Don’t Bother Me, I am “OBMing”

I work in a company where most of our BCBAs work with clients who have developmental disabilities and are typically between the ages of 2-18. While I am a BCBA who also works with this population, my main focus is OBM or Organizational Behavior Management. This creates a small rift between myself and fellow team members because, frequently, my experiences in the behavioral field do not match theirs. They often give me grief about not really working when I am out “OBMing” (as we jokingly call it). While I feel most of this is in jest, I also need to normalize that behavior happens everywhere (or we would all be dead). OBM is just as important as Early Intervention. Plus, there seems to be much less snot, crying, and toy throwing in OBM. So what exactly do I do when I am out “OBMing”? Well, let’s first talk about what OBM is.

According to the OBM Network, OBM is a sub-discipline of ABA. It focuses on the behaviors of individuals in the workplace. OBM looks at the modification of environmental variables that affect employee performance. 

I have always had an interest in Behavior Management in the workplace. Before I knew what OBM was, I received my Master’s in Organizational Psychology, focusing more on theory. Honestly, I always felt like something was missing, and there was. I was missing the part that really analyzed how an individual’s behavior is affected by those environmental variables. 

Now, as I spend time working with organizations, I can look at performance management through the eyes of a behavioral analyst. I can offer interventions to increase employee performance through goal setting, token economies, and group contingencies. I work with leadership to determine if their organizational systems are functioning effectively and analyze how specific improvements may affect outcomes and have the most significant impact. 

Sometimes, organizations need help considering the benefits of certain costs, such as advertising, hiring, or fees. We will look at cost benefits and how to maximize their effectiveness in the industry. 

In the past, OBM focused on manufacturing or sales; however, now researchers are working to provide evidence-based practices for those who serve the health industry, like ABA companies, which is our focus at K-Now Behavioral Solutions. As we move forward in OBM, there is a lot of discussion on whether this sub-discipline of ABA should require a board certification from the BACB. I am on the fence on this one (maybe because I worked so hard to pass that test!), but I can see where the business world might not even know what a BCBA is or why that is such a distinction. I think it is our job, as behavioral analysts, to make sure we share the importance of our field, whether it be in animal science, early intervention, organization, or geriatrics, and work to grow awareness of the importance of having an individual (a BCBA, BCaBA, or RBT) who understands behavior, uses evidence-based practices, client-centered approaches, and recognizes diversity in their organization. 

Do you think behavior analysts who focus on OBM need to be BCBAs? What are the benefits or pitfalls of requiring licensure when working with organizations, not individuals? 


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Anissa Jepsen

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