The intent of my graduate study is to educate me with the latest trends, principles, procedures, programs, policies and concepts in HRM, and be able relate and apply them in the personnel management of the Philippine Army. Although the MIR at SOLAIR is more of the empowerment of labor, enlightened industrial relations and social justice, still there are courses that would be very useful and relevant for the Philippine Army. Among those relevant course is IR 213 or Organizational Behavior in Industrial Relations, which covers interactions of organization, individual and group in unions, management and government in IR situations, with emphasis on sociological, psychological and cultural factors.
I took this elective course because when I saw the description of the course I immediately believe that this would be very relevant for me. I came from an organization that is among the largest single employer in the country, which is the Philippine Army. We are more or less 85,000 strong, and with that number cultural and social diversity is a certainty. Thus for an officer like me who would be handling a large number of personnel in the future, a course in organizational behavior would be essential. Although I already took a similar course in my BS major in Management at the PMA, still that is an undergraduate course and I believe the level of teaching and approach would be higher, and that the focus would be more of the professional level since my classmates would be graduates students many of whom are already practicing their professions.
At the initial part of the course I was a little bit overwhelmed by the volume of readings required for a three hour once a week class with a quiz on said readings at the beginning of each class. Although I was not that surprised since my instructor for said course, who is Prof. Ronahlee A. Asuncion, PhD, or George, happens to be my instructor also in my IR 202 Class the previous semester where the same technique was used in our class. But as with my previous class, I have learned to appreciate this style of semi forcing in effect each student to really read all the readings. Indeed somehow that torture like shock for the second time around, was replaced with my curiosity and enthusiasm as the semester went by.
Unlike my undergraduate course in organizational behavior, where I never really had much appreciation, maybe because its more of the theoretical level, this course now really enabled me to get involved on how it is in the real situation. My experience with the Philippine Army, especially in my field assignments in the Visayas and Mindanao, enabled me to handle from 30-100 men in a combat area, initially as a platoon leader and later on as a company commander. During this time I have to be a leader, adviser, counselor, brother, father, friend and commander all at the same time. Although I am not really that good or efficient on the roles I just mentioned, since its my first time to be assigned in the field, perhaps my leadership training at PMA and other experiences in life allowed me to somehow overcome my shortcomings and finish my tour of duty with flying colors.
But looking back at that episode in my career and as I relate those that were discussed in IR 213, I just wondered if I had taken this course prior to that experience, would I have been a better leader of men and a more efficient commander of a unit.
It is common knowledge that the military is a highly regimented organization, wherein everybody must strictly obey orders from commanders, if not you will be punished under the articles of war or the military version of the penal code. So in a way many would say that it is very easy to manage a military unit or organization since everyone must follow orders, but this is easier said than done. In my experience, especially in my field assignment in a combat unit in a critical area, as a platoon leader I had my initial challenge as an officer. Greenhorn as I am, leading a group of majority veteran soldiers, wherein their previous area of operations enabled them to be involved in combat encounters with the communist insurgents with a more experienced and senior platoon leader, it is like a rookie trying to be a go to guy in a basketball team, where I have to earn their respect first before being accepted truly as their leader. Yes, they will follow your orders, but there will be times where this rule will be challenged especially in combat situations. Now here lies the relevance of the course on organizational behavior.
Knowledge in human personality, perception and attitude would indeed be very important in this situation, although this is well covered in my undergraduate course in management, the ideas of Fred Luthans on the chapter on Personality, Perception and Employee Attitude; and Natasha Marinkovic Grbas (Lisa Matthewman, et al. Work Psychology, Chapter 3) chapter on Personality and Individual Differences refreshes my previous knowledge on the topic and gave me new incite on the nurture-nature debate on personality, the Big Five personality traits, the Myers-Brigg types, organizational commitment, and organizational citizenship behaviors.
I really can relate on the issue whether personality is genetic or influenced by the environment. As I was observing then the individual personality and attitudes of my men, I can really distinguish what part of their personality and attitude were really is a result of their training in the military, so I have no problem with that since most of that pertains to discipline and technical expertise as a soldier. Now the problem lies on what other individual personality and attitude that may have been inborn or environment influenced that could affect my relationship with them. Although their initial indifference on my leadership is a group learned attitude, wherein its a kind of an initiation period where I must first pass before being accepted in the group, still I have to consider their individual personality, perceptions and attitudes in dealing with them individually.
