The impact of developments in ICTs on organizational behavior
The developments in ICTs have been the cause of the changing face of organizations in ways that would not be predictable a few years ago. No longer is there need for employees to work in city centers, alongside their coworkers. Information required for work can easily and quickly be conveyed across any distance. Consequently, new forms of organization have been created. Information communication technologies can be used to device working methods which consolidate or take the place of tasks that were previously carried out by individuals, and they can be utilized in monitoring the remaining workers’ productivity.
The development in ICT has made it possible for management to gain access to considerable quantities of information regarding product performance, markets and people. As a result, new ICTs have been used to render people redundant, to change divisions of labor in organizations, to transform the skill mix, and to intensify the control that management has over the labor process. The new developments in ICTs have at the same time challenged some conventional organizational behavior theories. For instance, extensive recombination and consolidation of tasks has been observed instead of increased division of labor; the division which has always been thought to result from computerization in the place of work does not appear to be extensively noticeable in the networked office.
Technology is deemed one of the most essential instruments by which mangers are able to continually have control over employees, by replacing people with ICT tools, or by enhancing the ability to monitor the employees’ activities and work rates, or by imposing an extremely meticulous division of labor. This is according to the labor process theory. An important value of ICTs for management is that it has a tendency to deskill employees, hence amplifying the amount of power exerted by management. Nonetheless, this school of thought implies that these technologies impose a specific form of use once they are developed.
The use of E-mail can be considered a major factor in the change of division of labor in the work place, and it is distorting well-defined boundaries that were previously in place between management and employees. Organizations, those that have a hierarchical structure wherein management is ‘ protected’ by employees, are flattening out. This can be attributed to the decreased use of subordinate staff, such as secretaries and clerks, which has been achieved by the use of computing devices, word processing software and e-mail. Employees in most offices are now expected to perform the secretarial function of typing their own mail as well as maintaining their personal appointments diaries. The need for secretaries and clerks is now moving to an advanced level where the phrase ‘ executive assistant’ is frequently used.
The introduction and development of groupware over the last few years has occurred as a solution to a need for people to work jointly in creating and revising of documents while eliminating the need to re-type and redraft. Such a task would have previously been performed in a board room, across a table, with typists constantly working to correct a single text. In the present day however, work that require interaction of employees is being has been taken over by the use of ICTs such as e-mail and groupware. Consequently, it can be difficult for employees to use the capacity to build up ‘ personal constructs’ of co-workers in the work place.
Personal construct theory is concerned with different specialized social skills which make it possible for people to analyze relations from different viewpoints and make deductions regarding the personalities and meanings of other people. Such skills are gained from preceding personal experiences of other people and can enable one to make predictions about workmates. If ICTs such as groupware and e-mail minimize social interaction, the possibility of developing practical personal business relations and shared understanding founded on sociality and cohesion is diminished. For instance, the brevity of e-mail particularly enhances pre-emption, which results in uncertainty, ambiguity and the use of typecasts and generalizations about other people.
As a result of de-centralization of work processes, many organizations have responded to their changing environments by establishing virtual teams wherein members are located in different geographical areas but they synchronize their work using ICTs. In most cases, virtual teams are made up of temporary work groups that are geographically dispersed, culturally dissimilar and that communicate electronically. Team members are often of different genders and racial groupings, with different social ethnical or cultural backgrounds. With reference to the social identity theory, team members who have heterogeneous personalities may not find it easy to incorporate their diverse values and norms in the work environment. Social identity involves inclusion of group associations as part of an individual’s self-conception.
Nevertheless, members of a virtual team that is culturally diverse and geographically dispersed do not find it easy to integrate socially. Given that employees belong to various or shared groups like a team, division and organization, they can make up multiple social identities, some of which may be outstanding at one time or another.
As an example, employees in the book publishing industry have undergone changes in their organizational behavior resulting from the increased use of ICTs. Since publishing is an information industry, it can be a model of the projected shifts in organizational behavior as a result of employing ICTs. The changes in organization behavior in the publishing industry have not just been the effect of the introduction of networked PCs in the work place; they have also been shaped by changes in the international publishing sector and by the dissemination of ICTs to other stakeholder in the industry such as authors, printers, merchants and banks. As a result of these changes, employees do not carry out a number of tasks any more. Nonetheless, they have developed new skill sets, and various functions performed in a publishing office today have taken the place of functions performed previously by groups of employees in other organizations, thus making a considerable number of employees redundant sooner or later.
Evidently, the development of ICTs in the workplace has had a complex and extensive range of implications on organizational behavior. Introduction of automated processes in the work place has changed the way people work. ICTs such as video conferencing and group ware has made it possible for employees to work remotely and consequently affected the way in which people interact. The integration of job functions has also tremendously affected the work patterns of people in the workplace.
Adams-Webber, J. (1981). Empirical developments in personal construct theory. Personal Construct Psychology .
Braverman, H. (1998). Labor and monopoly capital: the degradation of work in the twentieth century (25, annotated ed.). New York, USA: Monthly Review Press.