Workplace Dynamics – organisational behaviour

Managing Organisational Behaviour

One of the great privileges of owning your own business is you get to decide who you work alongside. You have the right and responsibility to select the people with whom you will spend huge amount of your time. And every time you make a change by removing, adding or replacing a team member you are altering the dynamic mix of the whole organisation.

There is a theory (social constructionist) that states an organisation does not exist per se, but is merely a manifestation of the relationships within the structure. When the relationships are positive and productive, so is the organisation. When the relationships are soured by greed, power plays, malice, bullying or perceived inequity (just to name a few examples), the organisation is weakened.

Selecting team members is critical to achieving your organisational outcomes whether they are measured in dollars or quality of service (and these two are most often linked). Putting a new human into the existing team introduces a variable to what may have been a stable situation. A candidate’s resume and interview presentation is no predictor of the social interactions that will follow an appointment.

The question is, to what extent can organisational behaviour be managed? And secondly, what might be a useful strategy to accomplish this?

The responses are – Yes it can be managed and re-framing may be a simple strategy for your business.

Bolman and Deal (1991) expanded on Senge’s initial work of reframing organisations enabling the dynamics of a team to be viewed through more than one perspective or filter. Each of us has a preferred way of viewing the world, some of us (like me) take a structural view, others are more in tune with relationships and are often descibed as ‘a people person’. Others may operate in the political frame pursuing their own best interests,  and the fourth frame is the cultural one concerned with vision, stories and symbols. It appears that if you use your preferred frame to analyse and guide your team you may be filtering out up to three other ways in which your team members contribute or complicate the organisation. Being a structural sort of bloke, I am really good on systems, analysis, measurement, organisational charts, reporting lines, hierarchy and so on. But less attuned to office politics (power), the pull of the past (culture) and relationships (human resource frame).

Bolman & Deal’s Four Frame Model





Task allocation








Allocation of resources

Control of agenda

Human Resource














To fully understand what is happening in my business I need to consciously remove my structural analysis glasses, and don each of the other three filters in turn to complete a full diagnostic of each person, unit or the entire organisation. It is not easy, and requires self-understanding and discipline on behalf of the leader.

What are the benefits of such an analysis in a small business team; what might make the effort worthwhile?  Here is a story from my own experience – I engaged a new staff member as a clinician and she was quite talented in her field. She understood our organisational hierarchy and goals (structure) but operated chiefly in the political frame where she cultivated power over other staff members and influence beyond the organisation. Relationships were tools to be used as she increased her political position and the organisational culture and vision was irrelevant.  As a clinician she was effective with her clients, but her divisive strategies were undermining the capacity of the organisation to pursue our objectives. The performance of other staff members deteriorated and the necessary cooperation between divisions became difficult then impossible.

Analysed from a purely structural frame, which suited me fine, she was doing well – meeting targets, getting good client feedback, completing records accurately, etc. But when I approached her performance review from each of the other three frames her true organisational misbehaviour became apparent. By altering some of her key performance indicators to include elements from the human resource frame and the culture frame I could then measure her true contribution. Subsequent education and counselling proved fruitless and after repeated failure to meet her KPIs I ‘freed up her future’ by letting her go. I think I heard a collective sigh from the rest of the team….

For more information, any of the writings of Bolman and Deal will be most helpful.