’Neill, 2016 ).

Although emotions can be studied at multiple levels, the remainder of this article focuses on the person level, where emotions are generated and experienced in real time. In this regard, it seems reasonable to begin by presenting Weiss and Cropanzano’s ( 1996 ) affective events theory, which was instrumental in stimulating the recent outpouring of research on mood and emotions in the workplace.

Affective Events Theory

Weiss and Cropanzano’s ( 1996 ) affective events theory (AET) drew attention to the real-time nature and causes of moods and emotions at work. They shifted the focus from stable work environment features such as job design to the more immediate level of specific affective events such as an accomplishment, an incident of feedback, an interaction with another person, a goal blockage of some sort, and so on. (e.g., Basch & Fisher, 2000 ; Herzberg, Mausner, & Snyderman, 1959 ; Ohly & Schmitt, 2015 ). Work environment features may predispose the more or less frequent occurrence of certain affective events, but it is the event itself that triggers the appraisal process and the real-time experience of an emotion. The emotion may sometimes lead to fairly spontaneous affect-driven behavior as the individual reacts to the immediate situation and the way they are feeling at the moment. Examples of such spontaneous acts may include helping or counterproductive work behavior, among others. Over time, emotions experienced in connection with a succession of work events are hypothesized to cumulate to influence more stable attitudes such as job satisfaction and organizational commitment, and these in turn predict judgment-driven behavior such as turnover. There is some support for many of the ideas put forward in AET (e.g., Fisher, 2002 ; Wegge, Dick, Fisher, West, & Dawson, 2006 ; Weiss & Beal, 2005 ).

An elaboration of AET was proposed by Veiga, Baldridge, and Markoczy ( 2014 ). They were speculating specifically about how a series of affective events involving the emotion of envy might cumulate to more intense feelings of envy over time, but their ideas should generalize to any emotion. Veiga et al. ( 2014 ) suggested that if there is a history of prior events in the workplace, each of which has evoked the same emotion, a schema is created and is increasingly accessible. This means that a future event of a similar nature is likely to be quickly appraised and will give rise to the same emotion but with greater intensity and consequently a stronger response than the current affective event alone might seem to warrant.

Effects of Emotions in Organizations

Emotions clearly have hedonic relevance to the person experiencing them, both immediately and cumulatively in terms of health and well-being (Lyubomirsky et al., 2005 ). They also have impacts on individual behavior and interpersonal relationships. It is often assumed that positive and negative emotions have symmetrical consequences, with positively valent emotions producing positive consequences and negatively valent emotions producing negative consequences. While this may often be true, there are many examples of asymmetrical effects (Lindebaum & Jordan, 2014 ; Lindebaum, Jordan, & Morris, 2016 ; Van Knippenberg & Van Kleef, 2016 ). For instance, Lebel ( 2017 ) discussed proactivity stimulated by fear and anger and resulting in functional outcomes for individuals and organizations (see also Lindebaum & Geddes, 2016 ). Ilies, Peng, Savani, and Dimotakis ( 2013 ) demonstrated that guilt induced by feedback about counter-productive work behavior enhances subsequent organizational citizenship behavior. The effects of emotions and their expression are wide-ranging, complex, and contingent. The following sections briefly describe the roles emotions may play in a variety of workplace domains.

Emotions and Decision Making

The classic conflict-theory of decision making by Janis and Mann ( 1977 ) describes the potential effects of emotional arousal/anxiety/stress on decision making in risky situations and hypothesizes that an intermediate level of stress should best facilitate rational decision making. There is also a considerable literature on how affect in the form of mood can produce biases and influence heuristics in decision making (e.g., Slovic, Finucane, Peters, & MacGregor, 2007 ). Isen ( 2008 ) provided an excellent review of the effects of induced mild positively valent mood on cognition, information processing, and decision making, concluding that mild positive affect increases cognitive flexibility. Gable, Browning, and Harmon-Jones ( 2016 ) pointed out the importance of affect intensity/arousal/approach motivation rather than just valence. While mild positive affect may broaden information search and processing, high arousal affect is associated with a narrowed focus of attention specifically to the source of the affect or the current problem.

More recently attention has turned to the way that specific emotions might influence decision making beyond simple valence or arousal effects. Lerner, Li, Valdesolo, and Kassam ( 2015 ) reviewed the growing literature on discrete emotions in decision making and judgment and concluded that “emotions constitute potent, pervasive, predictable, sometimes harmful and sometimes beneficial drivers of decision making . . . via changes in (a) content of thought, (b) depth of thought, and (c) content of implicit goals” (p. 816). The valence of current emotions, whether or not they are relevant to and flowing from the decision task at hand, may be taken as information about the advisability or otherwise of the decision. The appraisal dimensions most salient to a recently experienced emotion (e.g., other blame in the case of anger or uncertainty in the case of fear) as well as the action tendencies for that emotion (e.g., attack in the case of anger, escape/avoid in the case of fear) may color perceptions of an unrelated decision problem. In addition, aspects of the emotion can influence whether automatic/heuristic processing or systematic processing is used in making the decision. At this point in time, we know relatively little about how real-time emotions might influence or bias decision making in organizational settings beyond well-understood valence and arousal effects, but it seems likely that they do.

Emotions and Sensemaking

Sensemaking is the process by which individuals create meaning in the uncertain or ambiguous situations often found in organizations. Maitlis, Vogus, and Lawrence ( 2013 ) suggested that emotions might play important roles at three stages in the sensemaking process. First, emotions may help initiate sensemaking, which occurs when there is a surprising or unexpected event or result that does not fit the current mental model. The emotions that arise from this discrepancy, particularly if they are negative and relatively intense, are likely to both attract attention to the need for sensemaking and provide the energy to engage in this demanding cognitive activity. Second, emotions experienced during sensemaking may influence results by the kind of cognitive processing they trigger. Positive emotions often result in more flexible thinking, while negative emotions stimulate persistent and critical problem-solving. Specific emotions may also condition whether sensemaking is conducted socially or alone. Emotions like shame are especially likely to result in solitary sensemaking. Third, emotions may help inform sense makers of when their new model makes enough sense. If it resonates with the emotions they are currently feeling and appears to provide a useful guide to applying that emotion’s action tendency, sensemaking may cease.

Emotions and Leadership

Leadership represents an interpersonal relationship between the leader and individual followers or between the leader and a group. The relationship often has high importance for all parties, so it is not surprising that it is emotionally charged and that felt and expressed emotions are critical to the relationship on both sides. The importance of positive emotions in charismatic, transformational, and authentic leadership has long been appreciated, and the past decade has seen an explosion of research on emotions in leadership and followership (see Humphrey, Burch, & Adams, 2016 ; Van Knippenberg & Van Kleef, 2016 , for recent reviews). Sample topics include how the expression of specific emotions by leaders contributes to the perception of leadership (e.g., Eberly & Fong, 2013 ), how leaders can intentionally induce or regulate emotional experiences among followers (e.g., Kaplan, Cortina, Ruark, LaPort, & Nicolaides, 2014 ; Thiel, Connelly, & Griffith, 2012 ), how leader emotional displays affect subordinate motivation, engagement, and performance (e.g., Koning & Van Kleef, 2015 ; Visser, Van Knippenberg, Van Kleef, & Wisse, 2013 ), how emotions play out in the formation of leader-member exchange relationships (e.g., Cropanzano, Dasborough, & Weiss, 2017 ), how emotions are involved in poor leader-member relationships in the form of spirals of abusive supervision (e.g., Oh & Farh, 2017 ), and the complex contingencies governing effective leader emotional expression (e.g., Jordan & Lindebaum, 2015 ; Rothman & Melwani, 2017 ).

Emotions and Negotiation

Research on the role of emotions in negotiation is increasing (e.g., Martinovski, 2015 ; Overbeck, Neale, & Govan, 2010 ; Sinaceur, Van Kleef, Neale, Adam, & Haag, 2011 ). Issues involve the emotions felt by the parties, including their expressive displays (whether authentic or strategic), and the impact on negotiating outcomes. Emotions impact negotiators’ cognitions and inferences about the other party’s trustworthiness, motives, and willingness to make concessions. Anger and happiness are frequently studied (e.g., Allred, Mallozzi, Matsui, & Raia, 1997 ; Van Kleef & Côté, 2007 ); other emotions beginning to attract research in a negotiation context include disappointment, regret, fear, anxiety, and guilt. Positive emotions have been relatively neglected in the negotiation context, though the evidence suggests that they facilitate agreement, trust, and a longer-term relationship between the parties (see Olekalns & Druckman, 2014 , for a review). Van Kleef and Coté ( 2018 ) offered an excellent review of emotional dynamics in conflict and negotiation at the individual, dyad, and group levels.

