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Managerial Psychology

Fifth Managerial Edition Psychology

Managing Behavior in Organizations

Harold J. Leavitt


Homa Bahrami

Harold J. Leavitt is Walter Kenneth Kitpatrick Pro­fessor of Organizational Behavior and Psychology in the Graduate School of Business. Stanford University. He is the author of Corporate Pathfinders and the co-editor of Readings in Managerial Psychology, pub­lished by the University of Chicago Press. Homa Bahrami is lecturer in organizational behavior in the School of Business Administration, University of Cali­fornia, Berkeley, and research associate in the Graduate School of Business, Stanford University.

The University of Chicago Press, Chicago 60637

The University of Chicago Press, Ltd., London

© 1958. 1964. 1972, 1978, 1988 by

The University of Chicago

All rights reserved. Published 1988

Fifth edition 1988

Printed in the United States of America

97 96 95 94 93 92 91 90 89 88 54321

Library of Congress Cataloging- in-Publication Data

Leavitt, Harold J.

Managerial psychology : managing behavior in orga­nizations / Harold J. Leavitt and Homa Bahrami.— 5th ed.

p. cm.

Bibliography: p.

Includes index.

1. Psychology, Industrial. I. Bahrami, Homa. II. Title.

HF5548.8.L35 1988

158.7—dcl9 87-16820

ISBN 0-226-46973-5 CIP


Part 1 People one at a time: The individual in the organization

Preface ix Introductory note 3

  1. People are all alike: Three key
    ideas 5

  2. People are different: The
    development of individuality 13

  3. People are emotional: Human
    feelings and the manager 23

  4. Thinking, learning, problem solving:
    People are also reasoning creatures

  5. The turbulent marriage of reason
    and emotion: Attitudes, beliefs, and
    values 59

  6. Managerial styles of thinking: Is
    orderly thinking always good
    thinking? 68

  7. Assessing people: Dilemmas of the
    evaluation process 79



^ Part 2 People two

at a time:





Part 3 People In threes to twenties: Efficiency and influence in groups

Introductory note 99

8 Communicating: Getting the word

from A to B 103

9 Influencing other people:
Dimensions and dilemmas 113

  1. Authority: What is it, and when does
    it work? 121

  2. Power tactics: Pressure,
    brainwashing, blackmail, and
    more 133

  3. Manipulation: Slippery styles for
    influencing behavior 142

  4. Collaborative models: Influencing
    softly, by supporting, helping, and
    trusting 148

  5. From monetary incentives to career
    development: Efforts to influence
    human productivity 158

Introductory note 169

  1. Group decisions: Monsters or
    miracles? 171

  2. Group process: What was really
    going on in that meeting? 177

  3. Group pressure and the individual:
    Conformity and deviation 190

  4. Conflict and competition among
    groups: My team can beat your
    team 199

  5. Communication nets in groups and
    organizations: Who can talk to
    whom about what? 208



Part 4 People in hundreds and thousands: Managing the whole organization

20 Taking groups seriously: Designing
organizations around small groups

Introductory note 231

  1. The managing process:
    Pathfinding, problem solving,
    implementing 233

  2. The volatile organization: Everything
    triggers everything else 246

  3. Four influential ideas: From
    scientific management to
    organizational culture 257

  4. Organizational missions and
    strategies: Toward proactive
    pathfinding 270

  5. Managing people in large numbers:
    From organizational pyramids to
    organizational cultures 280

  6. Organizational structure: Managing
    the situation to manage the people

Part 5 Organizations Introductory note 309 and environments: Managing in a turbulent world

  1. The changing organizational
    environment: You'd hardly
    recognize the old neighborhood

  2. Organizations in intrusive
    environments: Can managers be
    masters of their fates? 321

  3. Managing our environments: Can
    managers create new worlds? 329

Suggested readings 339 Index 345

Preface to the fifth edition

Things have changed—-again. And they have also remained the same. The last edition of this book was written just as Americans had recovered from student revolt, Vietnam, and black-white and male-female confrontations. Now, almost 10 years later, we have cooled way down, probably too far down. Indeed, on the managerial front we're faced with some serious chal­lenges. The Japanese have been on our tails for a decade, and the Koreans are coming along behind them. Trade wars are looming. Technology seems to move faster than we can handle it. Instead of concentrating on produc­ing better goods and services, we have been overtaken by a mania for takeovers.

