11 Best Organizational Behavior Books to Read in 2021

Home » Books » Organizational Behavior BooksUpdated: August 27, 2021

You found our list of top organizational behavior books.

Organizational behavior books are guides to group psychology and culture in the workplace. Instead of focusing on individual motivation and action, these works explore the thought processes and habits of teams and companies. Common topics include motivation, interpersonal interaction, team dynamics, ethical decision-making, and conflict resolution. The purpose of these books is to teach leaders how to best structure and guide organizations. The concept of organizational behavior is sometimes shortened to OB.

These guides are similar to business books, HR books, and books on employee engagement.

This list includes:

  • books on organizational behavior
  • books on organizational behavior management
  • organizational behavior reference books
  • organizational behavior textbooks

Here we go!

List of organizational behavior books

Here is a list of new and bestselling books on organizational behavior that leaders can use to build better cultures and achieve awesome results.

1. Essentials of Organizational Behavior by Stephen Robbins and Timothy Judge

essentials of organizational behavior book cover

Essentials of Organizational Behavior is one of the most popular organizational behavior textbooks. The book defines the term and explores real-world examples and scenarios that illustrate the concept. Sections break down the subject into categories such as making and executing decisions, communicating in groups, and navigating power dynamics. Chapter organization lays out topics in digestible ways, and includes charts and exercises to improve comprehension. The text not only preaches theory, but also teaches students how to strategize and apply these principles to the workplace to better optimize human capital.

Notable Quote: “Developing managers’ interpersonal skills helps organizations attract and keep high-performing employees, which is important since outstanding employees are always in short supply and are costly to replace.”

Read Essentials of Organizational Behavior.

2. Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, Tantum Collins, et al

team of teams book cover

Team of Teams is a guide to equipping organizations with the resilience and unity needed to operate in a demanding and rapidly changing environment. The book is a collaborative effort between academics and military officers, with the veterans recounting experiences in Iraq and applying these battlefield lessons to the modern business landscape. The central messaging in the book is that in order to compete effectively in today’s world, companies should be able to adapt to constantly-shifting conditions, act as a collection of agile teams rather than a single body institution, delegate decision making to the correct parties for each situation, and foster trust and common purpose among team members. The book advocates for letting go of outdated systems and giving teams the autonomy needed to navigate a complicated, evolving reality.

Notable Quote: “Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right thing.”

Read Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World, and check out more team building books.

3. The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth by Amy C. Edmondson

the fearless organization book cover

The Fearless Organization is one of the most useful books on organizational behavior. This work outlines the benefits of creating psychological safety in work environments and the negative effects of ignoring it. Amy Edmonson champions the notion that organizations that create a safe space to exchange ideas thrive and foster high performance, while cultures that emphasize following the status quo create echo chambers and miss opportunities to excel. The book shows readers how to empower employees and build the kind of organizations where innovation is welcome and differing viewpoints receive consideration and praise instead of scorn and alienation. The Fearless Organization presents a framework for creating progressive, inclusive companies that recognize, value, and nurture talent instead of stifling the voices of the workforce.

Notable Quote: “Low levels of psychological safety can create a culture of silence. They can also create a Cassandra culture – an environment in which speaking up is belittled and warnings go unheeded.”

Read The Fearless Organization.

4. Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant

Originals book cover

While most organizational behavior books focus on unity and uniformity, Originals celebrates outliers and innovators. Adam Grant draws on a collection of anecdotes to explain the impact that non-conformists can have on organizations and the world at large. Contrary to the common belief that creative thinking and a tendency towards rebellion are pre-assigned traits, the book asserts that anyone can develop a knack for originality and envelope-pushing. Chapters center around ideas such as strategic timing, de-programming groupthink, and managing emotional responses to status-quo challenges. Originals serves as a rallying call for employees to be bold and for employers to build a culture that welcomes and celebrates new ideas instead of defaulting to defense mode.

Notable Quote: “Argue like you’re right and listen like you’re wrong.”

Read Originals.

5. Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice, and Leadership by Lee G. Bolman and Terrence E. Deal

reframing organizations book cover

Reframing Organizations is a masterclass in reimagining how companies function. Asserting that there is no single, simple way to view a company, the book presents four main frames to view organizations through: structural, human resource, political, and symbolic. The sections define the primary components of each of these lenses, and show leaders how to handle situations within these categories. The book covers areas such as forming teams, strengthening group dynamics, navigating power structures, and creating a cohesive company culture. The authors scatter anecdotes and real world examples throughout the text to illustrate the ideas and make the tone more enjoyable.

Notable Quote: “Significance is built through the use of many expressive and symbolic forms: rituals, ceremonies, stories, and music. An organization without a rich symbolic life grows empty and barren. The magic of special occasions is vital in building significance into collective life.”

Read Reframing Organizations.

6. The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Huling

4 disciplines of execution book cover

The 4 Disciplines of Execution is a guide to ensuring new initiatives gain traction. As the title suggests, the book lays out four strategies for implementing changes within organizations:

  • Focus on the Wildly Important
  • Act on Lead Measures
  • Keep a Compelling Scoreboard
  • Create a Cadence of Accountability

The book shows readers how to distinguish business from efficiency, and zero in on the most important metrics instead of losing focus in the midst of upheaval. By employing these techniques, leaders can overcome resistance to change and increase the likelihood of success for bold measures.

Notable Quote: “You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage—pleasantly, smilingly, unapologetically—to say no to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger ‘yes’ burning inside.”

Read The 4 Disciplines of Execution, and check out more books on change management.

