Organizational Behaviour has been my “topic of interest” for the past few months, as you know from this small blog of mine, I did start an MBA back in October and I’m now in my third course: “Leadership for Transformational Change”.

So, what is Organizational Behaviour? Simply put it is the study of human behaviour in organizational settings. In such a course you do typically go through a number of different topics like culture, motivation, group formation and structure, learning, personality, leadership, change, politics and power.
During such a learning path you’ll get accustomed to a number of theories, tools, and frameworks that can be used to understand an organization and to manage a team.        

What really stroke me about this topic comes from socialization and behaviour modification. Briefly put, these are two techniques or, better, set of techniques that you can use to influence people’s behaviour to drive better results and to nurture the kind of culture you want to have in an organization.

The big question is: is this ethical? Is it right to try and change people?

Plenty of authors analysed the ethical implications of using such tool and, especially, the ethics behind using them to manage culture. For example, Birtch and Chiang (2014) argue about the negative impact of biases on unethical behaviour while Leslie (1997) argues that these tools have been put under a bad light from same literature and media and they are not unethical.   
A quick research can easily bring you to reading 100+ papers and book, which is something I did in preparation to an essay, and after spending quite some time on the topic, I made up my mind and come to the idea that the problem is not if a specific tool is ethical or not, the problem is broader and it lies in the fact that ethics need to be embedded in all the aspects of leadership and management. A tool is just a tool, it is not even the way you use it that is a problem, it is the “why”. Why do you use it and what is the final outcome and effect, not just on the shareholders but on all the stakeholders of an organization?

Organizational Behaviour will show you “how” things can be done, but if you really what to understand the “why” and if you want that why to be of positive influence, you’ll need to build a strong base on ethics. As Grey (2013) said, the stakes are high as leaders’ decisions have an impact not just on the organization but on the life of the impacted people, the environment, and on the social-well being.

References

Birtch, T.A. and Chiang, F.F.T. (2014) The Influence of Business School’s Ethical Climate on Students’ Unethical Behavior. Journal of Business Ethics 123 (2), 283–294.

Grey, C. (2013) A very short, fairly interesting and reasonably cheap book about studying organizations. Third Edition. SAGE.

Leslie, J.C. (1997) Ethical Implications of Behavior Modification: Historical and Current Issues. The Psychological Record 47 (4), 637–648.