But American managers respond. They experiment. They adapt. So the next decade could become a decade of managerial experimentation and in­novation. It could, if we are willing to pick up the challenge.

As to this fifth edition of Managerial Psychology, it too has changed. Something like 70 percent of the material is new. But the overall structure remains about the same, working from the small to the large, from the indi­vidual to the organization.

Part 1 is about the psychology of the individual. It tries to pull together a few key concepts and ideas about individual human beings in organi­zational settings. But psychological beliefs, theories, and findings have changed over this last decade, and perhaps even progressed. So Part 1 is redesigned- It tries to incorporate more from the burgeoning field of cog­nitive psychology. There's a lot more on human thinking, on current views about motivation, and on how attitudes and values change.

In part 2 we shift our focus from one person to relationships between people; to how our person can try to change the behavior of another. This part is considerably different, too, There's more material on alternative forms of influence, and their costs and benefits, and a revised chapter on incentives, new models and old.

Part 3, on small groups, has been modified less than the others because not much basic new research has been done on groups. The real-world


x Preface

application of ideas about groups, however, has made great strides. So a new chapter on the uses of groups in modern organizations replaces our old one.

Big changes show up again in part 4, in which we broaden our focus to look at the whole organization and at the complex process of managing. Our knowledge of macro-organizational processes has increased consider­ably in the last few years, so we have expanded and updated the material on organizations. Current concerns about organizational leadership, organi­zational culture, and organizational structure are all reflected in this re­vised section.

An entirely new section, part 5, has now been added to the book. Its purpose is to take one full step that was only partially taken in the fourth edition. Part 5 is about the relationship between contemporary organiza­tions and their environments. We've added this section, of course, because contemporary managers live in a very small, very crowded, very intrusive world. Strong competitors are popping up in different parts of the world, and, although they may speak in different tongues, they nevertheless seem to operate rather effectively in "our" market places. Government regula­tions, lawsuits, international crises, and pressure groups all nip at the mod­ern manager's heels. Managers no longer just manage the inside of their organizations. They have to try to manage the outside, too—or at least their interactions with the outside.

A couple of other issues. We have tried to avoid the awkwardness of using both masculine and feminine third-person pronouns. We have done it simply by using the masculine form throughout. We hope readers of both sexes will forgive what may appear to some to be a breach of principle in exchange for simplicity and convenience in communication.

Readers even faintly familiar with past editions will also note two other major changes that show up on the cover of this edition. Because we have extended our coverage to encompass much of what is now called "organi­zational behavior," we have also extended the book's title to reflect the change. More important, we now have an additional author, someone with more expertise than the original on matters of organizational design and strategy.

We are both most grateful to Mrs. Arleen Danielson for working and reworking our manuscript, and to the many friends, students, and col­leagues who have contributed to our thinking along the way.

H.J.L. H.B.


People one at a time: The individual in the organization

Introductory note

Part 1 of this book is the most psychological part. It tries to pull together some important ideas about individual human beings. But this book is not primarily about the psychology of the individual. It's about individuals in organizations and about managing small and large numbers of individuals in organizational settings. So we have tried to select from contemporary psychological research and theory those ideas, concepts, and findings that seem particularly relevant to the world of managerial work.

Why do we need this first part? Because organizations are still—despite all our modern technology—human institutions. They are created by people, populated by people, managed by people, developed by people, and operated by people. And people are flexible, intelligent, fallible, often unpredictable, emotional, creative, and more. So we'll try to get as useful a picture as we can of what does and what doesn't make them tick.

Part I is designed like this:

Chapter 1 is about ideas that apply to all people alike. Despite our indi­viduality, human similarities are more impressive than human differences. In chapter 1 we outline three key ideas about people that will recur again and again throughout the remainder of the book.

