Attitudes - Organisational Behaviour

Importance of Attitude in Organisational Behaviour

Let us understand the importance and nature of attitude. Learn and understand the difference between the attitude, opinion, value etc. and many more in this segment.

Nature of Attitude

An attitude may be defined as a tendency to react positively or negatively in regard to an object. For example, a person who has a positive attitude towards the religion is likely to enjoy going to worship services, believe that the religious institutions fosters morality, and may, therefore, contribute to its financial support.

An attitude is always directed toward some object, such as the temple, school etc. The object may be of general social significance, such as labour-management relations, or it may be purely personal, such as a feeling about playing cricket or football. Moreover, the object of an attitude may be as abstract as the philosophy of re-birth or as concrete as a car. An attitude is a tendency to react in a certain way. That is, a person who has an attitude has a readiness or a disposition to react favorably or unfavorably to anyone of a large variety of related situations. Until some situation arouses it, however, the attitude is latent. For example, a man who has a patriotic attitude toward his country is not continuously aroused about it. But his patriotic attitude arouses his country is threatened from an external aggression or if the National Anthem is sung, and so on.

Attitudes are for or against things. We tend to have favorable attitudes toward sources of gratification and unfavorable attitudes toward sources of punishment and frustration. It is possible, of course, that our attitudes toward an object may not be uniformly favorable or unfavorable. For example, we may admire and respect American technical accomplishments and yet resent other aspects of its system.

Arousal of attitude

If an event appears to maintain, attain, or foster movement toward what one value, then this event will tend to arouse positive reactions. Accordingly, a person who identifies with the goals of management would react positively to legislation or proposal to restrict unionism. If an event appears to destroy, prevent attainment of, or otherwise endanger what one value, then this event will tend to arouse negative reactions. Accordingly a person who identifies with the goals of labor unions would react negatively to legislation or proposal to restrict trade unionism.

The stronger an attitude, less the stimulation which is necessary to arouse it. Let us assume that the following items constitute an ascending scale of stimulation of attitude arousal for a person who has an unfavorable attitude toward labour unions:

  1. Seeing a group of people in working clothes;
  2. Seeing a group of labourers entering a union hall;
  3. Seeing a group of labourers picketing in an orderly manner;
  4. Seeing a group of labourers milling about, jeering, and overturning a company truck.

For a person who has a weakly unfavorable attitude toward labor unions, perhaps only items ‘D’ would produce much of an attitudinal reaction. On the other hand, for a person who has an intensely anti-union attitude, item B and even A would be capable of arousing the attitude. The stronger one’s attitude, the greater the probability of arousal of the attitude. Or the wider the range of stimulus situations which are capable of arousing it, for example, those who have strong attitudes, either favorable or unfavorable, in regard to untouchability are likely to be aroused by a wider range of situations than are those who have weak attitudes. An aroused attitude consists of three categories of internal (implicit, covert) responses. These consist of affective (emotional), reactions, cognition’s (thoughts, perceptual reactions, judgements), and action tendencies.

The latter are actually motives for doing particular things. To illustrate, suppose that we consider someone’s internal reactions to situations involving higher education. He likes (affective reaction) the company of well-educated people, enjoys (affective reaction) spending time in the university library, believes (cognition) that industrial society depends upon what universities do, judges (cognition) that college professors are capable people, and wants (action tendency) to contribute to a campaign to raise the university endowment. Thus an aroused attitude can be regarded as having affective, cognitive, and action components.

The set of implicit responses that is aroused on a particular occasion depends upon the person and the stimulus situations. Sometimes we have strong emotional reactions to a situation but lack definite beliefs and action tendencies in relation to it. For example, we might deeply resent a foreigner’s blast against our country’s policies but not have any systematic beliefs about the significance of his actions or any definite action tendencies. In some people affective reactions and beliefs may play a large part in their religious attitudes while their action tendencies are minimal.

The greater the degree of arousal of the affective component of an attitude, the greater the strength of reaction to other attitude-related stimuli. If a person is already stirred up about something relevant to an attitude, he will tend to react to some new attitude stimulus more strongly than he would otherwise do. A community that is angry about a “communal incident” will be likely to be sensitized to new threats to its values. It is not even necessary that the affective arousal be related to an attitudinally relevant stimulus for its effect to occur.

