Organizational behavior in Southwest Airlines Essay

Organizational behavior is a tool that any organisation that wants to be successful must use in order to attain its goals and objectives. Organizational behavior interprets all the relationships in an organization and manipulates them in order to attain the organizational objectives. The relationships that are assessed include the relationships between the organization and a person, people, groups and the society in general. The major goal of organizational behavior is to improve all these relationships so that in the process, the organizational objectives can be achieved.

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Organizational behavior in Southwest Airlines Essay
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It is a broad concept that can be viewed from different dimensions. Organizational behavior has many elements which are dictated by the management’s approach to operations of an organization. The approach used determines the culture in an organization. Culture is the way in which an organization carries out its activities, including the communication links, leadership style, and other dynamics which workers derive their motivation from. The motivation determines the performance and growth of the organization.

Four models are usually used within organizations, and the model used is determined by the management strategy. The first model is the autocratic model and it vests power with the management, according to Davidson (2003). He says that the employees are required to obey the chain of command and that this approach does not usually yield high performance results. The second model is the custodial model and it is geared towards rewarding the employees according to the performance. This type of approach does not yield optimum performance results as employees cooperate with the management passively.

The third model, he further explains, is the supportive model and this model stresses the need for a leadership structure that supports employees in terms of performance. This approach motivates the employees to achieve optimal performance. The last model is the collegial model and this emphasizes team work among employees in performance of their duties. It encourages discipline and responsibility thus achieving moderate performance results. It is important to note that most organizations use a combination of the models to achieve their goals.

Organizational structure Southwest airlines was started in 1971 by Herb Kelleher and Rolling King, according to Harris (2001). The reasoning behind the idea, he says, was that passengers would use an airline if the airline reached the destination on time, was reasonably priced and if passengers enjoyed their flights. That idea is what has propelled Southwest airlines to be the among the top four largest airlines in the United States. Every year, the airline transports over 60 million passengers across 30 states using over 300 air-crafts (Cohan, 2003).

The airline specializes in the low-fare transport and it has a model that is so impressive that it is being emulated by other airlines. The success of Southwest Airline can be attributed to the organizational approaches that are used in the daily operations of the airline. The organization uses certain concepts of organizational behavior that help the management achieve the goal of the airline. One of the concepts that Southwest Airline uses is the organizational structure. This is the nature of relationships along the hierarchical structure of the organization.

The organizational structure usually determines how the operations of the airline are carried out. This is because it guides the sharing of responsibilities among the employees according to their ranks. In the Southwest Airline, some people describe the organizational structure as a pyramid that is inverted. This implies that the people that are at the top levels of management go to the bottom levels to motivate the employees. This is a characteristic that is featured in the supportive model. When the managers talk to the people at the lower levels of management and listen to their views, they end up motivating their employees.

Herb Kelleher, one of the founders of Southwest Airlines is reported to have stayed in a bar until the wee hours of the morning so that he could talk to his mechanic and hear his views concerning the airline. His leadership style ensures that everyone participates in the making of a decision. This is important since it ensures that everyone is bound by decisions they make as opposed to decisions being imposed upon them. Kelleher tries to motivate his employees to be open minded and to express themselves freely without constraints such as ranks between themselves.

Kelleher is at the forefront of practicing what he believes in and is said to know names of almost all of his employees. This organizational structure is reflected even in the board where the directors are elected by shareholders. This enables all stakeholders to have confidence in the running of the airline as they have a right to choose the people who run the airline. The management of Southwest Airlines is very keen to reduce bureaucracy as it is aware of the negative effects it has in an organization. This is done through decentralizing responsibilities to the employees.

The Southwest Aviation organizational structure is in such a way that employees have access to information. The rationale behind it, is that it is important for employees to have unlimited information so that they can make independent decisions, which is vital in a dynamic industry like aviation. This structure also takes care of the needs of the clients. There are links available in the airline’s website that address any complaints and suggestions that the clients may have. There are also avenues where customers write letters expressing the same, and the management makes sure all the letters are replied to.

In fact, customers write over one thousand letters every week and each letter gets a reply within one month. At times, the schedule of flights may be changed in order to cater for the needs of frequent fliers. Motivation. This is the focus of energy towards the achievement of a certain goal. The motivation of someone to do something may arise from internal forces such as interests and beliefs or external forces such as danger. There are several things that the management can do to motivate employees. One, the management should align the goals of the organization with the needs of the employees.

This means that the nature of jobs that the employees do should be aligned with their beliefs. For example, if the company conducts its affairs in a fraudulent manner, the employees are also likely to perpetrate fraud against the company. The company should also reward good behavior since it will motivate the employees to work harder. The rewards need not be big, a ‘thank you note’ is sufficient. The senior managers should set good examples to their employees by obeying the rules they set so that the employees can also do the same.

Another factor that brings motivation to employees is development of morale and team spirit. This means that the working environment should be pleasant to the employees and they should look forward to going to work. The employees should also identify with the company. Participation is another factor that can increase motivation. This means that the employees participate in the making of decisions and solving of problems to ensure that they feel as part of the process and are thus bound by it. Southwest Airline was the first airline in the United States to begin a profit sharing plan, with its employees.