Then, in chapter 2, we turn to rhe other side, to look at how each of us gets to be different from every other one of us. Both the similarities and the differences are critical in the managing process. Managers often have to manage large numbers of people at the same time, so understanding human commonalities is critical. But managers also manage small numbers of people, small teams, groups, and individuals. And to do that job well managers should also understand the unique attributes of individuals.

Chapter 3 is about emotions. Managers may dream of a cool and unemo­tional organizational world, but they will never find it. The real world is full of loving, hating, searching, inquiring, laughing, and crying people. And good managers don't treat that cauldron of human emotions as a load of noise and trouble. They realize that all that emotion is the stuff from which loyalty and commitment and effort are made. Good managers are aware that a large part of their job is to manage emotions.

But of course, people aren't just emotional. They also think and plan and reason. So chapter 4 is about the reasoning parts of people, about how we use our heads to plan, create, and solve problems.

The next chapter, chapter 5 then tries to put those two big pieces—emo­tion and reason—back together, which is the way the two exist in the real, human world.

We then return to the thinking process, in chapter 6. This time the focus is more applied. We look at different styles of thinking, at how each of us develops our own style; and we also consider the marginal costs and bene­fits of different cognitive styles.

Finally, as we will do at the end of four parts of this book, we end part 1 with an application chapter that tries to put some of our concepts and ideas to work on a few real managerial problems. In this case, in chapter 7, the spotlight is on managers' endless need to assess, evaluate, and judge the people they encounter as well as those they manage. We look at different approaches to evaluation and assessment, and at some of the costs—eco­nomic, psychological, and ethical—of different ways of going about it.


People are all alike: Three key ideas

Managers1 decisions, like other people's, are usually based on some com­bination of tact and theory. They are choices made by interpreting things observed in the light of things believed. And in most of their decisions, managers are reasonably aware of the particular theories they use in inter­preting what they observe. They take supply-and-demand ideas into account in making marketing decisions, for example. And they often use high-level technical theory in attacking engineering and production problems.

Managers also use theory in dealing with human problems. But in the human area, theorizing is usually a much more implicit or even uncon­scious process. Manager's theories of human behavior also seem to be much more diverse than their economic and engineering theories, perhaps because they are more the private property of individual executives. Here, for instance, are some pairs of assertions that have been made by business executives. Each reflects a number of basic theoretical assumptions about the nature of human beings:

  • People are basically lazy. Or, people just want a chance to show what
    they can do.

  • Always be careful of executives who lose their temper. Or, watch out for
    executives who never lose their temper.

  • Good salespeople sell themselves before their products. Or, a good
    product sells itself.

  • Men think more logically; women think more intuitively.

  • If you give people a finger, they'll take the whole arm. Or, kindness be­
    gets kindness.

  • You can never get a high-quality decision from a group. Or, if your group
    isn't involved in making a decision, that decision won't be implemented.

  • People need to know exactly what their jobs are. Or, people will work
    best when they have room to define their own jobs.

Each of these statements (and the list is not exhaustive) is either an as­sumption about the nature of people or a derivation from such an assump­tion. Each is a flat, unequivocal generalization, much like the statement, "Air is lighter than water."


The fact that many of these generalizations contradict one another sug­gests that they cannot all be correct, so difficult questions of proof and con­sistency arise. This first section of our book does not aim to prove that some are true and others are false. What it does aim to do is to provide a set of internally consistent generalizations—generalizations that should be useful for those who want to manage human organizations.

Managers have a reputation for practicality and hardheadedness, a repu­tation fledgling managers may mistakenly equate with entirely concrete and nongeneral thinking. Yet statements like those above are extremely general, extremely theoretical. Some kind of psychological theory is just as necessary for managers dealing with human problems as is electrical and mechanical theory for engineers dealing with machine problems. Without theory, engineers have no way of diagnosing what might be wrong when an engine stops, no way of estimating the effects of a proposed change in design. Without some kind of psychological theory, managers cannot attach meaning to the red flags of human disturbance; nor can they predict the likely effects of changes in organizational structure or personnel policy.