Emotional Labor

Emotional labor occurs when employees modify or suppress the emotions they feel in order to display the emotions mandated by the organization, often in a customer service setting. This concept has attracted a great deal of research since 1990 , and Grandey and Gabriel ( 2015 ) provide a review of the antecedents, processes, and outcomes of emotional labor. Historically, two responses to organizational display rules have been studied in the emotional labor literature. One is deep acting, which occurs when employees change how they feel so that they can display the desired (usually positive) demeanor to customers (e.g., perhaps thinking of a happy event or trying to take the customer’s perspective to create positive emotions and thus facilitate the delivery of friendly and helpful service). The second is surface acting, in which employees do not change their underlying (usually negative) emotions but attempt to suppress their display and fake the (usually positive) demeanor expected by the employer. Employees who surface act may experience emotional dissonance.

Meta-analyses suggest that surface acting is generally detrimental to employee well-being (Hülsheger & Schewe, 2011 ; Kammeyer-Mueller et al., 2013 ). This would be expected from the more general literature on emotion regulation, which suggests that suppression of negative emotions is often harmful (Chervonsky & Hunt, 2017 ). Evidence for the organizational outcomes of emotional labor for service provider performance and customer reactions are somewhat weaker. Expressing positive (or suppressing negative) emotions may improve customer service perceptions by unconscious emotional contagion (Hatfield, Cacioppo, & Rapson, 1993 ) to the customer as well as by providing cues about the quality and motivations of the organization or the service provider. Genuine or deep acted (versus surfaced acted) positive emotional expressions seem to amplify these desirable effects (Grandey & Gabriel, 2015 ).

The single-minded focus on deep versus surface acting as stressors in emotional labor research has recently begun to broaden. First, because the vast majority of research on emotional labor has been in situations with positive emotion display rules, employees who report engaging in surface acting are those who initially felt and continue to feel negative emotions. The apparent adverse effects of surface acting on well-being may flow at least as much from feeling negative emotions as from acting to suppress the display of those emotions (Semmer, Messerli, & Tschan, 2016 ). Second, Grandey and Melloy ( 2017 ) pointed out that there is an alternative to acting—the authentic expression of emotion by employees who genuinely feel positive and display these positive emotions to customers without the use of any intervening emotion regulation strategy. Third, Humphrey, Ashforth, and Diefendorff ( 2015 ) suggested a bright side to emotional labor. They marshaled evidence that it is healthy and satisfying for employees to display positive emotions, whether deep acted or authentic. These advances suggest the need for more research on how to help employees feel authentic positive emotions so there is less need to act.

Discrete Emotions in Organizations

We have seen that emotions are implicated in a wide range of organizational processes. I now turn to a discussion of some specific emotions that may be relevant in organizations. While anger and boredom in the workplace have been fairly well studied, a number of other discrete emotions have attracted less attention but have the potential to generate useful insights relevant to behavior, performance, and well-being. Positive emotions have been particularly overlooked, yet we know they are critical to human well-being (Lyubomirsky et al., 2005 ). Hu and Kaplan ( 2015 ) noted the generally positive relationships between positive affect and desirable outcomes both in life and at work, but suggested that it is time to go beyond positive affect to discrete positive emotions that have unique antecedents and outcomes. Their discussion theorized about three emotions likely to be common and impactful at work: pride, interest, and gratitude.

“Pride is a self-focused positive emotion triggered by appraisals of the self’s success, status, and competence” (Horberg, Kraus, & Keltner, 2013 , p. 24). Pride may be based on a private self-appraisal of performance or competence or on recognition or public praise from others. There is a considerable literature on pride in social psychology, but relatively little research on pride in the organizational behavior literature. This is surprising because organizations are settings in which achievement is often evaluated and rewarded and job performance/competence is integral to many employees’ self-concepts. In fact, pride was the second most frequently experienced workplace emotion (behind joy) in a survey of sales people (Verbeke, Belschak, & Bagozzi, 2004 ). Pride has intrapersonal effects on motivation and persistence as well as interpersonal effects on those observing a display of pride.

There appear to be two distinct types of pride with different appraisal structures and effects (Tracy & Robins, 2007 ). Hubristic pride is pride in stable attributes of the global self (“I am a perfect person”) and is correlated with narcissism, poor self-esteem, impulsiveness, aggression, and poor self-control (e.g., Carver, Sinclair, & Johnson, 2010 ; Tracy & Robins, 2007 ). It is generally dysfunctional, tends to alienate others, and is described in theology as the original and most damaging of the seven deadly sins. In contrast, authentic pride is based on specific personal achievements that are attributed to internal, unstable, and controllable causes such as effort. Authentic pride is positively associated with self-esteem, self-control, intrinsic motivation, and conscientiousness, and seems much more likely to have positive consequences (Carver et al., 2010 ; Tracy & Robins, 2007 ). Recently, Buechner, Pekrun, and Lichtenfeld ( 2016 ) separated authentic pride into self-based pride , which is felt when one achieves a higher standard than one did in the past, and social-comparison-based pride , which is felt when one performs better than specific others. It seems likely that the type of feedback (absolute vs. comparative) that would provoke each type of pride and post-pride feelings and actions might vary between these types. For instance, Buechner et al. suggested that social-comparison-based pride might result in feelings of contempt for those bested, whereas self-based pride should further enhance mastery motivation.

Pride provides a read-out of the current state of goal progress or goal success, as well as motivating future adaptive behavior. Williams and DeSteno ( 2008 ) hypothesized that pride could enhance persistence on tasks despite short-term hedonic costs in the form of effort or boredom. In two studies, they demonstrated that pride induced by positive feedback delivered with praise enhanced persistence on a second task of a similar nature, did so over and above the effects of self-efficacy, and did so more than a positive affect induction without the pride treatment. Weidman, Tracy, and Elliot ( 2016 ) found that authentic pride was negatively related to plans to change one’s approach to training or study in two longitudinal achievement contexts. That is, high pride led to continued use of past successful strategies, while low pride triggered changes in approach that resulted in greater subsequent performance among those who initially performed more poorly. In a vignette study, Verbeke et al. ( 2004 ) found that salespeople said that feeling pride would increase their effort, self-efficacy, and use of adaptive selling strategies.

Pride also serves social purposes. The physical display of pride is easily recognized by observers, expressed as an upright and expanded posture with the head tilted slightly back, a low intensity smile, and hands on hips or up in the air. These physical displays convey to others the higher relative status of the displayer and may indicate “who’s the boss” (Shariff & Tracy, 2009 ), thus helping to establish and clarify social hierarchies. Pride body language also allows observers to infer the displayer’s likely appraisals and thereby predict other values and preferences of the individual showing pride. In particular, Horberg, Kraus, and Keltner ( 2013 ) showed that brief exposure to an individual displaying pride caused observers to infer that the individual was more self-interested and therefore that the individual more strongly supported a meritocratic rather than an egalitarian system of reward distribution. While this study did not focus on the employment context, clearly beliefs about reward systems and their fairness are very important to employees.

Individuals seem to understand that excessive displays of pride may alienate others or create envy, and therefore they regulate its display (Verbeke et al., 2004 ). In an article entitled, “Don’t Grin When You Win: The Social Costs of Positive Emotion Expression in Performance Situations,” Kalokerinos, Greenaway, Pedder, and Margetts ( 2014 ) found that when pride was based on winning against others, supressing overt displays of pride and joy was associated with improved social outcomes (ratings of likability and desire for friendship) among observers.

Organizations may attempt to build employee pride by individual recognition as well as collective celebrations. Pride is likely to be facilitated by competitive and individualistic reward practices, the idealized influence and inspirational motivation dimensions of transformational leadership, and performance-approach and mastery goals. While authentic pride may have desirable outcomes for future motivation and achievement, hubristic pride may reduce prosocial behavior and eventually degrade working relationships, as may excessive public displays of pride. Note that there may be national or organizational cultural differences in the extent to which pride of either type would be felt, displayed, or seen as appropriate.

Izard ( 1991 ) described the subjective experience of interest as the feeling of being engaged, caught up, fascinated, or curious . . . wanting to investigate, become involved, or expand the self by incorporating new information and having new experiences with the person or object that has stimulated the interest. In intense interest or excitement, the person feels animated and enlivened. (p. 100)

Interest is sometimes included in the short list of basic emotions (Izard, 1991 ; Silvia, 2001 ; Tomkins, 1984 ) and has been described as the most frequently experienced emotion (Silvia, 2006 ). It is one of the four emotions at the heart of Fredrickson’s ( 1998 ) broaden-and-build theory. The action tendency of interest is to approach and engage with the object or topic of interest and to persist in doing so. Interest narrows attentional focus to the object of interest (Sung & Yih, 2016 ) and is important to goal choice and to self-regulation during goal pursuit (e.g., Sansone, Weir, Harpster, & Morgan, 1992 ). Through goal choice, focus, and persistence, interest facilitates the development of competence, and educational psychologists have extensively studied the critical role of interest in the learning process (O’Keefe & Harackiewicz, 2017 ; Renninger & Hidi, 2016 ). Finally, experiencing interest in a task has been shown to replenish depleted self-regulatory resources and enhance persistence on a subsequent task (Thoman, Smith, & Silvia, 2011 ).