Attitudes and Values

Value is defined as a “concept of the desirable, an internalised criterion or standard of evaluation a person possesses.” Such concepts and standards are relatively few and determine our guide an individual’s evaluations of the many objects encountered in everyday life. Values are tinged with moral flavour, involving an individual’s judgment of what is right, good or desirable. Thus values –

  1. provide standards of competence and morality,
  2. are fewer in number than attitudes,
  3. transcend specific objects, situations or persons,
  4. are relatively permanent and resistant to change, and
  5. are most central to the core of a person.

There are differences between values and attitudes. Attitudes essentially represent predisposition to respond. Values focus on the judgment of what ought to be. This judgment can represent the specific manifestation of a determining tendency below the surface of the behaviour. Attitudes represent several beliefs focussed on a specific object or situation.Value,on the other hand, represents a single belief that transcendentally guides actions and judgments across objects and situations. Finally, a value stands in relation to some social or cultural standards or norms while attitudes are mostly personal experiences. There are similarities between values and attitudes. Both are powerful instruments influencing cognitive process and behaviour of people. Both are learned and acquired from the same source – experiences with people and objects. Values and attitudes are relatively permanent and resistant to change. Finally, values and attitudes influence each, other and are, more often than not, used interchangeable.

Attitude and Opinions

An opinion is an expression of an evaluative judgment or point of view regarding a specific topic or subject. An attitude is somewhat generalized (such as liking or not liking a person‘s supervisor), whereas an opinion typically is an interpretation regarding a specific matter– (such as saying that the boss plays favorites in granting promotions). Opinions, however, typically are influenced by the more generalized attitude. The facts or observations within an individual experiences are interpreted in the light of his attitudes. Thus, if an engineer calls the attention of his work group to the fact that some of the safety rules have been violated, one person (who has an “unfavorable” attitude toward the engineer) might later- express the opinion to one of his colleagues that the engineer is “just picking on us”. Another person (who has a “favorable” attitude toward the engineer) might later express the opinion that the engineer is simply trying to keep us from getting our fingers cut off.”

Attitude, Beliefs and Ideology

A belief is a judgment about something. For example, a belief that the world is round is a judgement about its form. Many of our beliefs, of course, are emotionally neutral; others are definitely favorable or unfavorable toward some object. For example, a favorable attitude toward the religion may involve beliefs that the religion helps to curb delinquency, that worshippers are better citizens than are non-devotees, that people who stay away from temples are unhappy and immoral, and so on.

When beliefs become organized into systems, they are called ideologies. The capitalist ideology, for example, is a set of beliefs that a free enterprise economy is maximally productive; that competition in the long run brings down prices and raises quality; and that events in the marketplace do and should determine what is produced. Related to this is a disbelief system – the set of beliefs, which one rejects. An individual committed to capitalist ideology would disbelieve that industry can be run efficiently without the profit system; that people will work primarily out of a desire to serve others; or that public ownership of all utilities is necessary for the common good.

There are ideologies pertaining to all the major institutions of society, such as the family, the law, the government, and the economic system. Although these ideologies are difficult to verify, we feel strongly about them and, as long as things go well, have great confidence in them. They give us an interpretation and a justification for our practices. Like religion, they are matters of faith. They give us an interpretation and a justification for our practices. Like religion, they are matters of faith. They give us social definition of reality. It is an interesting thing about human behaviour that some of the beliefs that we hold most tenaciously with the strongest feelings are not readily subject to proof or disproof.

Attitude and Prejudice

A prejudice is defined as an attitude that is emotionally resistant to being changed. Prejudices are strongly entrenched and vigorously defended, if threatened. They are acquired in the same way as other attitudes. They are supported by differences in relative privileges, fear, and certain personality factors.

Characteristics of Attitudes :

Attitude can be characterized by their –

  1. Valence,
  2. Multiplexity
  3. Relation to needs
  4. Centrality.
  1. Valence:It refers to the magnitude or degree of favorableness or unfavourableness toward the object/event. While measuring the attitudes we are basically concerned with the valence. If a person is relatively indifferent toward an object then his attitude has low valence. On the other hand, if a person is extremely favorable or unfavorable toward and attitude object, then his attitude will have a high valence.

