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Strengths and Weaknesses of Various Organizational Behavior Theories Essay

Pages:14 (4343 words)



Topic:Organizational Behavior

Document Type:Essay


A Review of Organizational Behavior Theories

Because organizations are the primary means by which capital is earned and job are created, it is not surprising that there has been a great deal of scholarship concerning how organizations actually “behave” in the real world. The purpose of this paper is to provide a current definition of organizational behavior together with a statement of three prominent theories of organizational behavior, French and Raven's Five Bases of Power, Complexity Theory and Resource Dependence Theory. An explanation concerning the fundamental concepts of each of these three theories is followed by an analysis of their respective importance to a business. In addition, an evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of each of these three theories as well as the positive and negative ways that the theories impact the workforce behavior of organizations. Finally, in the context of Air India, the paper presents a critical analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of interrelationships between organizational functions and the impact that can have upon organizational structure, how structure, size and scope of different organizations link to the business objectives and product and services offered by the organization and the complexities of different types of business structures and interrelationships of different organizational functions. A summary of the research and key findings concerning the foregoing organizational behavior issues are presented in the paper’s conclusion.

Define organizational behavior

Although there is no universally agreed upon definition, Seidel (2019, p. 2) provides a useful conceptualization of organizational behavior by stating: “Organizational behaviors outline the mission and goals of a business and define how its people interact within one another within its setting. But they also speak to where an organization fits into the bigger picture.” As a salient example, Seidel cites the case of a health care organization that is required to manage numerous internal issues, including facilitating collaboration among members of multidisciplinary teams, identifying optimal conflict resolution strategies, and what type of leadership is most effective in achieving its overarching goals and mission.

In addition, the health care organization must also develop a clear understanding concerning where it is situated within the broader health care industry. For instance, Seidel (2019, p. 2) asks, “Will its organization be a leader in research or cutting-edge procedures? Will it be a teaching hospital? Will it serve mainly as a community health center? Or perhaps it will be some combination of all of these.” In sum, organizational behavior concerns not only the internal factors that fuel business success, it also involves external factors that can have a profound impact on its ability to compete effectively. There are also several prominent organizational theories that have been advanced in recent years to help practitioners navigate the challenges that are associated with organizational behavior, and three of these theories are discussed below.

Three theories of organizational behavior

French and Raven's Five Bases of Power

The organizational behavior theory developed by French and Raven (1959) conceptualizes social power within a framework consisting of five discrete bases of power: (a) coercive power (i.e., managers can mediate punishments); (b) legitimate power (i.e., managers possess the authority to prescribe desired behaviors); (c) reward power (i.e., managers can mediate rewards); (d) referent power (i.e., identification with and attraction to managers); and (e) expert power (i.e., managers possess unique or specialized skills or knowledge). In other words, this organizational behavior theory focuses on the internal workings of an organization to describe the fashion in which personal and professional dynamics operate on a day-to-day basis in “getting things done.”

This view of organizational behavior is highly congruent with the guidance provided by Seidel (2019, p. 3) who points out that, “An organizational behavior definition of power is often more dependent on relationships than titles.” Therefore, French and Raven's Five Bases of Power serves to facilitate the identification of the real holders of power in organizations by identifying and examining the respective sources they rely upon for their influence within the organization (Braunstein and Zhang 2005).

A description of the five bases of power that were originally conceptualized by French and Raven (1959) are set forth in Table 1 below.

Table 1

Description of the five bases of power in French and Raven’s organizational behavior theory

Base of power



People who have coercive power tend to be the company manipulators who don't always have the best people skills. In contrast to those who have power through reward, these characters accumulate power through emotional punishment of others. These are generally not the healthiest people to team up with in your leadership, although awareness of them is important to managing them so they don't stand in the way of those who hold more positive and helpful forms of power. Coercive power caused by his/her ability to exert negative influence using punishment and threats


Those with legitimate power are those who actually do hold the titles of power within your organization. These are managers, team leaders and executives. How much power they have depends on whether they also gain power from the other sources listed here or team up with others who do.