I consider the topic on organizational commitment essential, since this pertains to the very essence of a military organization. As defined by Luthans, organizational commitment is a strong desire to remain a member of a particular organization, a willingness to exert high levels of effort on behalf of the organization and a definite belief in, and acceptance of, the values and goals of the organization. In short loyalty to the organization is whats keeping discipline and order in the military organization. Perhaps a lecture on this organizational commitment to soldiers on my future unit assignment would be inspirational and reassuring for this will strengthen their zeal as soldiers and allegiance to fight against the enemies of the Filipino people and the state.
Organizational Citizenship Behaviors (OCBs) is also very much military in nature. Everything that are ideal behaviors in a military organization may be considered as organizational citizenship behaviors. Actually military discipline, which is discipline or following an order in the absence of a commander, is part of these so called OCBs, and this really what differentiate the military organization from other organizations, and what makes it very efficient and effective. A review and reorientation of the OCBs in the military would also be very important and fundamental in keeping the military highly motivated and committed to the call of the service. Thus I really appreciate being reoriented in these OCBs, for this will also be included on my future lectures to my would be soldiers in my next tour as a field unit commander.
Another very relevant part of the course where I can really relate to is on the topic on stress. A soldiers job is very demanding both physically and psychologically, and this what makes it very stressful. Identifying these sources of stress is crucial in enabling commanders like me to provide opportunities for my men to cope up with stresses that they would encounter on the job.
Fred Luthans pointed out on the Chapter on Stress and Conflict of his book on Organizational Behavior, (1) that stress is not simply anxiety, (2) that stress is not simply nervous tension, and (3) that stress is not necessarily something damaging, bad or to be avoided.
Luthans said anxiety operate solely in the emotional and psychological sphere, whereas stress operates there and also in the physiological sphere. Thus stress may be accompanied by anxiety, but the two should not be equated. Its good that Luthans clearly differentiate anxiety with that of stress, because soldiers sometimes only suffers from anxiety and at times real stress, knowing what is from the other enables me to provide the appropriate approach or method for them to cope up with either one or both.
Luthans also said that like anxiety, nervous tension may result from stress, but the two are not the same. He further said that unconscious people have exhibited stress, and some people may keep it bottled up and not reveal it through nervous tension. Soldiers do suffer nervous tension, thus I must consider the fact that stress could complicate things that may result in a more damaging situation than just a simple stress for the soldier.
Luthans further pointed out that eustress is not damaging or bad and is something people should seek out rather than avoid. He mentioned that the key is how the person handles the stress; distress may be prevented or can be effectively controlled. As mentioned there are stresses that soldiers encounter that are positive in nature and thus may not have to be avoided, and furthermore negative stress may be prevented or effectively controlled by using coping up methods. Survival in combat situation is a skill that every soldier must possess. This skill is the reason why the PA or the entire military organization is very strict in its recruitment of soldiers, neuro-psycho test is one very stringent examination wherein it must be proven that the recruit is psychologically prepared in becoming a soldier.
I also mentioned that I must also be a counselor to my men. Since all of us are away from our families and civilian friends, and at times we are in combat situations, stress will definitely be a problem if it will not be addressed. John W, Newstrom mentioned on the chapter on Stress and Counseling from his book Human Behavior at Work, that stress affects performance; it can either be helpful or harmful to job performance, depending on its level. Thus to enable commanders like me to maximize soldiers performance, I must consider stresses that tends to increase performance or avoid stresses that tends to decrease it.
Indeed stress management is a must in every organization, Newstrom mentioned that in attempting to manage stress, individuals have three broad options (1) is to prevent or control it, (2) escape from it, or (3) learn to adapt to it (handle its symptoms). Adapting these steps will enable commanders to reduce or eliminate stressors for soldiers. Newstrom mentioned about social support, which he defined as the network of helpful activities, interactions and relationships that provides an employee with the satisfaction of important needs. Thats where commanders like me come in; first I had to provide the necessary opportunity for my soldiers to have social interactions with fellow soldiers and at times with the civilian populace around our area of assignment; and then I must also be available always to provide counseling to my soldiers as the need arises.
Newstrom mentioned about relaxation and sabbaticals both designed to give soldiers a peace of mind and time to somehow escape the world of combat that we are living in. We regularly schedule field trips and social events that soldiers engage into when situation allows it. Rest and recreation for soldiers are periodic where every soldier has the opportunity to go home to their families in a certain period of time.
Another issue I am concerned with regarding stress and counseling is the debriefing of soldiers after a combat operation wherein they are exposed to violent actions and at times incurring casualties in our ranks. During my time in the field this so called after operation debriefing to soldiers does not exist, every soldier is just expected to recover psychologically on their own, since they are supposed to be psychologically prepared when they entered the military service.