  2. Multiplexity: It refers to the number of elements constituting the attitude. For example, one student may show interest in studies, but another not only shows interest, but also works hard, is sincere, and serious. Similarly an employee may feel simply loyal to an Organisation, but another may feel loyal, respectful, fearful and dependent.

  3. Relation to needs: Attitudes vary in relation to needs they serve. For instance, attitudes of an individual toward the pictures may serve only entertainment needs. On the other hand, attitudes of an individual toward task may serve strong needs for security, achievement, recognition, and satisfaction.

  4. Centrality: One salient characteristic of the attitude refers to the importance of the attitude object to the individual. The centrality indicates the importance of the object. The attitudes that have high centrality for an individual will be less susceptible to change.

Attitude Formation

The question often arises “Where do attitudes come from?” Attitudes are basically learned. People are not born with specific attitudes; rather they acquire them through the “process of sources of attitudes are learning”. Attitudes reflect a person’s previous reinforcement history. The sources of a person’s attitude are a mixture of –

  1. Personal experiences
  2. Association
  3. Family
  4. Peer groups and society
  5. Models and
  6. Institutional factors.
  1. Personal Experiences: People form attitudes by coming in direct contact with an attitude object. By the time a person goes for work in a specified Organisation, he holds many attitudes toward the type of the job that is acceptable to him, the expected pay, working conditions and supervision. Through job experiences they develop attitudes about such factors as salary, performance reviews, job design, work group, affiliation and managerial capabilities etc. Previous work experience can account for the individual differences in attitudes such as loyalty, commitments, performance etc. Many mangers in work organisations frequently notice these differences in attitudes.

  2. Association: People are highly influenced by the major groups or associations to which they belong. Geographic region, religion, educational background, race, sex, age and income- class–all strongly influence attitudes. The nearer the group the stronger is the group influence on the attitudes of the individual.

  3. Family: Family is the primary group that an individual belongs to. Family exerts influence on the initial core of attitudes held by an individual. Individuals develop certain attitudes from family members–parents, brothers, sisters etc. The family characteristics influence the individual’s early attitude patterns. Researchers have found a high degree of relationship between parents and children in attitudes than they found between children and their peers. They also empirically observed low correlation between attitudes of the children and their teachers.

  4. Peer Groups: As people approach their adulthood, they increasingly rely on their peer groups for approval /attitude. How others judge an individual largely determine his selfimage and approval-seeking behaviour. Social class and religious affiliation also play vital role in forming attitudes of an individual. The culture, language, and the structure of society, all provide an individual with the boundaries of his initial attitudes. At the very early age an individual is taught that certain attitudes are acceptable and certain others are non- acceptable in the society. What seem to be appropriate in one individual’s culture and society may be totally unacceptable in another culture.

  5. Models:Some of the attitudes are developed through imitation of models. The process is something like this: In a particular situation, we see how another person behaves. We correctly or incorrectly interpret his behaviour as representing certain attitudes and beliefs. If we identify with him and respect his judgment, we tend to accept his way of perceiving and feeling about the situation. Children are often quite observant about how their parents react to different people and situations.They learn by watching whom their parent’s respect, which they treat with condescension, whom they regard as friends, and whom they dislike. Such evaluations maybe acquired without the child’s directly interacting with such people. Instead of using a simple model, children (and adults) may seek to emulate different characteristics of different people. In this way their values, attitudes, and beliefs may be derived from many other people. Those that are functional for them tend to be retained.

  6. Institutional Factors: Many institutional factors function as sources and support of our attitudes and beliefs. For example, when people come into this temple, they bow down to pray, sit with heads bowed.Their clothes are clean and freshly washed. The entire process is devoted to ritual. From this we can get an idea as to the general character of the religious attitudes and beliefs. There is implicit attitude of reverence, an orientation toward a deity, a ritualized rather than spontaneous expression of feeling, a sharp differentiation between Pujari and devotees and so on. The different parts of the institution – the architecture, furnishings, people’s clothing, and behaviour–have a meaning which fits in with certain beliefs and attitudes. There are many other institutions in our society – schools, military organisations, and the like – which also function as sources and supports of attitudes and beliefs.

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