In the workplace, interest is implicit in research on intrinsic motivation and flow states, the absorption dimension of work engagement, and job redesign. Explicitly, stable individual interests have been extensively studied in the vocational choice context and are now receiving renewed research attention (e.g., Nye, Su, Rounds, & Drasgow, 2017 ; Van Iddekinge, Roth, Putka, & Lanivich, 2011 ). However, interest as a transient emotional state has not attracted the amount of research it deserves given its likely role in motivation, engagement, competency development, and personal well-being at work. Interest may be facilitated by job redesign, the intellectual stimulation dimension of transformational leadership, mastery goals, and person-job fit. Interest should facilitate sustained motivation, learning and skill development, creativity, and over the long term the frequent experience of interest at work should increase satisfaction with the work itself and, via creativity and skill development, job performance and success.

Gratitude occurs when one appreciates help received from another. It is rarely studied in the workplace but is beginning to attract some attention. For instance, Fehr, Fulmer, Awtrey, and Miller ( 2017 ) have proposed a three-level model of gratitude in organizations. They describe episodic gratitude as occurring when a focal person appreciates an incident of help, support, or other benefit voluntarily provided by another party for reasons perceived to be benevolent. At a higher level, persistent gratitude is the stable tendency of a person to experience gratitude and is learned from multiple instances of episodic gratitude. Finally, at the highest level, collective gratitude occurs at the organizational level when feeling and expressing gratitude become part of a shared affective culture.

Outside of the work context, Davis et al. ( 2016 ) and Dickens ( 2017 ) reported meta-analyses showing that interventions to increase the experience and expression of gratitude can have positive effects on happiness, life satisfaction, and depression. Also, in a nonwork context, being the recipient of a relationship partner’s gratitude is associated with the relationship growing stronger over time (Algoe, Fredrickson, & Gable, 2013 ). A meta-analysis has shown that gratitude is positively related to prosocial behavior, particularly toward the individual to whom one feels grateful (Ma, Tunney, & Ferguson, 2017 ).

In the workplace, Cheng, Tsui, and Lam ( 2015 ) found that keeping a twice weekly work-related gratitude journal reduced stress and depressive symptoms in healthcare providers compared to no journal or a journal of hassles. Daily fluctuations in felt gratitude at work have been shown to predict daily organizational citizenship behavior (Ford, Wang, Jin, & Eisenberger, 2018 ; Spence, Brown, Keeping, & Lian, 2014 ). Being the recipient of gratitude also seems to be beneficial. Grant and Gino ( 2010 ) explored the effect of receiving gratitude from the beneficiaries of one’s work or one’s supervisor and documented a motivational impact on fundraisers. It seems likely that gratitude experiences at work would encourage social bonds and increase satisfaction with the supervisor and coworkers, enhance perceptions of psychological safety, and increase the likelihood of future prosocial behavior by both the giver and the receiver.

Affection, Love, Admiration, Respect, and Compassion

Most workplaces are intensely social, featuring vertical and horizontal relationships with other employees as well as relationships with customers and suppliers. Positive social emotions experienced in connection with these relationships deserve more attention. The need to belong by forming attachments with other people is a powerful, pervasive, and fundamental human motivation, the satisfaction of which is consistently associated with positive psychological and physiological outcomes and the frustration of which is often detrimental to well-being (Baumeister & Leary, 1995 ). The positive organizational scholarship movement has emphasized, among other things, the importance of high-quality connections at work, be they brief contacts with others or sustained supportive and respectful relationships (e.g., Dutton & Ragins, 2007 ; Heaphy & Dutton, 2008 ).

Two studies highlighted the important role of companionate love in the workplace, defined as feeling and displaying affection, caring, compassion, and tenderness (Barsade & O’Neill, 2014 ; O’Neill & Rothbard, 2017 ). In a residential long-term care facility, a culture of companionate love negatively predicted later employee absenteeism and positively predicted later teamwork, job satisfaction, and desirable patient outcomes. Effects were amplified for employees high on trait-positive affect, for whom a caring culture and associated positive emotions are their preferred default. O’Neill and Rothbard ( 2017 ) studied companionate love toward fellow employees among firefighters. They found that a strong culture of companionate love helped buffer the effects of job and personal stressors on outcomes.

Dutton and her colleagues made a case for the importance of compassion in organizations (Dutton, Workman, & Hardin, 2014 ; Worline, Dutton, & Sisodia, 2017 ). Compassion occurs when one person feels empathic concern/sympathy and responds with altruistic caring to another who is suffering, clearly suggesting an emotionally charged interpersonal interaction between the giver and receiver of compassion. Compassionate action can result in improved positive emotions for both giver and receiver. Compassion may also trigger feelings of gratitude in the beneficiary.

While most of the research on positive social emotions at work considers relatively stable relationships (e.g., leader-member exchange, workplace friendship networks, mentoring, etc.), it is possible that more fleeting interpersonal affective events that generate short-term positive emotions are also important in creating longer-term well-being. It is time to go beyond the rather pallid chronic constructs of satisfaction with leaders and coworkers to explore positive social emotions such as liking, love, respect, and admiration experienced in connection with work activities.

There is very little research on feeling respect or admiration toward others or on feeling respected or admired by others. Grover ( 2014 ) has written about respect in organizations, suggesting that is it relevant to understanding leadership, engagement, turnover, interactional fairness, group dynamics, and reputation. Carmeli, Dutton, and Hardin ( 2015 ) have suggested that “respectful engagement” with colleagues fosters creativity at least partly through positive emotions such as appreciation and gratitude.

Admiration seems a useful, probably common, but almost entirely neglected positive emotion in the workplace. Schindler, Zink, Windrich, and Menninghaus ( 2012 ) suggested that admiration should have four action tendencies: to give praise to the admired party’s skills, virtues, or accomplishments; to affiliate with the admired party; to internalize the values and goals of the admired party; and to imitate the admired party. The long-term adaptive function of admiration is to transmit knowledge and values through social learning. Evidence for self-expansion as a consequence of admiration through the action tendency of emulation is provided by Schindler, Paech, and Löwenbrück ( 2015 ). I next discuss some discrete negatively valent emotions likely to be relevant in organizational settings.

Guilt is a “moral emotion” felt when one becomes aware of having violated important social norms. The action tendency for guilt is to engage in reparatory behavior such as apologizing or changing one’s behavior to make amends. Ilies et al. ( 2013 ) demonstrated that providing feedback to employees on their level of counterproductive work behavior induced feelings of guilt and that guilt fully mediated the relationship between feedback and subsequent organizational citizenship behavior. In sum, drawing attention to falling short of a social norm seems to be an effective way, through the emotion of guilt, to motivate employees to lift their game.

Contempt is beginning to receive attention from organizational scholars. It is a social emotion involving “distancing expressions of superiority, condescension, disapproval, and exclusion” that may be communicated verbally or by demeaning expressions such as eye-rolling or raising one lip corner (Melwani & Barsade, 2011 , pp. 503–504). “Contempt arises when a person’s or group’s character is appraised as bad and unresponsive to change, leading to attempts to socially exclude the target” (Fischer & Giner-Sorolla, 2016 ). The function of contempt seems to be to increase social distance and reduce the social status of the recipient. Contempt is organizationally relevant because it accompanies the judgment that another is incompetent (Hutcherson & Gross, 2011 ) and workplaces offer many formal and informal opportunities to compare performance or judge the competence of others. Being on the receiving end of contempt can have severe effects. Gottman’s ( 1993 ) seminal work on marital stability versus breakdown implicated contempt (along with criticism, stonewalling, and defensiveness) as a key predictor of divorce. Melwani and Barsade ( 2011 ) presented three laboratory studies demonstrating that contemptuous (vs. angry vs. neutral) feedback reduced self-esteem and caused recipients to work harder in subsequent rounds (unless they were of higher status than the sender of contempt), to display more aggression toward the sender of contempt (unless they were of lower status), and to experience reciprocal feelings of contempt toward the sender.

The expression of contempt is likely to be a common feature of bullying and abusive supervision. However, looking down on another may also signal that the source of the emotional display is of higher status and is more “leader-like.” Melwani, Mueller, and Overbeck ( 2012 ) reported three studies showing that displays of both contempt and compassion positively predicted leader emergence. These emotions operate through viewer perceptions that the displayer is more intelligent and therefore a closer match to the leader prototype. Note that the display of four emotions that do not convey information about relative social status (anger, envy, admiration, and love) did not predict leader emergence in these studies. Note also that these results may be culture-bound if expectations of appropriate leader behavior vary across cultures.

It has been suggested that contempt from one employee toward another may be an outcome of social-comparison-based pride (Buechner et al., 2016 ). However, Tse, Lam, Lawrence, and Huang ( 2013 ) found that contempt from one coworker toward another can also be felt when the coworkers have unequal leader-member exchange relationships with their shared leader, regardless of whether the party feeling contemptuous has the better or the worse relationship.