It began sharing its profits with its employees in 1974 and has done it since then. In the year 2000, Southwest Airline offered its employees $138 million in the profit sharing plan (McConnell, 2002). This is a major motivation to the employees since they feel appreciated by the airline. This incentive also motivates them to work harder so that the following year they can get higher benefits. Besides these benefits, there are other incentives and awards, like ’employee of the month’ award. However, an unusual way of praising employees is visible in a bill board at Southwest Airline’s headquarters in Dallas.

The billboard praises the employees of Southwest Airline for making Kelleher’s dream come true. The corridors are further lined with photographs of parties that employees attended in order to complete the picture. In case of illnesses or child birth, the employees are given presents by the airline (Cohan, 2003). All this demonstrates to the employees that they are the most important assets of the the company. Southwest Airline goes a step further and trains over twenty thousand employees every year in its own university.

The university teaches the employees values of the airline and encourages open minded thinking. Southwest Airline is also very supportive of its employees in terms of encouragement to come up with new ideas or doing the same things, differently. An example is ‘walk a mile in my shoes’ program where co-workers exchange jobs with their colleagues from different departments for one day in order to experience what the other employees go through. Lastly, the greatest motivation from the airline comes from Kelleher.

He has a great sense of humor, he has ‘hands on’ style of leadership and has a vision that inspires employees to work harder to achieve. Some people actually regard Southwest Airline as the most friendly airline in the United States. Power and politics Politics is present in all aspects of society. Politics creates power and thus an impact that is felt by everyone in the society. It is virtually impossible to separate politics from society (Hessian, 2000). Politics is present in educational institutions, in religion and other elements of a social network. Eventually, politics finds its way into the business world.

It is important to prevent politics from interfering with the operations of a company as this prevents the company from achieving its goals and could lead to its downfall. There are however positive aspects that come about as a result of power and politics in an organization. Large companies are able to seal deals, merge with other companies, acquire the smaller companies and so on. Others are the economies of scale, that include the ability to acquire loans from banks, discounts from suppliers due to buying in bulk and the goodwill that attracts customers to the company as a result of being a brand name.

Southwest is a very big airline, and the fact that it is among the four largest airlines in the United States guarantees that it is powerful. Its strategy to cater for low cost customers has seen it grow and own over three hundred air-crafts, all Boeing models. The power means that the airline is susceptible to political interference. This is something that the board should guard against. Unfortunately, there have been a few weaknesses in the airline as a result of power and politics. Southwest Airline offers coach seats and it does not offer in-flight meals, it just offers snacks.

This is as a result of the growth that it has experienced due to investment in the low cost model. Unfortunately, other airlines have imitated the model due to its popularity. This is unfortunate since in the near future, the model will have become so common that passengers will no longer associate it with Southwest Airline. Another problem associated with the lack of in flight meals is that other airlines are taking full advantage of it when advertising since that is the only area that they are superior to Southwest Airline.

Either due to power or politics, the airline does not pay attention to these perceived minute, but major details that may lead to its downfall. According to Brown (2001), regulators allowed Southwest Airline to violate safety regulations, on numerous occasions, without facing consequences. This arose because of the power that the airline has that enables it to have a close relationship with Federal officials. The report by the inspector general revealed that Southwest Airline had violated more regulations than it had been thought.

The report also revealed that managers of the Federal Aviation Administration had negligently given the airline a pardon. It finally became clear that the airline violates safety regulations repeatedly. Further investigations revealed that the airline has violated at least eight regulations including an error that cost $10 million in fines. The fine led to some employees facing compulsory leave but that in many people’s opinion, is a case of ‘too little, too late’. This cannot be acceptable since flouting such regulations is not only gambling with the airline’s goodwill that has taken years to build, but it is gambling with people’s lives.

Such negligent acts can be attributed to power and politics and should be avoided at all costs. The airline has also faced numerous lawsuits ranging from accusations of failure to inspect the plane before take off to negligently allowing a crash landing, in Illinois in 2005 which led to fatalities. It is important to note that before passengers choose an airline, they check the safety record. This is the reason that passenger traffic reduced after the September 11, 2001 attacks. In light of this, regardless of whether the airline is a major player or not, it will lose its customers if these kinds of allegations continue being reported.

That will be the downfall of an airline whose reputation took years to build. The airline should be very wary when dealing with the lives of its passengers and should not take its power and support for granted. Conclusion. Southwest Airline has been transformed from being a simple idea to being one of the top players in the aviation industry. It has become evident that for an airline to succeed, it should target a specific class of customers and that it should take the welfare of its employees very seriously.

Some of the best ways of motivating employees are inexpensive, a pat on the back can do a lot in raising the self esteem of an employee in an organization. Motivating the employees will help them achieve their potential. Bureaucracy should be eliminated to ensure free flow of information. Managers should work with the lower cadre employees in order to make them feel appreciated. Lastly, politics and power should be regulated to prevent interference with the workings of organizations. Southwest Aviation should correct the few weaknesses that it experiences and it will hopefully become the biggest airline in the United States in future.

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