7. Organizational Behavior: A Skill-Building Approach by by Dr. Christopher P. Neck, Jeffery D. Houghton, and Emma L. Murray

organizational behavior a skill building approach book cover

Organizational Behavior: A Skill-Building Approach is one of the top books on organizational behavior management. The authors open by examining Southwest Airlines’ recruiting mantra of “hire for attitude and train for skill.” The thread of this sentiment runs throughout the book as it explores the notion that it tends to be easier to instill knowledge and ability than passion in employees. Through this lens, the book explores key organizational behavioral concepts such as motivation, communication, team dynamics, ethical behavior, and conflict negotiation. The guide also explores topics such as diversity, curiosity and learning, and emotional regulation and stress management within the workplace.

Notable Quote: “The paycheck can get people to work on time consistently, but it takes something more inspirational to get employees to go the extra mile.”

Read Organizational Behavior: A Skill-Building Approach.

8. Organizational Behavior: Human Behavior at Work by John Newstrom

Organizational behavior human behavior at work book cover

Organizational Behavior: Human Behavior at Work is one of the best organizational behavior reference books. This textbook takes a balanced approach to exploring OB theory and practice and suggests ways for readers to apply the ideas found within the pages in real world scenarios. The guide covers the full scope of the field, starting with the basics and ending with emerging trends and research. The material tours topics such as reward systems, change management, employee empowerment, collective behavior, and interpersonal dynamics. The textbook includes a comprehensive glossary and index, and each section contains hands-on exercises and assessment tools that deepen understanding and give readers a chance to practice the principles.

Notable Quote: “The primary purposes of organizational behavior systems are to identify and then help manipulate the human and organizational variables that affect the results organizations are trying to achieve. For some of these variables, managers can only be aware of them and acknowledge their impact; for others, managers can exert some control over them.”

Read Organizational Behavior: Human Behavior at Work.

9. Managing Organizational Behavior: What Great Managers Know and Do by Timothy Baldwin, Bill Bommer, and Robert Rubin

managing organizational behavior book cover

Managing Organizational Behavior analyzes leadership’s role in influencing employee behavior and performance. Chapters tackle topics like ethical decision-making, team motivation, employee performance management, and conflict resolution. The text makes clear the impact and impression a manager’s conduct can have on team members, and uses case studies from reputed companies like Google, Zappos, and Ritz-Carlton to offer concrete examples of these practices in action. The book takes a strategic and decision-based approach and teaches readers how to evaluate situations and choose courses of action with the likeliest favorable outcomes.

Notable Quote: “One of the reasons that good management is so hard is that few managers, particularly aspiring ones, are forced to confront the realities of management early enough to understand them.”

Read Managing Organizational Behavior.

10. Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by by James Clear

atomic habits book cover

Atomic Habits is one of the bestselling organizational behavior books. While the book does not target organizations specifically, the methods described in the pages are scalable on a company level and likely to improve the efficiency of workplace systems dramatically. This guide explains how to get rid of poor habits and maintain more productive tendencies. The work’s central thesis is that good habits are more likely to stick when practitioners make incremental changes and allow success to be the sum of tiny yet powerful actions repeated over a period of time. The book illustrates these points through anecdotes of some of the most well respected and high-achieving groups and individuals of all time. James Clear also lays out strategies and techniques for designing environments that encourage positive choices, withstanding lapses in willpower and motivation, maintaining momentum despite hectic schedules, and finding the strength to restart after veering from the plan. Atomic Habits can serve as the ultimate guide to changing organizational behavior for the better.

Notable Quote: “You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.”

Read Atomic Habits.

11. The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle

The Culture Code

The Culture Code is one of the bestselling books on organizational behavior. The book explores strategies and techniques for creating high performing groups that truly collaborate instead of competing amongst each other and vying for status. Daniel Coyle identifies three main skills necessary for achieving this end:

  • Build Safety
  • Share Vulnerability
  • Establish Purpose

Using this framework, the book explores the practice in action by describing a diverse range of successful teams, from military ops, to pro sports teams, to comedy troupes, to jewel thieves. The Culture Code breaks down a formula for managing and maintaining the atmosphere of an organization and creating a sense of belonging, satisfaction, and empowerment for employees.

Notable Quote: “The road to success is paved with mistakes well handled.”

Read The Culture Code, and check out more books on company culture.

Final Thoughts

The field of organizational behavior provides insights and logic into the ways that individuals and groups act and perform within organizations. While employee behavior may seem at times random and unpredictable, there are behavioral patterns and psychological tendencies that explain the actions and reactions of a workforce. By being aware of and understanding these norms, leaders can create favorable conditions or correct unproductive behaviors to achieve better results. Reading books on organizational behavior gives professionals the know-how and toolkit to improve interpersonal relationships and guide employees and organizations towards greatness.

For more reading recommendations, check out this list of training and development books.

FAQ: Organizational behavior books

Here are answers to common questions about organizational behavior books.

What is organizational behavior?

Organizational behavior is the study of the ways individuals and groups act and interact at work. Known colloquially as OB, this field shows leaders how to structure and restructure organizations to achieve maximum impact and longevity. Common topics within this concept include company politics, employee motivation, company culture, and performance management.

What are organizational behavior books?

Organizational behavior books are writings that analyze the actions of individuals and groups within organizations. Some of these works are reference materials that provide definitions and use anecdotes to illustrate terms and techniques, while others are focused explorations of key concepts that fall under the OB umbrella, such as habit hacking or encouraging innovation.

What are some good organizational behavior books for managers?

Some good organizational behavior books for managers include Essentials of Organizational Behavior by Stephen Robbins and Timothy Judge, The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle, and The Fearless Organization by Amy C. Edmondson.

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Author: Angela Robinson

Team building content expert. Angela has a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and worked as a community manager with Yelp to plan events for businesses.

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