The theoretical positions outlined in these early chapters will not be new to most readers. Most of us already accept them, though often we do not use them. If they are good theories they should lead to useful predictions. Incidentally, if they are good theories, they may not necessarily turn out to be true theories. No one knows whether some of the things said here are, in some absolute sense, true or false. You can decide for yourself whether or not they are reasonably useful.

^ Three ideas about human behavior

Consider three theoretical ideas that are pervasive in contemporary psy­chological theory and practice: motivation, reinforcement, and cognition.

Motivation is about people's drives, needs, wants; about tensions ema­nating from within the individual that drive behavior, that push people out into the world in search of straightforward things like food or shelter and not so straightforward things like love or achievement or personal fulfill­ment. Behind most ideas about motivation lie ideas about the dynamics of human personality and human potential. We'll talk more about those later.

The idea of reinforcement is about rewards and punishments, emanating mostly from the world outside the person. Behind the notion of reinforce­ment lie ideas about the ways people learn, ideas like "the law of effect." The law of effect says, in effect, "That which satisfies is learned." "That which satisfies" is a reinforcer. So reinforcement is important because it directs and shapes human behavior by causing selective learning. If doing X is reinforced, we tend to do it again. If it isn't we tend to forget it.

Cognition is, among other things, about thinking, anticipating reinforce-

ments before they occur, and learning vicariously when we observe some­thing happening to somebody else. Behind the broad concept of cognition lie ideas about the richness of the human mind, its capacity to imagine, to expect, to estimate, to generalize. We don't just do it again if it satisfies; we also think about it and look for ways to make it happen again.

Those three ideas apply to the behavior of everybody, everywhere, at all times. In relation to those three concepts, that is, people are all alike. We are all motivated. Selective reinforcement works for everybody. And all of us, everywhere, think and imagine and forecast things that may happen in the future.

It's useful to treat those three ideas as gateways to three levels of human complexity. The motivational idea, which evolved largely out of Freudian psychoanalytic thinking, is a kind of basic gateway. It tries to account for mankind's pervasive drives not only to eat and reproduce but to achieve, explore, and group into communities. Classical motivation theories seek understanding by looking mostly inside the person; they hypothesize inner tensions and hungers that drive the individual into action in search of relief or fulfillment.

Reinforcement theory (out of Pavlov, Watson, and Skinner) is a second gateway, which treats man as an almost mechanical beast, one who learns in small, simple increments. If I found candy there last time, I'll probably learn to go back to the same place. People can be "conditioned" like chick­ens and kittens, through manipulation of rewards and punishments, to re­peat behaviors that are rewarded and to "extinguish" behaviors that are not. Thus, people can be trained to develop finely honed skills. And they can be socialized through suitable reinforcement procedures to behave in approved ways.

Notice that, although true believers in reinforcement and true believers in dynamic motivational theories often fight like the devil, they still need each other. The reinforcement gateway needs some kind of motivation to work. Reinforcement requires reward, payoff. But when is a reward a re­ward? Only when it is "wanted" or "'needed." So some kind of built-in wants (or motives) are required if reinforcers are to have any way of rein­forcing anything.

On the other hand, the motivationists need reinforcement to account for the learning and development of new motives. For everyone agrees that hu­mans are learning animals, and what motivates them as adults are not all the same things that motivated them as infants. Motivationists need to ex­plain why some adults develop strong power motivation whereas others disdain power and want only to achieve, affiliate, or become competent.

So now we have the inner person, motivated by internal tensions (like hunger or fear) who learns by experiencing positive and negative rein­forcements, to shape and narrow behavior in order to get those positive reinforcements that will eliminate those motivational tensions. We've

-\prrc zh


added man's ability to learn from experience to the recipe for understanding human behavior.

Finally, there is that third gateway that's relevant here. People also think. We notice what other people do and what happens when they do it. We wonder how the candy got there in the first place. We also ask, "Why?" We attribute causes to things that happen, sometimes correctly, sometimes quite incorrectly.