Anger has attracted more attention from organizational researchers than any other negative emotion. A review of anger in organizations is offered by Gibson and Callister ( 2010 ), so this section will be brief. Anger is a “basic” emotion. It is a common response to intentional mistreatment, injustice, goal blockage, or misbehavior by another person or entity. The action tendency for anger is often to somehow attack the entity that is blamed in an effort to retaliate or put right the wrong (Lazarus, 1991 ). A recent study of daily fluctuations in workplace anger showed that it predicted daily counterproductive work behavior (Ford et al., 2018 ).

Most research focus to date has been on the harmful effects of anger expression, from incivility to violence and the destruction of relationships (Chervonsky & Hunt, 2017 ), but functional and adaptive consequences are also possible. Anger expression may result in the expresser being more likely to have his or her needs met and injustices brought to light and remedied (e.g., Kirrane, O’Shea, Buckley, Grazi, & Prout, 2017 ; Lebel, 2017 ; Stickney & Geddes, 2014 ). “Moral anger” is a prosocial form of anger that motivates actions to redress the injustices experienced by others (Lindebaum & Geddes, 2016 ). Anger may be suppressed, expressed in a controlled and lower intensity form than the internal experience, or expressed authentically exactly as felt. Positive outcomes seem most likely when the anger expression is perceptible but below the “impropriety threshold” set by norms for that situation (Geddes & Callister, 2007 ). Anger also plays a role in negotiation and influences the behavior of both target and expresser (e.g., Allred et al., 1997 ; Van Kleef & Côté, 2007 ).

Boredom is “the aversive experience of having an unfulfilled desire to be engaged in a satisfying activity” (Fahlman, Mercer-Lynn, Flora, & Eastwood, 2013 , p. 80) or alternatively it is feeling unchallenged and perceiving one’s current activity as meaningless (Van Tilburg & Igou, 2012 ). Boredom is commonly experienced at work, even by white collar and professional employees. The adaptive purpose of boredom is to motivate exploration and goal change toward more rewarding activities when the current situation is not satisfying (Bench & Lench, 2013 ), yet this may not be possible given the constraints of many work environments. Bored employees may distract themselves with non-task-related thoughts, horseplay, gossip, cyberloafing, or other unproductive activities, and boredom is associated with mind wandering and reduced performance on vigilance tasks. On the other hand, some bored employees seek additional work or learning opportunities, engage in citizenship behavior, or when possible manage their boredom by shifting between tasks. Reviews of boredom at work are available from Cummings, Gao, and Thornburg ( 2016 ), Fisher ( 2018 ), and Loukidou, Loan-Clarke, and Daniels ( 2009 ).

Envy, Jealousy, and Schadenfreude

Envy appears to be a common phenomenon in the workplace, especially given a general human penchant for social comparison, the competitive nature of many workplaces, and the necessary rationing of valuable rewards and status in hierarchical organizations. Envy arises when another possesses or receives something one wants but does not have (e.g., a raise, a promotion, recognition, or any other tangible or intangible advantage), possibly accompanied by implicit loss of relative social status and perceptions of injustice. There may be two forms of envy, malicious and benign , and in fact the Dutch language has different words for these and no word for envy in general (Van de Ven, 2017 ; Van de Ven et al., 2015 ). However, Cohen-Charash and Larson ( 2017 ) make the case that envy is a single feeling, though it may have both desirable and undesirable effects.

Envy is considered to be one of the seven deadly sins, and it is generally not acceptable to express it publicly. Hence, those feeling envy may resort to covert actions in the form of counter-productive work behavior aimed at the more favored party such as undermining, sabotage, lack of cooperation, or spreading rumors (Khan, Quratulain, & Bell, 2014 ; Veiga et al., 2014 ). While envy is often directed at a more favored party, there is also evidence that employees may envy apparently faster-rising individuals who are still below them and proactively undermine them to head off a future status threat (Reh, Tröster, & Van Quaquebeke, 2018 ). Finally, being envied for one’s workplace success may cause either positive or negative emotions, as the target of envy struggles with the potentially incompatible goals of “getting ahead” by outperforming others and “getting along” with peers (Lee, Duffy, Scott, & Schippers, 2018 ).

Jealousy is felt when a second party may try to take away something the first party has, usually a relationship with a third party. Jealousy at work may be felt when one perceives the loss or threat of loss of a valued workplace relationship, such as a privileged relationship with one’s manager, to a rival (Vecchio, 2000 ). Ethical leadership seems to reduce the incidence of jealousy among subordinates and also mitigates its otherwise negative relationship to organizational citizenship behavior (Wang & Sung, 2016 ).

Schadenfreude is the positive emotion of feeling of pleasure in response to another’s misfortune, failure, or suffering. It is considered in poor taste to share or display this emotion, unless the unfortunate party clearly deserved their fate due to an unethical act, in which case the social sharing of schadenfreude among observers may serve the purpose of reinforcing the norms that were violated (Dasborough & Harvey, 2017 ).

Emotion Expression and Regulation

This article has discussed a number of specific emotions that individuals may feel in the workplace. However, individuals are not slaves to their emotions and often actively manage either what they feel or what they express. The next sections discuss the means and outcomes of emotion expression and regulation as they may play out at work.

Emotion Expression

The interpersonal effects of emotion depend on their display and interpretation by interaction partners or observers. Van Kleef’s ( 2010 ) emotions as social information (EASI) model points out the key role of displayed emotions in communicating with others. One party’s emotional display may automatically evoke the same feeling in another party via emotional contagion (e.g., happiness evokes happiness). Contagion occurs because of unconscious mimicry of an interaction party’s facial expressions and the resulting feedback from facial muscles to the observer’s brain (Hatfield et al., 1993 ). Alternatively, one party’s display may almost automatically evoke a reciprocal feeling, as in one party’s anger evokes fear in the target. Sometimes, one party’s emotional display induces a more systematic inference process in the observer that results in them experiencing quite a different emotion and carefully choosing a response accordingly. An example of the second process, inference, might be that a display of happiness from a negotiation partner is interpreted as meaning that no further concessions are needed (see Van Kleef, 2014 , for more examples). Whether automatic or inferential processes predominate in a given exchange is hypothesized to depend on factors such as the inappropriateness and intensity of the emotional display and the motivation to engage in careful information processing.

Further evidence for the social influence of expressed emotions comes from research on emotion cycles or spirals as described by Hareli and Rafaeli ( 2008 ). Expressed emotions influence targets of those emotions as well as bystanders and may elicit a range of emotions and behaviors in return that subsequently influence the initial displayer. Groth and Grandey ( 2012 ) describe how interactions between service providers and customers can turn into negative exchange spirals. Andersson and Pearson’s ( 1999 ) classic piece, “Tit for Tat? The Spiralling Effect of Incivility in the Workplace,” described similar spirals among peers. More recently, Foulk, Woolum, and Erez ( 2016 ) published “Catching Rudeness is Like Catching a Cold: The Contagion Effects of Low-intensity Negative Behaviors.” While cognitive explanations play a role in these phenomena, there can be little question that experienced and expressed emotions would also be heavily involved in escalating cycles of incivility or rudeness.

Expressing positive emotions is generally beneficial for social outcomes (Chervonsky & Hunt, 2017 ), with the possible exception of expressing too much pride (Kalokerinos et al., 2014 ). Expressing or sharing affective events and associated feelings with one or more coworkers can also have intrapersonal effects on the expresser. One study found that sharing positive work events and feelings with others almost always amplified positive feelings, while sharing negative work events and feelings mitigated negative feelings in 70% of cases (Hadley, 2014 ).

Emotion Regulation

Individuals often try to regulate their emotions to make themselves feel better by down-regulating negative emotions and up-regulating positive emotions. Because emotions also communicate to others (e.g., Van Kleef, 2014 ), have social impacts, and can feed or moderate emotional spirals in dyads (Hareli & Rafaeli, 2008 ), individuals may also be motivated to control the emotions they display to others. A flood of research on emotion regulation was unleashed by Gross’s seminal review ( 1998 ) in which he presented the process model of emotion regulation. The model explains how emotions emerge over time and suggests different emotion regulation strategies that may be used either prior to the experience of a potential emotion or after the emotion is already being felt. Emotions are reactions to current situations, so early regulation opportunities occur in the selection or modification of situations to change the likelihood of a particular emotional experience occurring in the first place. For instance, one might choose to skip a meeting likely to induce boredom. In the next stage, attention deployment may be used to direct attention toward specific aspects of the situation or to distract one’s focus away from distressing elements, so the emotion is not experienced or is less intense. A bored meeting attendee might choose to doodle or plan their weekend rather than pay attention to the discussion in progress. In addition, cognitive change, most often reappraisal, may be used to change the meaning of the situation in the desired direction. In this strategy, attendees may convince themselves that the topic of the meeting is important and relevant to them so they feel less bored. Finally, response modulation involves attempting to regulate the display and action tendencies associated with the emotion being experienced. The bored meeting attendee might inhibit the desire to yawn or fidget and instead pretend to be paying attention.

