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MARS Model of Individual Behavior and Performance

Individual behavior influenced by motivation, ability, role perceptions, and situational factors (M.A.R.S.)

•   Need to understand all four factors to diagnose and change individual behavior


[Note: One colleague (Chris Perryer) coined the term “MARS BAR” to help students remember that motivation, ability, role perceptions, and situational factors (MARS) are drivers of individual Behavior And Results (BAR).]


1. Motivation

•   Internal forces that affect the direction, intensity, and persistence of a person’s voluntary choice of behavior

-    direction -- directed by goals

-    intensity -- amount of effort allocated

-    persistence -- amount of time that effort is exerted

2. Ability

•   Natural aptitudes and learned capabilities required to successfully complete a task

•   Aptitudes -- natural talents that help people learn more quickly and perform better

•   Learned capabilities -- acquired skills and knowledge

•   Competencies -- abilities, individual values, personality traits and other characteristics of people that lead to superior performance

•   Person-job matching -- three ways to match people with jobs

-    select qualified people

-    develop employee abilities through training

-    redesign job to fit person's existing abilities



3. Role perceptions

•   Beliefs about what behavior is required to achieve the desired results

-    understanding what tasks to perform

-    understanding relative importance of tasks

-    understanding preferred behaviors to accomplish tasks

•   Clarifying role perceptions

-    Provide information about tasks and priorities

-    Provide frequent and meaningful performance feedback.

-    Provide training on preferred work processes

4. Situational factors

•   Environmental conditions (e.g. time, people, budget, and work facilities) that constrain or facilitate behavior

-    Beyond the individual’s control in the short run


Five Types of Work-Related Behavior

1. Joining the organization

•   Need qualified people to perform tasks

•   “war for Talent” -- organizations acquire knowledge by hiring the best employees

•   Successful firms attract talent by applying many OB topics

2. Remaining with the organization

•   Hold onto valuable knowledge by keeping knowledgeable employees

•   Job dissatisfaction leads to motivation to quit

3. Maintaining work attendance

•   Caused by:

-    situational factors -- weather, traffic

-    motivation -- job dissatisfaction, sick leave

4. Performing required tasks

•   Task performance -- goal-directed activities under person’s control

•   Jobs have several performance dimensions, each requiring specific skills and knowledge

5. Exhibiting organizational citizenship

•   Performance beyond the required job duties -- e.g., Avoiding unnecessary conflicts, helping others, tolerating impositions, being involved, performing beyond normal role requirements

•   Improving org citizenship through:

--  Rewarding extra-role behavior and performance

--  perceived fairness – minimizing perceptions of injustice in org. decisions

-    hire employees with a social responsibility norm

Learning in Organizations

Learning -- relatively permanent change in behavior (or behavior tendency) that occurs as a result of a person’s interaction with the environment

•   Behavior change is evidence of learning

•   Due to interaction with environment -- study, practice, experience (not instinct)

•   Influences ability, role perceptions and motivation

•   Relatively permanent change -- not due to situation

Learning affects behavior/performance through:

•   Ability -- developing competencies

•   Role perceptions -- clarifying duties, priorities

•   Motivation -- linking behavior to rewards, feedback, feelings of accomplishment

•   Learning also important for knowledge management

Learning explicit and tacit knowledge

•   Explicit Knowledge -- can be organized and communicated from one person to another

•   Tacit Knowledge -- subtle info acquired through observation and experience -- can’t be explicitly communicated -- only through observation and experience

•   Challenge of knowledge management is to make more tacit knowledge explicit

Behavior Modification: Learning Through Reinforcement

We learn how to “operate” on the environment -- alter our behavior to maximize positive consequences and minimize adverse consequences.

•   Operant behaviors -- make the environment respond in ways that we want

•   Respondent behaviors -- uncontrollable responses to the environment -- taking hand away from hot stove

A-B-Cs of Behavior Modification

Central objective of behavior modification is to change behavior (B) by managing its antecedents (A) and consequences (C).

1. Antecedents

•   Events preceding the behavior

•   Provide cues that certain behaviors will have particular consequences -- e.g. supervisor instructions, alarm signals

2. Behavior

•   What people say or do ---e.g. improving attendance

3. Consequences

•   Events following behavior that influence its future occurrence

•   Law of effect -- likelihood that an operant behavior will be repeated depends on its consequences

•   Includes contingencies and schedules of reinforcement

Contingencies of Reinforcement

1. Positive reinforcement

•   Introducing a desirable consequence -- increases or maintains future behavior

-    e.g. receiving a bonus after successfully completing an important project


2. Negative reinforcement

•   Removing or avoiding a consequence increases or maintains future behavior (avoidance learning)

--  e.g. manager stops criticizing employee when performance improves

3. Punishment

•   A consequence decreases chance of future behavior

a.  introducing an unpleasant consequence - e.g. threat

b.  removing a pleasant consequence - e.g. losing bonus

•   Punishment differs from negative reinforcement

4. Extinction

•   No consequence follows the target behavior

-    e.g. employee receives no praise for good performance

Comparing reinforcement contingencies

•   Fewest adverse consequences when positive reinforcement follows desired behaviors; extinction follows undesirable behaviors