Cognition is about those thinking parts of people—-expectations, antic­ipations, and attributions, as well as learning vicariously (what happened to that other guy could happen to me), hypothesizing (what would happen if... ?), and estimating costs and benefits {how hard would I have to work to get what I want, and what's the probability that 1 would get it even if 1 did work very hard?). The cognition idea is the gateway to the enormous vari­ety and complexity of human thinking. And, we should add, although great strides have been made in the last decade, we still don't know very much about it.

Let's back up now and look at each of those three ideas in a little more detail.

Motivation 1 Deficiency models

Motivation means drive, interest in trying to get something. Unmotivated people just sit there. Motivated people get up and go searching, building, doing. No wonder managers worry about motivating people at work.

One classical model of how motivation works has been called the defi­ciency model. It looks at human behavior as a kind of closed circuit in which motivation (tension, resulting from a deficiency) causes people to behave. That behavior continues until it leads to something that eliminates the motivation (reduces the tension) and thereby stops the behavior. Thus, for instance, your stomach is empty. The emptiness stimulates impulses in­terpreted as "hunger." The feeling of hunger stimulates the behavior of searching for food. You find food. The food fills the stomach, causing the "feeling hungry" impulse to stop, which in turn stops the behavior in search of food.

This simple closed-circuit motives-as-tensions conception has many weaknesses. For instance, "psychological," as distinct from "physical," motives are not finite and specific. One can consume a specific quantity of food and thereby temporarily stop feeling hungry. It is doubtful, however, that one can consume a specific quantity of prestige, for instance, and feel sated. Prestige and other "psychological" wants seem to be boundless; enough may never be obtained to inactivate the tensions, and hence the behavior.

Moreover, this deficiency view is ideologically unattractive to most of us. It offers a lazy view of behavior. It treats human behavior as an attempt to get rid of tension, so we won't have to behave anymore. No tensions, no behavior.

Deficiency models, although weak and unattractive, have their uses. They put the emphasis on the push from inside the person, rather than on the pull from outside. Managers, for instance, often encounter problems with subordinates who "don't know what they want,'1 people who feel rest­less and disturbed but can't seem to say what it is they are after. Most of us feel that way a good deal of the time, experiencing the push of tension from inside but not being able to identify the precise goal that might elimi­nate that tension. We search vaguely, trying one job or another, one boss or another, one idea or another, until—if we are lucky—we hit on something that does the trick. Only then may we be able to tie up that particular ten­sion to some clear goal, so that next time we can head directly for where we want to go. Babies, after all, don't start out crying, "I want a bottle.* They start out with something like, "I feel discomfort somewhere inside." They then go on to try all the variety of behaviors they can muster until they discover that the bottle eliminates that particular discomfort. Then they can narrow down their behavior in order to get to the goal next time without exhaustion.

Once again the reader will notice that this idea about motivation brings us very close to the reinforcement idea. Reinforcement types would tell the same story in different words: The bottle is a reinforcer, and the probability that the baby will go for it again will increase.

But no matter how one views this deficiency model, it suggests that the ultimate condition of mankind can be thought of as an equilibrium condi­tion in which no behavior occurs. This ultimate condition, will, of course, be unattainable so long as one fly after another goes on landing on man's rump to stir up some tension and to force him to go on swishing his tail.

Of course, the same landscape can be drawn from a brighter perspec­tive. The tendency not to behave except when driven can also account for the human capacity to learn. It can account for the baby's rapidly improving skill at finding food. The diffuse kicking, squalling, and rolling of the first few months give way over time to the simpler and more efficient behavior of finding and opening the cookie jar.

^ Motivation 2 Growth models

The big problem with deficiency models is that they don't account very well for the enormous growth and expansion of human behavior over time. Given a benevolent environment, the deficiency approaches would have all


of us lazing around and snoozing. But people don't really seem to behave that way, even when they're well fed. Well-fed children don't just quit. They're curious; they explore; they invent games; they make friends; they try all kinds of things.