There is a very large literature on emotion regulation strategies in clinical and social psychology. The vast majority of this literature focuses on the down-regulation of negative emotions. Meta-analyses suggest that activities that distract attention from a negative affective state are generally effective in improving affect. Problem-focused coping responses that modify the situation are also helpful, as are attempts to reappraise the situation so it appears less negative (Aldao, Nolen-Hoeksema, & Schweizer, 2010 ; Augustine & Hemenover, 2009 ; Chervonsky & Hunt, 2017 ; Webb, Miles, & Sheeran, 2012 ).

Diefendorff, Richard, and Yang ( 2008 ) explored the strategies that employees said they used to regulate negative emotions at work. The most frequent emotions triggering the need to regulate were annoyance, frustration, and anger. The most commonly used strategies were seeking out individuals that made them feel better, keeping busy working on other things, doing something enjoyable, trying to solve a problem, finding humor in the situation, and thinking about how the other person feels. The least used strategies were avoiding a situation that would cause bad feelings and leaving the situation, perhaps because these are often not available options given the constraints and expectations of work roles.

Emotion Down-Regulation and Suppression

Suppression is the active inhibition of the experience or expression of an emotion that is being felt. A recent meta-analysis concluded that “greater suppression of emotion was significantly associated with poorer social well-being, including more negative first impressions, lower social support, lower social satisfaction and quality, and poorer romantic relationship quality (Chervonsky & Hunt, 2017 , p. 669). Suppression requires effort and consumes resources that might otherwise be available for task performance. The rationales for the negative impact of surface acting on well-being involve the costs of suppression and resulting inauthenticity and emotional dissonance between what is felt and what is displayed to customers. Two field studies of the naturally occurring use of emotion suppression during the pursuit of personally important goals showed that suppression reduced future goal effort, goal competence, and goal success. Suppression was also associated with subsequent negative moods and lowered social support, suggesting that frequent or sustained suppression may not generally be a desirable strategy for employees (Low, Overall, Hammond, & Girme, 2017 ).

On the other hand, there clearly is a role for occasional suppression of emotional displays in the interest of getting along in a complex social world. As mentioned previously, partial suppression of anger displays to remain below the impropriety threshold is socially beneficial (Geddes & Callister, 2007 ). Part of a supervisor’s role is to help subordinates regulate their emotions, and suppression may be a tactic they suggest. One study showed that when an empathic supervisor (“I understand your justified anger at what someone else has done to you”) recommended a suppression strategy (“let’s put it behind us, think positively, and put your considerable skills to work”) following an unfair event, employee stress was minimized (Thiel, Griffith, & Connelly, 2015 ).

Emotion Up-Regulation: Rumination and Savoring

Another form of regulating experienced emotions involves intentionally amplifying their intensity or duration. Generally individuals seek pleasure and avoid pain, so the up-regulation of positive emotions should be more common than the up-regulation of negative ones. However, a disproportionate share of research has concentrated on the latter in the form of rumination (Smith & Alloy, 2009 ). Rumination is persistently thinking about a negative event or feeling, its causes, and the distress one is experiencing in consequence. It is strongly implicated in the development of depression and anxiety disorders (Nolen-Hoeksema, Wisco, & Lyubomirsky, 2008 ; Olatunji, Naragon-Gainey, & Wolitzky-Taylor, 2013 ). On a smaller scale, replaying negative work events has also been shown to be harmful. Wang et al. ( 2013 ) found that postwork rumination about being mistreated by customers predicted negative mood the next morning. They suggested that organizations should help their employees avoid rumination by encouraging them to engage in mastery activities after work (e.g., hobbies, volunteer work) as well as training them in service recovery and enhancing perceived organizational support.

Quoidbach, Mikolajczak, and Gross ( 2015 ) pointed out a huge recent boom in research on the up-regulation of positive emotions such as joy, pride, excitement, and awe, with the aim of increasing life happiness. Positive interventions aimed at this purpose are discussed later in this article (see “ Positive Emotion Interventions ”). One way to up-regulate positive emotions is to savor them, which is more or less the opposite of rumination. “Savoring involves the self-regulation of positive feelings, most typically generating, maintaining, or enhancing positive affect by attending to positive experiences from the past, present, or future” (Bryant, Chadwick, & Kluwe, 2011 , p. 108). Individuals can savor positive emotions by consciously focusing on feelings about a pleasant event as it is unfolding in real time; by reminiscing about positive feelings, activities, and accomplishments from the past; and by thinking about and anticipating future positive feelings. Savoring helps intensify, prolong, or reactivate positive emotional experiences and therefore helps individuals more fully reap the benefits of positive affect. Self-reported savoring of positive emotions is positively related to positive affect and to resilience, as would be predicted by Fredrickson’s broaden-and-build model (Sharna, Desiree, & Stephen, 2015 ). Instructions to reminisce about a positive event for ten minutes per day for a week increased the percent of time people felt happy (Bryant, Smart, & King, 2005 ). There is also evidence that savoring has beneficial effects on cortisol (a physiological marker of stress) and activates regions of the brain involved in processing rewards and positive emotions (Speer & Delgado, 2017 ).

Savoring seems beneficial but may be under-used. In an article entitled, “It Ain’t Over ’Til It’s Over,” Schall, Goetz, Martiny, and Hall ( 2017 ) reported three studies showing that individuals are cautious about savoring interim successes on the road to a final goal. Savoring of interim accomplishments was inhibited by worries about the tasks yet to come or the belief that celebrating too soon would undermine, or at least not facilitate, future motivation and success. Intentional savoring was more likely to occur after the entire task was completed to an above-average standard, though individuals did not go so far as to actively suppress positive feelings about interim accomplishments. Schall et al. ( 2017 ) suggested that there may be motivational and well-being benefits from taking greater advantage of opportunities to savor while tasks are still in progress.

The Future of Research on Emotions at Work

It seems likely that emotions will continue to attract considerable research attention from organizational scholars. The methods used and sophistication of research questions have developed over time as discussed below. A particular arena for future research is the study of positive emotions, including the design of effective interventions to enhance positive emotions at work.

Methods for Studying Emotions at Work

Studying emotions is often best served by methods that permit the assessment of situations/events, emotions, cognitions, and behavior in real time. Fortunately, experience sampling (Fisher & To, 2012 ) and diary methods are available to capture within-person processes and enable the study of emotional dynamics over short periods of time. Advances in technology have made these methods much more accessible and they have been widely adopted (e.g., Beal, 2015 ; Mehl & Conner, 2011 ). Repeated measures also allow the investigation of emotional processes that go beyond the immediate experience of a “hot” emotion to somewhat delayed effects, such as next morning affect or recovery (e.g., Wang et al., 2013 ). One might expect that the experience of particularly intense emotions (e.g., strong anger, fear, or joy) would last well beyond the relatively brief physiological response. Thinking about an affective event and how one felt (rumination or savoring) is also likely to prolong or reactivate the emotion and increase the duration of its effect. We know little about when and why individuals use rumination or savoring at work, though it is probably quite common. Continued use of experience sampling and diary methods to study these and other within-person emotional processes over time is recommended.

A novel approach is even more fine-grained and may be useful for some laboratory studies of emotions. Continuous rating assessment (CRA) involves participants using a slider to indicate what they were feeling or thinking several times per second as they review a recent affective event on videotape. CRA permits the capture of responses to micro-events within events (e.g., when a call center customer turns from pleasant to rude or back, or when deep acting becomes surface acting). This allows for assessing the time dynamics and topology of change in real time, as well as assessing the effects of peak, valley, and end states on perceptions of an affective event as a whole (Gabriel & Diefendorff, 2015 ; Gabriel, Diefendorff, Bennett, & Sloan, 2017 ).

Consequences of Emotions at Work

The field has moved away from a simple mechanistic view of the effects of emotions via their associated action tendencies to a more sophisticated, nuanced, and contingent view of how emotions contribute to behavior. Scholars are working toward improved theory involving mediators and moderators of the processes by which emotions have effects. We are also coming to understand the ways in which emotions of either valence can have symmetric or asymmetric consequences depending on a host of individual and situational factors. Such sophisticated thinking should continue, but without ignoring the substantial main effects that may also occur. One example is a conceptual piece by Tai et al. ( 2012 ), who theorized about how interpersonal behavior and job performance may be impacted by feelings of envy, contingent upon attributes of the perceiver, the target, and the surrounding organizational context. Envy leads to attempts to relieve discomfort and restore balance by getting even or by getting ahead. That is, individuals may act to undermine the targets of their envy or alternatively view them as challenging role models and strive to emulate their success. Tai et al. ( 2012 ) suggested that less undermining and improved performance will occur when perceiver core self-evaluations are high, the target of envy is seen as both warm and competent, and organizational support is high.

Another example of sophisticated thinking about the contingent effects of discrete emotions is provided by Conroy, Becker, and Menges ( 2016 ). They hypothesized and investigated the effects of feelings of anger, guilt, and pride on turnover intentions as a function of relative strength of organizational and occupational identification. Anger, guilt, and pride were negatively associated with turnover intentions when organizational identification was high and positively related when organizational identification was low, and these effects were moderated by occupational identification. They concluded that “when identifications are considered, the effects of discrete emotions can differ among emotions with similar valence (e.g., anger and guilt), and be similar for emotions with different valence (e.g., guilt and pride)” (Conroy et al., 2016 , p. 1087).