As defined by the handbook on military combat and operational stress, traumatic stress injuries are literal damage to the brain and mind due to an experience involving real or threatened death or serious injury, or its aftermath. Not everyone who is exposed to real or threatened death or its aftermath is damaged by that experience; most people are not. But everyone is susceptible to experiencing intense terror, horror, or helplessness when confronted with their own or their peers mortality, and each soldiers susceptibility varies over time due to the accumulation of stress from other causes. No one knows how common traumatic stress injuries are among soldiers engaged in combat operations because most are minor, more like bruises than fractures, and most heal quickly on their own without help from others. Even more serious traumatic stress injuries tend to be disabling for only a matter of seconds or minutes, although completely normal functioning may not be regained for days, weeks, or months.
Although now this problem is being addressed by the PA, wherein support to field units on these matters are increasing. I consider this issue as very crucial one since we have been witness to several fatal effect of combat and operational stress that led to several deaths and injuries by soldiers running amok in barracks or at home killing members of their families and neighbors. Newstrom said that counseling is discussion with an employee of a problem that usually has emotional content in order to help employee cope with it better. Its goal is improved mental health and it is performed by both managers and professional counselors. In a similar fashion that appropriate leader actions for managing traumatic stress injuries are analogous to those for managing physical injuries in soldiers, including (1) applying psychological first aid for affected individuals, (2) applying psychological first aid for affected units, (3) assessing the need for professional care, and (4) monitoring healing and mentoring back to full health and readiness.
Another relevant topic in IR 213 that I want to emphasize is on organizational development (OD). According to Newstrom organizational development is the systematic application of behavioral science knowledge at various levels (group, intergroup and total organization) to bring about planned change. Whereas according to the book of Lisa Matthewman, et al in their book, Work Psychology, strategic change is concerned with broad, long-term organizational issues, which involves OD programs designed to change vision, mission or corporate philosophy on matters such as growth, quality, innovation and values. It is this kind of OD that the Philippine Army is undergoing right now.
The PA has crafted the Army Transformation Roadmap (ATR) which is a transformation program that highlights the commitment of the PA to pursue genuine reforms founded on good governance and performance excellence. Its primary purpose is to transform the Army into a more capable, responsive, reliable, and professional organization committed to its mandate. This was not made by one man for one unit. This was created by several people representing different units for the Philippine Army and the people it serves. As mentioned by Newstrom OD requires transformational leaders. These are managers who initiate bold strategic changes to position the organization for its future. They articulate a vision and promote it vigorously; just like what senior commanders in PA are doing under the direction of the Commanding General of the Philippine Army, the PA is promoting a newly crafted vision that is By 2028, to be a world-class Army that is a source of national pride.
I am also part of these so called transformational leaders, where I am tasked to take up a Masters Degree in HRM and be able to contribute in the transformation of the personnel management of PA. Also it is very important to take note of the sources of resistance to change, thus my part in making sure that the resistance among the personnel of the army would be addressed so that complications arising from these resistance would be avoided.
For years, the Philippine Army has been viewed negatively by the very people it aims to serve. But times are changing and so are the needs of the nation. Although war fighting is still the core function of the Armed Forces, the Army is increasingly expected to perform non-traditional roles such as disaster response, humanitarian assistance, peacekeeping operations, and support to national development. Thus I believe the topic on organizational development would equip me somehow to enable me to relate them in my attempt to contribute in the area of Human Resource Development for the PA.
And finally, the experiences that were shared by my classmates in class is priceless, for as a military and government worker, their opinions and shared actual on the job know how both in the private and public sector setting, has given me better understanding of theories applied to actual practice. Indeed this makes graduate school better, since many of the students are practicing professionals, wherein their shared work experiences and higher level of opinion on relevant matters would be an additional learning experience aside from what the instructor would be teaching the students. It has been a long while for me since I returned back to civilian school, and Im glad I returned to my Alma Mater for it brought back memories and pride in my being a UP student, Im not disappointed with this course and as in the other courses that I took in SOLAIR, for it really educated me on matters that I really need to. My work as an officer in the military allows me to interact with many military personnel and my rank allows me to occupy position that is managerial in nature thus this course on organizational behavior has equipped me with the knowledge that I have just enumerated. I believe the objective of the course has been achieved, and I do hope that it will continue to do so for the other students that would be taking this course.