People who have this kind of power earn it through their ability to reward others for doing what they're supposed to do. Reward is not always financial and comes in the form of positive reinforcement or cheering others on.


This type of power comes through the ability to relate with others and practice incredible relational skills in the workplace. These individuals are well liked and respected because of who they are, their personality and their ability to unify people across their differences.


Most professional settings have someone in the mix that is famous for being incredibly knowledgeable and skilled at what they do. When others need information, they go to the expert who helps them learn what they need to know in order to succeed.

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…have been cancelled with substantial loss of revenue;

· Government and management have invariably come out as strong critics of union action and remained firm in disapproval;

· Unions have been derecognized and their offices shut down;

· Employees have been dismissed, but reinstated later;

· Unions have been recognized again and continued to function;

· Operations have been resumed after various lengths of partial shutdown.

Clearly, these efforts ignored the new reality faced by Air India in its post-merger situation, but it is to its credit that it eventually succeeded in overcoming these constraints to become a competitive partner in the Star Alliance.

3. Critical analysis of the complexities of different types of business structures and interrelationships of different organizational functions

The corporate business structure used by Air India embraces a wide array of different organizations functions that vary dramatically in terms of their complexities. For example, the aircraft maintenance division at Air India is charged with keeping its fleet operating at top efficiency while simultaneously placing a high priority on ensuring the safety of these aircraft. Although the complexities faced by this division may be especially challenging in comparison to other divisions such as administration or customer service (Gruia and Kavan 2013), each of these divisions is confronted with its own unique set of complexities that may not be readily understood or recognized by the others.

As noted above, developing and maintaining effective interrelationships between these divisions is critical, perhaps more so in the aviation industry than virtually anywhere else because of the potential disastrous effects that failures anywhere along the network may cause in terms of loss of human life and destruction of property. Indeed, it is reasonable to posit that the executive and employees of Air India are still grappling with the aftermath of the 2012 bombing of Flight 182 over Ireland that claimed the lives of 329 people, including passengers and crew members (Ribkoff 2012). This tragedy underscored the seriousness involved in Air India’s operations as well as the need for good working interrelationships between its numerous divisions in order to provide the safest and most reliable air transport that the aviation industry demands.


While organizations do not “behave” in the same manner as humans, the research showed that they do have some predominant features that can be used to gain a better understanding concerning why they succeed or fail, as well as what types of practices contributed to these outcomes. The three organizational behavior theories reviewed above all provide some valuable strategies for this purpose, but each has its respective strengths and weaknesses that must be taken into account when applying them and evaluating the results. Although the Resource Dependence Theory and French and Raven’s Five Bases of Power both had some significant strengths, it is reasonable to conclude the Complexity Theory represents the optimal organizational behavior theory since it focuses on both internal and external factors that can have a profound effect…

Sample Source(s) Used


‘About Air India.’ Air India. [online] available:

Arena, MJ ‘Understanding Large Group Intervention Processes: A Complexity Theory Perspective.’ Organization Development Journal, 27, no. 1 (Spring 2009): 49-53

Braunstein, JR and Zhang, JJ ‘Dimensions of Athletic Star Power Associated with Generation Y Sports Consumption.’ International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship, 6, no. 4 (July 2005): 242-245.

Buble, M and Juras, A ‘The Relationship between Managers' Leadership Styles and Motivation.’ Management: Journal of Contemporary Management Issues, 19, no. 1 (June 2014): 161-165.

French, JRP & Raven, B ‘Bases of power.’ In D. Cartwright (Ed.), Studies in Social Power (pp. 150-167). Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan, 1959.

Gruia, GC and Kavan, M ‘An Off-Line Dual Maximum Resource Bin Packing Model for Solving the Maintenance Problem in the Aviation Industry.’ Global Economic Observer, 1, no. 1 (January 1, 2013): 135-140.

Hillman, AJ, Withers, MC and Collins, BJ ‘Resource dependence theory: A Review.’ Journal of Management, 35, no. 6 (2009): 1404-1427.

Jain, AK ‘Organizational Citizenship Behaviour as a Potential Source of Social Power.’ Indian Journal of Industrial Relations, 45, no. 3 (January 2010): 396-401.

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