Positive Emotion Interventions

I have made the case that a number of discrete emotions of both valences should attract more attention from organizational scholars and that positive emotions are the most understudied in the workplace. While not all positive emotions produce positive organizational outcomes, and some negative emotions can produce beneficial effects, on the whole an increase in the experience of positive emotions at work should be beneficial for employee well-being and will probably produce positive consequences for organizations as well, whether directly or via employee well-being (Lyubomirsky et al., 2005 ; Tenney, Poole, & Diener, 2016 ). Writing in Psychological Bulletin , Quoidbach et al. ( 2015 ) concluded that

There is now strong evidence that positive emotions are worth cultivating, not only as ends in themselves but also as a means of achieving success and psychological growth, improved mental and physical health, more satisfying and lasting social and marital relationships, and even positive societal changes. (p. 655)

In the workplace, we know that naturally occurring daily variation in positive emotions is related to concurrent desirable outcomes such as engagement (Ouweneel, Le Blanc, Schaufeli, & Van Wijhe, 2012 ), creativity (e.g., To, Fisher, Ashkanasy, & Rowe, 2012 ), and citizenship behavior (e.g., Ford et al., 2018 ; Ilies, Scott, & Judge, 2006 ), to name just a few. Over time, more frequent positive emotions should cumulate to influence individual attitudes, group affective tone, and organizational affective climate. It seems reasonable for organizations and individuals to try to increase the occurrence of positive emotions at work. Guidance on how this might be accomplished has been taken from the explosion of research on “positive interventions” designed to increase happiness in general. Reviews of this work conclude that while it is relatively difficult to create consistent and sustained increases in overall life happiness, perhaps due to genetic set points or adaptation level phenomena, modest change can occur with effort and the regular use of happiness-enhancing activities (Bolier et al., 2013 ; Sheldon, Boehm, & Lyubomirsky, 2013 ; Sin & Lyubomirsky, 2009 ). The most effective positive interventions seem to target three pathways to building happiness: increasing positive emotions, increasing engagement, and increasing meaning (Parks & Layous, 2016 ; Parks, Schueller, & Tasimi, 2013 ). All three of these are potentially manipulable and relevant at work. A foundation for interventions based on “meaning” at work has been provided in papers by Rosso, Dekas, and Wrzesniewski ( 2010 ) as well as Schnell, Höge and Pollet ( 2013 ).

The observation by Spreitzer, Sutcliffe, Dutton, Sonenshein, and Grant in 2005 that more is known about reducing stress and disease than about cultivating thriving at work is still true. Admittedly, “bad is stronger than good” (Baumeister et al., 2001 ), and most interventions to date have been aimed at helping employees manage negative emotions in chronically stressful jobs (e.g., Buruck, Dorfel, Kugler, & Brom, 2016 ; Cheng et al., 2015 ). However, there have been some reports of interventions designed specifically to increase positive emotional states among employees, with mixed to modest success. Meyers, Van Woerkom, and Bakker ( 2013 ) provided a narrative review of 15 varied positive organizational interventions. Most interventions had a beneficial impact on at least one positively toned affective outcome and some interventions reduced stress, but only few reduced negative affect.

Gratitude treatments seem to be the most consistently effective in the general life happiness literature as well as in organizational applications to date (Winslow et al., 2017 ). Fehr et al. ( 2016 ) suggested that organizations enhance the experience of gratitude by adopting peer-recognition programs that encourage employees to express gratitude to others in the organization, by increasing contact with the beneficiaries of employees’ work who may express gratitude, and by providing supportive feedback and mentoring so that employees feel gratitude toward the organization or their supervisor (Ford et al., 2018 ). Neumeier, Brook, Ditchburn, and Sckopke ( 2017 ) found that two online daily programs were equally effective in increasing overall and work-related well-being compared to a wait-listed control group. The successful conditions were a gratitude treatment and another based on Seligman’s ( 2011 ) five component approach to well-being emphasizing positive emotions, engagement/interest in life activities requiring one’s strengths, satisfying personal relationships, meaning, and accomplishment/mastery. Another study compared a gratitude intervention to a social connectedness intervention (exhortations to talk to a colleague personally rather than send an email, or go to coffee with them) and found that both reduced sickness-related absence and that the gratitude intervention increased positive affective well-being. However, the social connectedness intervention did not increase positive affect and neither intervention reduced negative affect (Kaplan, Bradley-Geist, et al., 2014 ). Winslow et al. ( 2017 ) compared a wait-listed control group to a workplace gratitude intervention to a group that alternated gratitude with a social connectedness activity. Neither intervention was effective across the board, though individual differences in agreeableness, conscientiousness, and tenure moderated the effect of the gratitude intervention on some outcomes.

Bono, Glomb, Shen, Kim, and Koch ( 2013 ) assessed the effect of a positive daily reflection intervention (write about three good things that happened at work today) on well-being in the evening. While effects were small, they were significant, with stress and health complaints being lower on evenings following positive reflections. A similar intervention was ineffective in a study by Meier, Cho, and Dumani ( 2016 ), and several other studies have found quite small or nonsignificant effects of positive interventions at work (e.g., Meier et al., 2016 ; Muller, Heiden, Herbig, Poppe, & Angerer, 2016 ).

Another approach to creating more positive emotions is to change the nature of work tasks to improve person-job fit, by increasing personal meaning or allowing greater utilization of each individual’s “signature strengths.” Forest et al. ( 2012 ) helped part-time employees identify their strengths then encouraged them to make greater use of two of their strengths each day for two weeks. They found that well-being improved in the treatment group compared to a control, and that effects on well-being were mediated by increases in harmonious passion. However, an extensive intervention designed to enhance job crafting was unsuccessful in building employee positive affect, though it did reduce negative affect and enhance self-efficacy (Van den Heuvel, Demerouti, & Peeters, 2015 ).

While meta-analyses have confirmed that positive interventions can be somewhat effective in alleviating depression and increasing life happiness among those who embrace this goal, convincing evidence of the effectiveness, lasting impact, and utility of specific positive emotional interventions in the workplace is still insufficient to guide practice. It is unclear what the most effective interventions might be, whether they work equally well for everyone, whether there is a need to regularly change the intervention/activities to avoid hedonic adaptation, and what the optimal frequency might be (Lyubomirsky, Sheldon, & Schkade, 2005 ). Perhaps organizational scholars have been too eager to adopt interventions designed to counter depression and increase well-being in a general population. Such add-on interventions may be seen as irrelevant or inappropriate in the workplace. For instance, Winslow et al. ( 2017 ) found that more conscientious employees reported reductions in positive emotions following the positive intervention, perhaps seeing it as a waste of time that took attention away from “real work.” Another caution about positive interventions concerns the right of organizations to attempt to “mess with” their employees’ minds. Some positive interventions, unless entirely voluntary, would fall outside the normal psychological contract of exchange between employee and employer and could even be seen as attempts at brainwashing. Especially problematic are organizationally sponsored interventions that recommend unpaid off-the-job activities such as undertaking non-job-related mastery activities or encouraging positive work-related reflection in the evening (Wang et al., 2013 ).

Research on positive emotions in organizations in particular may offer insights into less contrived interventions that may be more effective for normally well-adjusted adults in the workplace. Research by Amabile and Kramer ( 2007 , 2011 ) provides some suggestions. They analyzed employee diary reports of one major (affective) event per day to discover the correlates of happy days versus bad days. They found that happy days were characterized by perceived progress and accomplishment on meaningful work tasks, and bad days by setbacks on tasks. They concluded that the most useful managerial activities to build a positive “inner worklife” (positive emotions, beliefs, and motivation) among employees were to assure clear and achievable goals that enabled small wins on meaningful work tasks, to remove roadblocks, and to treat employees with genuine care, consideration, and appreciation. Returning to the list of often-ignored positive emotions at work discussed earlier in this article, the meaningful work and achievable short-term goals Amabile and Kramer ( 2007 , 2011 ) recommend should enhance interest, authentic pride, and the opportunity to savor past and current successes.

Ohly and Schmitt ( 2015 ) developed a taxonomy of positive and negative work events that is quite consistent with Amabile and Kramer’s suggestions. They found that 92% of positive affective events reported by employees could be clustered into three categories related to goal attainment/solving a problem/task-related success, praise and positive feedback, and social competence. Thirty-nine percent of negative work events had to do with goal blockages or technical difficulties with work equipment. These findings corroborate the importance of perceived and recognized job performance for positive versus negative emotions at work (Fisher, 2008 ). Interventions aimed at perceptions of progress and competence might be more effective in building positive emotions in the workplace than those aimed at gratitude or postwork reflection. They are also more likely to be seen as legitimate by employees and to enhance performance directly as well as indirectly via employee well-being. Research is needed to develop, test, and compare different types of positive interventions suited to the workplace context.

