Let me define first the controversial topic in this paper, Organizational Behavior Modification and Manipulation. Organizational Behavior Modification (as textbook says) refers to the management practice of trying to eliminate negative behaviors among its employees in the belief that such negative behaviors affect their work performance. This is being done by many organizations today for the purpose of improving productivity by reducing “errors”, absenteeism, tardiness, and accident rates (Robbins, 2005 ) Whereas, manipulation is defined as a thought process, not a behavior process.
Behavior is only the product. Manipulation (psychological manipulation) in this manner according to wikipedia is a type of social influence that aims to change the perception or behavior of others through underhanded, deceptive, or even abusive tactics. By advancing the interests of the manipulator, often at the other's expense, such methods could be considered exploitative, abusive, devious, and deceptive.
In this context, there is nothing devious in making employees do something which could redound to their own benefit like preventing accidents in the workplace or coming to work on time. OB Modification, therefore, is not a form of manipulation; hence, it is not unethical practice, because managers are openly sincere in their aim of preventing negative behavior and encouraging employees in a positive way.
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Applying the five ethical decision criteria in this context, OB modification results in the common good of employees (utilitarian approach), it respects the rights of everyone involved (rights based approach) because employees are not forced to do something out of their will, it treats people fairly because everyone is given a chance to participate (fairness or justice approach), it contributes most to the quality of life of the people involved and try to eliminate bad behavior (common good approach) and it encourage good behavior (virtue approach).
So for me, OB modification is ethical since it redounds to the common benefit of everyone, the employees and the organization. Nowadays, most companies are resorting to continuing training programs and a perpetual orientation program to emphasize desirable organizational behaviors and eliminate what constitute negative and therefore unproductive organizational behaviors. Performance appraisal which is followed by positive reinforcement system contributes towards this objective because good performers are rewarded.
For one, Burrhus Frederic Skinner has advocated the maximum use of positive reinforcement. He opposes negative reinforcement because of it’s conceive implication. Just like Skinner, I am not an advocate of negative reinforcement. Manipulative behavior can seriously damage the productivity and effectiveness of everyone in the organization. I guess many people who use manipulative techniques do so because they don't know any other way to deal with disagreement, or express themselves in constructive ways. Nevertheless, it should not be practiced.
Indeed, Organization Behavior Modification is a controversial technique, chiefly because of its implication of manipulation and control over people. It runs counter to beliefs in freedom and freewill and makes the environments the basis of control. Skinner for instance believes that the feeling of freedom is the important thing and that the individual feels free when he can act to avoid a negative reinforcement or to obtain a positive reinforcement. Behavior modification in this case acts as a positive reinforcement.
It is based on learning theory and directed towards changing individual behavior rather than that of group of total organization. The desired behavior of individual can be reinforced by incentives such as money, social approval and responsibility. Thus the behavior of organizational participants can be turned towards the results desired including efficient productive efforts. Company bonuses, merit increases, sales commissions, and even non-monetary incentives such as providing compliments, approval, encouragement, and affirmation all aimed at encouraging positive and productive behaviors are all examples of OB modification.
I myself have been practicing this to improve efficiency and productivity in my department. And it has increasingly produced efficient productive efforts and improved working relationship with my staff. Furthermore, employees in our office who are never late and who have no unauthorized absences during the month are rewarded with perfect attendance allowance. This motivates them in such a positive way that if they continue doing that, they do not only receive extra income but also contribute to the overall productivity and efficiency of the company.
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