Employee behavior, as any human behavior, derives from attitudes toward various subjects or objects. These attitudes are in turn a result of beliefs held by the employee. In order to understand how to create or change employee attitudes we must understand how an attitude is created and what affects it.
The two main attitudes in organizational behavior are work satisfaction and organizational commitment. These two basic attitudes are of extreme importance to both organizations and managers. From a manager’s point of view the employee’s attitude towards organizational commitment is more important as it directly affects employee productivity.
A person’s beliefs and values create an attitude toward a subject or object which is basically a positive or negative approach towards it. Attitudes in turn affect behavior. For example, if a person believes that “work is no fun – work is a responsibility” then his attitude towards organizational commitment would be positive. In turn, in his behavior this person would work hard, stay over time and help other employees. A very important point to remember is that this works the other way around as well. Behavior affects attitudes which in turn affect beliefs.
Attitudes change when beliefs change. Beliefs change when new information is available to the believer. In order to effectively change beliefs (and thus affect attitudes and behavior) one needs to communicate new information. This communication is made of three parts:
1. The source – The effectiveness of the communication stands in direct relation with the credibility and attractiveness of the source of the message. If the message is important the source’s attractiveness is less consequential.
2. The message – Complex messages are obviously more difficult to communicate. The message should contain a unique selling proposition and should enable a deduction of a conclusion.
3. The target audience – Each target audience requires different means of communications.
As a result of the communication an inconsistency is formed in the belief, attitude and behavior triangle. For example, the behavior of promoting an employee affects my attitude towards that employee – If I promoted him he must have deserved the promotion (and not the other way around). Often times changing behavior is difficult and thus attitudes change for consistency. This in consistency between belief, attitude and behavior is known as cognitive dissonance. Another example of utilizing cognitive dissonance to change attitudes might the following known as festinger’s cognitive dissonance.
Group A receives 1$ to describe a boring chore as interesting. Group B receives 20$ to do the same. Results show group A estimates the chore as more interesting then group B. The dissonance created between the behavior of group A (describing as interesting) and their attitude towards the chore (boring) is enhanced due to the low compensation received (It must be more interesting then I think since I’m describing it as such for just 1$).
Another good example to consider is someone who bought an expansive PDA which suffers from bad WI-FI reception. There is a dissonance between the belief an expansive PDA should have good WI-FI reception and the fact he bought an expansive PDA. Eliminating the dissonance is possible in several ways: either the person tells himself he is not using WI-FI functionality (reducing the importance of it) or focusing on the PDA’s strengths. He could actually return the PDA but that would be much harder to perform.
In management we mainly have control over behavior. Thus managers should be focused on changing employee attitudes through behavioral change. An extreme example is the Army. Making a soldier love his weapon or tank is not an easy task. This love of soldier to weapon is achieved by commanding soldiers to constantly clean and maintain their weapons for example. The dissonance is created between their constant behavior and their belief they dislike the chores (If I’m constantly cleaning my tank I must there fore love it).
Some less extreme ways of changing employee commitment are very similar in principal. Some examples might be: employees phrasing their department’s vision and mission statement (If I’m phrasing it I care), Semi-mandatory conventions and gatherings (If I’m participating I must like my company) and much more.
Behavioral change of attitudes should be suited to each and every organization. Employee commitment to an organization is highly important as it directly affects productivity and profitability. Taking the time to consider which behaviors positively affect employee’s attitudes towards commitment is well worth the time. You can become more successful as a leader by learning more about an organizational leadership degree.