At the organizational level, affective climate could be a focus of attention, as demonstrated by Barsade and O’Neill ( 2014 ) and O’Neill and Rothbard ( 2017 ). Parke and Seo ( 2017 ) discussed how organizations might create affective climates that encourage the actual experience and authentic display of positive emotions or that permit the experience and authentic display of both positive and negative emotions as appropriate. These climates are hypothesized to be generally better for a range of performance outcomes than those that focus on negative emotions exclusively, or on the suppression of authentic emotions in order to provide organizationally mandated displays. Focusing attention on creating an affective climate that supports the company’s mission and strategy (e.g., companionate love in a residential care facility) may provide greater legitimacy, relevance, and impact than adopting generic positive interventions that may seem out of place at work (Barsade & O’Neill, 2016 ).


The experience of discrete emotions of both positive and negative valence is endemic to the workplace. The unique appraisal patterns and action tendencies associated with each emotion gives these affective phenomena explanatory power beyond that provided by moods. A wide variety of different emotions exist and a great many of them are likely to be experienced in the workplace. A theme throughout this article has been the relative dearth of research and importance accorded to positive emotions compared to negative emotions. Granted, negative emotions are more likely to trigger specific action in an attempt to remedy a situation in which personal interests are at risk and negative emotions probably have clearer and potentially more problematic implications for behavior at work. Nevertheless, positive emotions, their effects, and their cultivation represent a useful field for future research enquiry with the very real possibility of improving employee quality of life as well as organizational outcomes. In this regard, interventions targeted more specifically to workplace realities and priorities may be more effective than those borrowed from the general positive psychology literature.

Several topics relevant to emotions in organizations were not addressed in this article due to lack of space, but it seems imprudent to close without mentioning their potential effects. One topic involves individual differences in emotional competencies or emotional intelligence, which may have intrapersonal effects on how individuals feel and react to affective events as well as interpersonal effects on how they relate to others. While there are still debates about measurement and overlap with existing constructs, emotional intelligence does predict organizationally important outcomes such as performance, conflict resolution, attitudes, and leadership (e.g., Joseph, Jin, Newman, & O’Boyle, 2015 ; Miao, Humphrey, & Qian, 2017 ; Schlaerth, Ensari, & Christian, 2013 ; Walter, Cole, & Humphrey, 2011 ). A related issue is the existence of trait forms of many emotions including anger, boredom, fear, anxiety, contempt, gratitude, and pride. Trait tendencies reflect the greater likelihood of some people experiencing particular emotions, or experiencing them more intensely, given any reason to do so. Measures of a number of these trait emotional tendencies have been developed. Individual differences in emotional intelligence and emotion traits may have relevance for employee selection as well as responsiveness to particular affective events or interventions. In short, there is much to be learned about discrete emotions at work and much to be gained from the effort to do so.

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Organisational Behaviour: A case study of Coca-Cola Company

Profile image of Fahad Muhammad Umar

Abstract: The paper contains a detail analysis of organizational behavior discussing issues facing cutting age organizations on leadership behavior, organizational effectiveness, organizational structures and human resource management. The paper further analyzed the structure and culture of Coca-Cola Company with emphasis on issues relating to ricks and uncertainties in the company’s decision making. Recommendations are laid based on the study to address the company’s issues and align decision-making with the company’s structure

Related Papers

Angelina Mar

case study perception in organizational behavior

Ibrahim Dan-Musa

This is a research on the question “Does Culture play a significant role in Organisational Change?” This paper aims at giving a critical analysis on the subject matter “organisational change” (“an alteration of an organization’s environment, structure, culture, technology, or people” [Michael Crandall 2006]) and how much role culture (the collective programming of the human mind that distinguishes the members of one human group from those of another” [Hofstede 1981]) plays in organisational change. It aims to answer the question whether culture contributes a significant role in organisational change. It would also look at the impact of leadership on organisational change and the significance of leadership in organisational change. It would also show the correlation and catalyst effect of leadership on culture in making an organisational change. The research would then give an example of the role of culture in organisational change using the case study of Petro-Kazakhstan and China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) to illustrate the role of culture in organisational change. The paper would end with a conclusion and recommendation on the dissertation question, “Does culture play a significant role in organisational change?”

Assignment on change management 3000 words with references.

Oghenethoja Umuteme

A review of both old and new leadership theories from a psychological perspective is presented in this work. Organisational leadership as a term is being discussed in various academic and business circles, leading to several definitions of the term. The inability of the business and academic world to accept a universal definition explains that leadership itself is complex. This can be attributed to various factors such as personality traits, organisational culture, current world issues, etc., that various theories tries to explain.

Vidushi Manoraj

Samuel Babatunji Adedeji

The purpose of this paper is to determine the extent to which organisational culture is an explanatory variable for firm’s corporate performance especially now that entities interact in globally knowledge based economies. A review of theoretical and empirical studies were carried out on some developed, emerging and developing nations with particular reference to traits characterised in specific organisational cultural environments in relation to their effects on corporate performance. Those reviews show that organisational culture needs to focus on knowledge management, knowledge conversion, team work, human capital formation, organisational climate and adaptive culture. The studies reviewed focused more on cross-national research design with less attention on the longitudinal aspect. It was not possible to review papers written in non-English language, and those published reviews with access denied to some online. There is a need for more empirical evidence to further justify the relevance of this study area for assessment of organisational culture and corporate performance. This review adds value with the recognition of the need to gear up researchers and policy making bodies to encourage advancement of studies on intellectual capital and knowledge management to enhance sustainable corporate culture and performance.

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Case Western Reserve University

  • Sustainability Library

Organizational Behavior

Take a look at organizational behavior-related case studies from the Fowler Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit at Case Western Reserve University.

Wal-Mart's Sustainability Strategy

Company: WalMart

Publisher: Stanford

Call Number: OIT-71

Year Published: 2007

In October 2005, in an auditorium filled to capacity in Bentonville, Arkansas, Lee Scott, WalMart's president and CEO, made the first speech in the history of WalMart to be broadcast to the company's 1.6 million associates (employees) in all of its 6,000+ stores worldwide and shared with its 60,000+ suppliers. Scott announced that WalMart was launching a sweeping business sustainability strategy to dramatically reduce the company's impact on the global environment and thus become "the most competitive and innovative company in the world." He argued that, "Being a good steward of the environment and being profitable are not mutually exclusive. They are one and the same."

What is the dilemma or tough decisions?

Decision to make sustainability an important part of WalMart's operations.

Website where case study can be found


Viridity Energy: The Challenge and Opportunity of Promoting Clean Energy Solutions

Company: Viridity Energy, Inc.

Publisher: Ivey

Call Number: 9B12M035

Year Published: 2012

Viridity Energy, a smart grid company, is engaged in sustainability for two reasons. On one hand, it finds profitable opportunities by helping its customers cut energy bills. And on the other hand, it’s getting credit for that environmental responsibility. This case highlights the challenges and opportunities of smart grid companies to promote clean energy solutions, especially the challenge of doing less harm to include progressively greater eco-effectiveness in competitive markets.


Verne Global: Building a Green Data Center in Iceland

Company: Verne

Publisher: Harvard

Call Number: 9-509-063

Year Published: 2009

Verne Global, a pioneering startup created to build the first large-scale data center in Iceland, faces critical challenges regarding its green strategy. 

How can Verne best integrate its Green strategy into its Sales and Marketing message?


The ReUse People: Turning Scrap into Sales

Company: The ReUse People

Publisher: Oikos

Call Number: N/A

This case discusses The ReUse People, an organisation that specialises in deconstruction of buildings, with the aim of reusing as much of the materials as possible, hence keeping them out of landfill. The organisation is facing a classical growth-related dilemma: should it grow organically, keeping most of the work in-house but hence limiting its growth rate, or should it “franchise” its deconstruction approach by certifying other companies in the deconstruction process? The mission of The ReUse People is squarely environmental, but the organisation is increasingly aiming to provide social benefits too by reaching out to community organisations and providing employment opportunities.

Which expansion strategy is better for TRP?


The Ambrose Hotel: Eco-labeling Strategy for Sustainable Lodging

Company: The Ambrose Hotel

The case traces the story of the Ambrose Hotel, a hotel based in California whose owner has invested in green practices and is interested in pursuing an eco-labeling strategy in order to better communicate her environmental achievements. It emphasises the difference between the adoption of environmental management practices and their communication through eco-labels. It highlights the challenges associated with the use of eco-labels as an environmental differentiation strategy when several emerging eco-labels are in competition.

How should Ambrose go about convincing customers that they are truly green?


Sustainability at Tetra Pak: Recycling Post-Consumer Cartons

Company: Tetra Pak

Call Number: 9B12M069

Tetra Pack India aimed to uphold its image of an environmentally responsible company by meeting its goals for recycling post consumer cartons (PCC). While Tetra Pack’s ‘Renew’, ‘Reduce’, ‘Recycle’, ‘be Responsible’ philosophy succeeded in other regions of the world, the particular geographical, socioeconomic and political climate in India posed various challenges. Tetra Pak India’s team redefined its strategy by forging partnerships and alliances with non-governmental organizations, scrap dealers, rag-pickers, commercial establishments and organizations that champion the cause of the environment.