•   Risks involved with using punishment and negative reinforcement, but may be necessary to maintain equity and justice in the workplace

Schedules of Reinforcement

Reinforcement schedule may have a greater effect than the size of the reinforcer on learning and behavior management

1. Continuous reinforcement

•   Reinforce every occurrence of the desired behavior

-    more rapid learning than intermittent schedules

-    faster extinction when reinforcer removed

2. Fixed interval

•   Behavior is reinforced after a fixed time

-    e.g. employees paid every two weeks

3. Variable interval

•   Reinforcer administered after a varying length of time

-    e.g. receiving promotions after an average of 18 months of good performance


4. Fixed ratio

•   Reinforce behavior after it has occurred a fixed number of times

-    e.g. piece rate -- paid after produce a fixed number of units completed

5. Variable ratio

•   Reinforce desired behavior after it occurs a varying number of times

-    e.g. making one successful sales call after an average of five calls

Behavior Modification in Practice

•   Everyone practices behavior modification

•   Electric Boat uses behavior modification principles to minimize sick time among salaried employees at the Groton, Rhode Island, shipyard

•   Dana Corp. -- safety bingo reinforces safe work behaviors

Behavior Modification at Nova Chemicals

•   Introduced a million dollar “Recruitment and Retention Program” to reinforce good attendance and continued employment at its Canadian construction site -- cut absenteeism rates by 25 percent

Behavior Modification Limitations

•   Can’t reinforce nonobservable behavior

•   Reward inflation -- reinforcer tends to wear off

•   Ethical concerns

--  Variable ratio schedule viewed as a form of gambling

--  Perceived manipulation -- sounds as if employees have no control

Learning through Feedback

Information received about the consequences of our behavior - can be an antecedent or a consequence

•   Improves role perceptions, ability and motivation

•   Corrective Feedback -- identifies performance errors and helps to correct them

•   Positive feedback motivates future behavior

Social feedback sources

•   Supervisors, clients, co-workers etc.

•   multi-source (360-degree) feedback

-    received from a full circle of people around the employee

-    provides more complete and accurate information than from a supervisor alone

--  lower level employees feel a greater sense of fairness and open communication

•   360-degree feedback challenges

--  expensive and time consuming

--  potentially ambiguous and conflicting feedback

--  may be inflated feedback from peers

--  emotional consequences of giving and receiving critical feedback involving people who work with you

Non-social feedback sources - the job itself or results

-    corrective feedback better through non-social sources

-    considered more accurate, protects self-esteem

-    positive feedback better through social sources

Giving feedback effectively

•   Specific

--  redirects effort/behavior more precisely

•   Frequent

--  optimal frequency depends on job cycle

--  continuously available from non-social sources

•   Timely

--  available as soon as possible

--  clearer association between behavior and consequences

•   Credible

--  more accepted from trustworthy sources

•   Relevant

--  relate to individual’s behavior and goals

Seeking feedback

•   Monitoring - looking for information cues

-    more efficient; avoids ‘face saving’ problems

•   Direct inquiry - asking others for feedback

-    problems: awkward and often inaccurate with negative feedback from social sources

Ethics of employee monitoring

·          Many employers monitor employee performance

-    critics says it is an invasion of privacy and symbolizes a lack of trust

-    advocates say it protects company assets, provides a safer work environment, gives employees more accurate feedback about their performance others argue it gives employees more accurate feedback


Social Learning Theory

Learning by observing others, then modeling the behaviors that lead to favorable outcomes and avoiding behaviors that lead to punishing consequences

1) Behavioral modeling

a.  observe model’s behavior

b.  remember important actions

c.  try to reproduce actions through practice


•   Model should be respected and reinforced

•   Good for learning tacit knowledge and skills

•   Enhances self-efficacy

--  - belief that you have the ability, motivation, and resources to complete a task successfully

 -- behavioral modeling makes environment predictable, thereby increasing self-efficacy

2) Learning behavior consequences

•   We learn to anticipate the consequences of future actions through logic and by observing the experiences of others

3) Self-reinforcement

•   Employee controls a reinforcer (e.g. having a break), but doesn’t “take” the reinforcer until a self-set goal is done

•   Increasingly important as employees manage themselves

Learning Through Experience

Kolb’s Experiential learning model

•   Concrete experience -- sensory and emotional engagement in some activity

•   Reflective observation -- listening, watching, recording, and elaborating on the experience

•   Abstract conceptualization -- developing concepts and integrating observations into logically sound theories

•   Active experimentation – testing previous experience, reflection, and conceptualization in a particular context


Experiential Learning at Michigan’s CREST

•   Combined Regional Emergency Services Training (CREST) center in Michigan transfers tacit knowledge to police, fire, and emergency medical personnel through experiential learning at a mock city designed to provide real-life instruction

Developing a learning orientation – critical for experiential learning

•   Value the generation of new knowledge

•   Reward experimentation

•   Recognize mistakes as part of learning process

•   Encourage employees to take reasonable risks

Action learning

•   Experiential learning -- employees involved in a “real, complex, and stressful problem,” usually in teams, with immediate relevance to the company

•   concrete experience with a real organizational problem

•   “learning meetings” -- participants reflect on their observations regarding the problem or opportunity

•   Team conceptualizes and applies a solution to a problem