Some growth models handle that problem by positing an inside-the-person triggering mechanism that sets off a new set of motives whenever one reaches some reasonable degree of satiation of the present set. When our bellies finally feel full, that position holds, we will then be motivated by new motives, this time focusing on longer-term safety and security, rather than on satisfying our short-term hunger. When those, in turn, are reasonably under control, the social needs pick up, the needs for member­ship and belonging. And so on up a hypothesized hierarchy of motivational levels.

Growth models are open-ended in their view of human potential. They see human beings as forever developing, forever moving on from one level of motivation to a next higher one. and thereby continuously repositioning themselves to accomplish ever "higher" ends.

This more optimistic and rather Western view leads toward a more posi­tive approach to the question of motivating people in organizations. The deficiency models viewed motivation as arising exclusively out of deficien­cies. So how does one motivate people? Obviously by creating deficien­cies. One of the fathers of modern organizational psychology, Douglas McGregor, dubbed that idea "Theory X." "Let's keep "em barefoot and hungry, then they'll work." The growth motivators argue an almost opposite position, more in line with what McGregor called "Theory Y." Only when human beings have satisfied their more basic motives can the "higher" needs come into flower. It is precisely when people are freed from their basic de­ficiencies, when they are not barefoot and hungry, that they can really be­gin to work as complete human beings.

Notice, however, that both the deficiency and growth views still focus on the dynamics of the inner person much more than on the dynamics of the external situation. According to these views, human potential lies largely inside the individual, waiting to be let out. The situation is important only as a limiting factor.,Dissatisfying situations prevent people from flowering, and satisfying situations permit people to flower. But the motivational po­tential is the key, and that resides inside the person. As we shall see, more recent views of motivation include reinforcement and cognitive compo­nents, treating motivation as part of a broader learning and thinking process.

^ Reinforcement theory

Classical reinforcement theory, in contrast to both deficiency and growth views of motivation, doesn't give much credit to what's inside the person— just as long as there's enough internal tension to allow for reinforcements to



work, for rewards to be rewarding. Reinforcement theorists worry about what and how people learn.

The reinforcement idea adds a critical outside component to the pic­ture—a situational component to those minimal internal drives (or ten­sions or needs or motives-—pick your own word). Its emphasis is on how people learn from their experiences in the big world. Given the reinforce­ment notion, two babies with identical initial motives can (and probably will) turn into very different adults because they will encounter different experiences of success and failure. For example, baby A is always re­inforced (or better still, is often reinforced) when he smiles. Baby B gets nothing from smiling, but frequent reinforcement when he kicks his left foot. A begins to smile more and more; and B just keeps kicking that left foot. Take it from there; the network of possibilities becomes enormous, allowing for almost infinite variations in human behavior. J. B. Watson, one of the great founding figures of this notion, once asserted back in the early part of this century that he could turn babies into heroes or criminals or almost anything else if he could get hold of them early enough, by selec­tively reinforcing their initial random behaviors.

So classical reinforcement theory focuses on the outside, on how those other people—parents, teachers, managers—do or don't reinforce particu­lar behaviors and thereby shape the individual.

Human cognition

When we add in the concept of human cognition, new dimensions open up, dimensions that add both depth and breadth to our picture of human nature. People are driven, they learn to go where the goodies are, but they also think. They remember, forecast, observe, imagine. They process informa­tion. They compare what happened today with what happened yesterday and hypothesize explanations that cover both. They invent gods to explain things they can't otherwise understand. They balance (not always logically) benefits (like "'How much will I win?") against costs ("What are the odds of my winning?").

These more cognitive views of behavior grant to human beings more control than simple reinforcement views and more proactive possibilities, too. (We use the term proactive to mean the opposite of reactive.) We are not just driven by our needs. We do not just tend mindlessly to repeat our last behavior if reinforcement accompanied it. We intentionally suppress some of our needs. We delay gratifications. We forecast the future. We make choices among alternatives. We avoid holes that we have seen others fall into. We try to explain why events happened. We use our heads.

That doesn't mean humans are necessarily entirely logical, orderly, or analytic creatures—only that mind is as much a part of the behavioral equation as heart. To understand and predict behavior, we will need to

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