With ever-changing mindsets, increasing regulations and growing customer expectations, how can Tetra Pak face the future challenges to ensure that its success from the PCC recycling initiative can be sustained and scaled up?


Taj Hotels: Building Sustainable Livelihoods

Company: Taj Hotels

Call Number: 9B13C032

Year Published: 2013

This case explores issues faced by the corporate sustainability manager at the corporate headquarters of a large hotel group in a developing nation as she implements her company’s corporate sustainability strategy through supplier partnerships with bottom-of-the-pyramid (BoP) social organizations. Under the rubric of responsible purchasing, the hotelier’s “Creating Sustainable Livelihoods” initiative engaged cause-based nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) by exploring opportunities where the products or services of such organizations could substitute for similar products or services sourced from for-profit suppliers. 

The case illustrates the challenges inherent in a Base-of-the-Pyramid responsible purchasing strategy, including the delicate balance between meeting business objectives while supporting social causes. These challenges revolve around developing and implementing cross-sector partnerships with BoP nonprofit producer organizations in the Indian context. Discussion is likely to center less on differences in partners’ missions, cultures, and long-term objectives, and more on the difficulties present in organizing even when those differences are reconciled, especially through symbiotic long-term obj


Starbucks and Conservation International

Company: Starbucks

Call Number: 9-303-055

Year Published: 2004

Starbucks developed a strategic alliance with Conservation International to promote coffee-growing practices of small farms that would protect endangered habitats. The collaboration emerged from the company's corporate social responsibility policies and its coffee procurement strategy. Starbucks was reviewing the future of this alliance and its new coffee procurement guidelines aimed at promoting environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable coffee production.

How does Starbucks use its alliance with Conservation International to develop its socially and environmentally sustainable coffee system?


Pyramyd Air: Looking through the Scope of Values

Company: Pyramyd Air

Call Number: 9B13C038

Pyramyd Air, a small and growing online airgun retailer serving the shooting community, wants to broaden its sustainability practices from its current internal initiatives in order to communicate an even stronger value proposition: sustainability isn’t just about recycling and efficiency, it is about a thriving environment leading to more engaged employees and more loyal premium customers. Pyramyd Air recognizes that some sustainability practices are vital to its customers’ long-term enjoyment of a flourishing outdoor sporting industry. 

For a company with strong customer relationships but operating in a sector not usually frequented by pro-environment types, can sustainability strengthen the relationship between employees and customers by building on the inherent industry values of the great outdoors and a sense of community? How can the company’s culture and employee perspectives evolve in order to frame sustainability in a new light leading to specific sustainability initiatives that the company could pursue in order to resonate with customers and increase profits?


Procter & Gamble: Children's Safe Drinking Water (A, B)

Company: Procter & Gamble

Publisher: UVA

Call Number: 0315

Year Published: 2008

In 1995, Procter & Gamble (P&G) scientists began researching methods of water treatment for use in communities facing water crises. P&G was interested in bringing industrial-quality water treatment to remote areas worldwide, because the lack of clean water, primarily in developing countries, was alarming. With a long history of scientific research and innovation in health, hygiene, and nutrition, P&G considered ways it could address the safe drinking-water crisis as the new millennium approached.

How P&G can take the business of pure, clean drinking water to other geographies.



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  1. 3.4 Perception

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    CASE STUDIES IN ORGANIZATIONAL BEHAVIOUR. October 2023. Publisher: UniRazak Press. ISBN: 978-967-2274-26-1. Authors: Andylla Arbi. Universiti Tun Abdul Razak (UNIRAZAK) Mohamad Bolhassan. Azrul.

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    In this study, executives from various departments (accounting, sales, production) were asked to read a detailed and factual case about a steel company. 9 Next, each executive was asked to identify the major problem a new president of the company should address. The findings showed clearly that the executives' perceptions of the most ...

  4. Organizational Behavior

    Introduction. Organizational behavior (OB) is the study of how people behave in organizational work environments. More specifically, Robbins, Judge, Millett, and Boyle (2014, p.8) describe it as "[a] field of study that investigates the impact that individual groups and structure have on behavior within organizations, for the purposes of applying such knowledge towards improving an ...

  5. Perception in Organizational Behavior

    Study the role of perception in organizational behavior and its impact on business dynamics, decision-making, and team interactions. ... Case studies illustrate the practical implications of perception in business, emphasizing the need for strategic management of perceptual influences. Summary.

  6. The Role of Personality in Organizational Life: Issues and Evidence

    Abstract. This article is a selective review of important issues, themes, and topics regarding the effects of personality on organizational behavior. Recent literature on the impact of personality on job attitudes and affective states at work is reviewed. Two traits, positive affectivity and negative affectivity, are presented as the key ...


    In a case study of the Apollo 13 space mission, for example, ... The most common forms of symbolic behavior used as organizational perception management involve visible actions (e.g. attacking competitors, re-calling products) related to primary business activities (e.g. serving customers, manufacturing products, or complying with government ...

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    field experiments have subsequently been used to study organizational behavior and advance theory, many schol-ars (e.g., Scandura & Williams, 2000; Shadish & Cook, 2009) have lamented the fact that field experiments remain underutilized in organizational scholarship rela-tive to other field research methods and relative to other scholarly ...

  9. Introduction to Organizational Behavior

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  10. Critical Cases in Organisational Behaviour

    About this book. This text contains 56 problem solving and analytical cases, designed to develop the critical thinking and analytical skills required to get beneath the surface reality of organisational life. These provocative case studies cover a wide range of topics from motivation and group dynamics to ethics and corporate responsibility.

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    Introduction. Organizational behavior (OB) theory. researches the effect of the human behavior. within an organizational environment, focusing on improving the organizational. effectiveness by re ...

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    This collection gives students many opportunities to explore the nuances and challenges of teamwork, working as both a member of a team as well as a team leader. Explore case studies that cover real-world organizational behavior challenges. Discover case studies, simulations, and readings that fit into your adaptive leadership courses.

  13. What is Perception? Definition, Features, Process, Factors

    Perception is basically a cognitive or thinking process and an individual's activities, emotions, feelings, etc. are based on his perception. Perception being an intellectual and cognitive process will be subjective in nature. This means that different people may perceive the same environment differently based on the effect of the environment.

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    Milton SOTO-FERRARI (2020)," Assessing Organizational Behavior: A Case Study in a Colombian Retail Store ", IBIMA Business Review, Vol. 2020 (2020), Article ID 261423, DOI: 10.5171/2020.261423 ... indicating that perception factors and attitudes need reinforcement. In addition, recommendations for the intervention of organizational behavior, ...

  15. Perception: Articles, Research, & Case Studies on Perception- HBS

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    Chapter 1: Organizational Behavior. Chapter 2: Managing Demographic and Cultural Diversity. Chapter 3: Understanding People at Work: Individual Differences and Perception. Chapter 4: Individual Attitudes and Behaviors. Chapter 5: Theories of Motivation. Chapter 6: Designing a Motivating Work Environment. Chapter 7: Managing Stress and Emotions.

  17. Emotions in Organizations

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    People's behavior is based on their perception of what reality is, not on reality itself. A number of factors operate to limit and distort perception. ... Case Study - Perception in workplace. Course: Organisational Behaviour (MAN212) 5 Documents. Students shared 5 documents in this course. University: Charles Darwin University. Info More info.

  19. Organisational Behaviour: A case study of Coca-Cola Company

    This is a research on the question "Does Culture play a significant role in Organisational Change?" This paper aims at giving a critical analysis on the subject matter "organisational change" ("an alteration of an organization's environment, structure, culture, technology, or people" [Michael Crandall 2006]) and how much role culture (the collective programming of the human mind ...

  20. Perception in Organizational Behaviour

    7. Factors in the perceiver • Attitudes • Motives • Interests • Experience • Expectations Factors in the Target • Novelty • Motion • Sounds • Size • Background • Proximity • Similarity Factors in the situation • Time • Work Setting • Social Setting A number of factors operate to shape and sometimes distort perception. . These factors can reside in the perceiver ...

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    This file can be referred to get a good marks in case study. :D. Download now. Organizational Behavior Case Study. 1. Organizational Behavior Chapter 3: Perception and Learning in Organization. 2. Prepared by: Nur Aisyah Binti Mahbob (2010312861) Prepared for: Miss Syahrina „Adliana. 3.

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    Verne Global: Building a Green Data Center in Iceland. Company: Verne. Publisher: Harvard. Call Number: 9-509-063. Year Published: 2009. Verne Global, a pioneering startup created to build the first large-scale data center in Iceland, faces critical challenges regarding its green strategy.

  24. Sustainability Science Communication: Case Study of a True Cost ...

    The Anthropocene, marked by human-induced climate change, necessitates urgent action to address climate goals and respect planetary boundaries. While sustainability research provides knowledge, the first challenge lies in communicating the findings in an adequate manner to the public and several stakeholders, such as economic and political actors. Therefore, this study explores the ...