Consciously or unconsciously we are all students of behavior. We observe others and attempt to interpret what we see. We "read" people all the time and even attempt to predict what they might do under different sets of conditions. We develop some generalizations in explaining and predicting what people do and will do. These generalizations come as a result of observing, sensing, asking, listening, and reading, or else secondhand through the experience of others.

While some of our appraisals may prove highly effective in explaining and predicting the behavior of others, we all carry with us a number of beliefs that frequently fail to explain why people do what they do. This occurs because many of the views we hold concerning human behavior are based on intuition rather than fact. There is a better way; a systematic approach to the study of behavior can improve your explanatory and predictive abilities and will uncover important facts and relationships, and provide a base from which more accurate predictions of behavior can be made. Most behavior does not occur randomly; it generally has a cause caused and direction based upon some end that the individual believes, rightly or wrongly, is in his or her best interest. Because of differences between individuals even in similar situations, people do not all act alike. 

There are certain fundamental consistencies underlying the behavior of all individuals that can be identified and used to alter conclusions based on individual differences. The consistencies allow predictability. Systematic study means looking at relationships, attempting to attribute causes and effects, and basing our conclusions on scientific evidence; that is, on data gathered under controlled conditions and measured and interpreted in a reasonably rigorous manner. Systematic study replaces intuition or those "gut feelings" you often hear experienced managers talk about.

What does your gut and your mind tell you about these questions: 

  • Are happy workers always productive workers? 
  • Are individuals always more productive when their boss is a real "people person?"
  • Does everyone want a challenging job? 

Do workers and managers have differing views of "reality"?