ATTITUDES AT WORK AND THEIR EFFECTS ON THE MANAGEMENT OF PEOPLE Introduction
“ Virtually any response can serve as an indicator of attitude toward an object so long as it is reliably associated with the respondent’s tendency to evaluate the object in question.” This is an argument made by Ajzen (2002) that in my opinion holds true, as research over the years has shown that attitudes are developed over time, therefore they form an integral part of an individuals inclination to act a certain way toward anything or anyone. The differentiating variable is how strongly one holds the attitude. Being an aspect of psychology that is widely researched, there are numerous definitions of an attitude some of which seem to compete with or contradict one another. The scope of this paper covers two of those definitions. The first definition is that given by Clark and Miller (1970) as “…disposition acquired through previous experience, to react to certain things, people or events in positive ways.” It goes on to say that attitudes represent ones tendency to approach that, which conserves or avert that which jeopardizes the things one values. A better-rounded definition is that given by Secord and Backman (1969) as cited in Arnold (2011) as “…certain regularities of an individual’s feelings, thoughts and predispositions to act toward some aspect of their environment.” It follows that attitudes are evaluative and indicate the likely outcome of how a person’s feelings, thoughts and behaviours affect the object of the attitude. At this point two things are clear; first a person’s attitude is built over time and varies only according to the circumstances. Second, attitudes are always towards a specific target such as a person, place, thing or idea.
Most of the mainstream literature on attitudes indicates that they are made up of three components (Arnold et. al., 2010); affective cognitive and behavioural. The affective component is seen in a person’s physiological response to and/or in what they say their feelings are towards the object of the attitude. An example is increased blood pressure ones car stops in the middle of the highway. The cognitive component is the person’s perception of the object of the attitude and/or what they say about it such as cars are undependable. The third one is the behavioural component, which is how the person acts i.e. their observable behaviour toward the object of the attitude and/or what they say about the behaviour e.g. aggressively turning the key in the ignition and hitting the steering wheel. Reber and Reber, authors of the Penguin Dictionary of Psychology (2001) as cited by Clements and Jones (2008) however state that attitudes are made up of four components. * Cognitive component made up of consciously held beliefs or opinions. * Affective component made up of emotions, moods and feelings. * Evaluative component used to determine the negative or positive value of something. * Conative component, which is an ordered arrangement of elements e.g. stereotypes which are likely to lead to a particular behaviour. The literature surrounding psychology however shows that cognition and affect are inextricably linked in people, as when one thinks, there are feelings about what is thought of. Likewise if the situation is reversed, when one has feelings, one thinks about what they feel (Saari and Judge, 2004). Attitudes and Behaviour
Attitudes are thought to matter only if they influence actual behaviour i.e. they affect behaviour to some extent often not very much. The fact that people’s feelings and beliefs about a target object do not inevitably affect how they behave toward them displays a lack of correspondence between the two. Reasons for this lack of correspondence include pressures to conform to societal norms and laws and restrictions on an individual’s abilities (Arnold et. al., 2010). Despite the sometimes-conflicting definitions of attitudes, they all agree that there is a link between...
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