Theoretical and Conceptual Background

Organizational Behavior Management (OBM) is a sub-discipline of ABA, which is the application of the science of behavior.  ABA emphasizes the use of operant and respondent procedures to produce behavior change.  Behavior Analysis as a science has very explicit goals. Prediction and control of behavior, with an emphasis on control, are the objectives of behavior analysis (Hayes & Brownstein, 1986).  OBM has commonalities with the field of Industrial– Organizational Psychology, all relating to the behavior of people in the workplace. There are many differences between the two fields as well.  Industrial– Organizational Psychology is based on theory and has a focus on topics such as personnel selection and placement.  OBM is guided by a single theory of human behavior and has historically emphasized identification and modification of the environmental variables that affect directly observable or verifiable employee performance (Bucklin, Alvero, Dickinson, Austin, & Jackson, 2000).

The History of OBM

The works of Watson and Skinner have heavily influenced the field of OBM. Skinner’s applications of behavioral principles to instructional design served as a starting point for the use of the science of behavior in the workplace.  Even before OBM was viewed as a field, Fredrick Taylor advocated for the use of the scientific method to improve employee and organizational performance.  The Journal of Organizational Behavior Management (JOBM) began publication in 1977 and is the main outlet for the field today. By 1977 over 40 articles on OBM had been published in other journals and at least one OBM consulting firm had been established. Aubrey Daniels was the first editor of JOBMThe journal is published by Haworth Press and is in its 32nd volume. It has recently been ranked as having the third highest impact factor among applied psychology journals according to the Journal Citation Reports published by Thompson/ISI Publishers (Hantula, 2005).  There are a number of graduate programs in OBM that have been established at various universities.  Graduates of these programs work in the private sector as external consultant, as internal consultants for organizations, or as program managers in the health and human services industry. Graduates also work in academia.

Areas of OBM Application

Performance Management

The management of individual employee or a group of employees through the application of behavioral principles is called Performance Management (PM). The PM process usually involves the analysis of antecedents and consequences supporting the behaviors of individuals or groups within the organization and manipulating these variables to either decrease unproductive or increase productive performance (Austin, 2000; Daniels & Daniels, 2004; Diener et al., 2009). Common interventions used in PM include goal setting, feedback, job aids, token systems, lottery systems, etc. (Diener et al., 2009).

Behavioral Systems Analysis

The Behavioral Systems Analysis (BSA) method involves outlining how the components of the system interact, including how each individual contributes to the overall functioning of the system (McGee, 2007). The value of BSA is that it allows us to analyze the organization outside the basic three-term contingency of antecedents, behaviors, and consequences to identify variables that can significantly impact individual and organizational performance. By analyzing the entire organization as a system, one can identify areas of improvement that will produce the largest positive impact on the organization and focus on planning and managing the variables that support desired performance (Diener et al., 2009).

Behavior-Based Safety

Behavior-based safety focuses on the analysis and alteration of work environments to reduce injuries and promote safe behavior among leaders and employees. This family of evidence-based interventions, which have traditionally focused on safety communication, feedback,and reinforcement processes, can be applied to compliment and enhance traditional safety controls. The first priority in safety is always to eliminate occupational hazards from the work environment ( The next priorities are substitution and engineering controls. Behavioral processes would be best categorized as administrative controls that can be used to promote the safety priority and protective behaviors at all levels of an organization.

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