Personality and attitudes represent important micro, cognitively oriented variables in the study of organizational behavior (Luthans, 2005). Personality represents the ‘whole person’ concept. It includes perception, learning, motivation, decision-making, and more. Micro theory in organizational behavior deals with the behaviors and nature of individuals and small groups in organizations (Greenberg, 2003). In fact, OB focuses on three distinct levels of analysis: individuals, groups, and organizations (Greenberg, 2003). At the individual level, OB and managers are concerned with individual attitudes, values, personality, ethics and cultural differences.
Attitudes determine how a person behaves and is linked to other personal attributes such as perception, personality and motivation. An attitude is a positive or negative feeling or mental state of readiness, learned and organized through experience that exerts specific influence on a person’s response to people, objects, and situations. There are four major characteristics of attitudes that are important in the context of organizational behavior: attitudes are learned; attitudes define our predispositions toward given aspects of the world; attitudes provide the emotional basis of our interpersonal relations and identification with others; and attitudes are organized and are close to the core of personality (Luthans, 2005). Attitudes are acquired through family, peer groups, society, and previous job experiences.
Attitude is made up of three components: cognitive, affective and behavioral (Sims, 2002). Individuals strive to maintain consistency among the components of attitudes. Sometimes, there can be conflicts between any two components of an attitude. This leads to a state of disequilibrium. The term cognitive dissonance describes a situation where there’s a discrepancy between the cognitive and behavioral components of an attitude (Festinger, 1957). For example, the chief executive officer (CEO) of a tobacco company may experience cognitive dissonance if she believes that she’s honest and hardworking but that cigarettes contribute to lung cancer. She may think, “I’m a good human being, but I’m in charge of a firm producing a cancer-contributing product” (Sims, 2002). These thoughts create inconsistency. Cognitive dissonance has important organizational implications. First, it helps explain the choices made by an individual with attitude inconsistency. Second, it can help predict a person’s propensity to change attitudes. Moreover, managers often face the task of changing employees’ attitudes because existing attitudes hinder job performance. Attitudes can be changed through persuasive communication similar to those found in media such as radio, television, newspaper and magazine advertising (Sims, 2002). Job satisfaction is an attitude that individuals have about their jobs. It results from their perceptions of their jobs, based on factors of the work environment, such as the supervisor’s style, policies and procedures, work group affiliation, working conditions, and fringe benefits (Sims, 2002).
Values are linked to attitudes. Values are defined “as the set of likes, dislikes, viewpoints, inner inclinations, rational and irrational judgments, prejudices, and association patterns that determine a person’s view of the world” (Flowers, 1975; Spranger, 1928). Values, when internalized become a standard or criterion to one’s actions. The study of values, therefore, is fundamental to the study of organizational behavior (Flowers, 1975).
The value system plays a huge role in organizational behavior right from the design and development of organizational structures and processes to the utilization of particular leadership styles and the evaluation of the performance of direct reports. One of the theories of leadership holds that managers can only adopt a leadership style that is appropriate to their inner set of values (Fiedler, 1967). The impact of values is more pronounced in decision-making in the context of subjective issues. Another aspect of the importance of values occurs in the realm of interpersonal relations when managers get to interact with people carrying contradictory values. The manner in which these conflicts are resolved is particularly crucial to the organization’s effectiveness (Sims, 2002).
Ethics is about behavior. When there is a dilemma in the workplace, ethics is about doing the right thing (Luthans, 2005). Ethical managerial leaders and their people take the “right” and “good” path when they come to the ethical choice points. The application of the value system in decision making is studied as organizational ethics. The personal value system of the decision-maker underlines the right or wrong thing to do in a particular instance and accordingly helps in decision making (Greenberg, 2003).
According to recent research, scientists believe that there are five basic dimensions to personality (Salgado, 1997). These dimensions have appeared in many studies, across many samples, and in studies done in several countries outside the United States. Although some psychologists feel the dimensions are not precisely specified, fewer than five dimensions exist, or a different set of five dimensions exist, these dimensions are now widely used in personality psychology (Waller and Ben-Porath, 1987). The “Big Five” factors are: extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability and openness to experience. These five dimensions of personality play an important role in organizational behavior. Studies indicate that conscientious employees perform better than others. Extroverted people have a flair for marketing and managerial jobs (Barrick and Mount, 1993). But there is no general rule regarding personality traits and performance in jobs. Hence one can say that personality plays a crucial but often unpredictable role in the context of understanding behavior in organizations.
There are also many kinds of personalities and one can understand the why of human behavior in organizations through knowledge of such personalities. For example there are people who feel they are controlled by external factors such as luck, fate, or power forces. On the other hand, there are internal control personality types who believe they control what happens to them (Rotter, 1966). A Machiavellian personality is one who is cynical and manipulative. Their suspicious nature creates problems when it comes to interpersonal relations. Moreover, Machiavellian personalities focus on personal goals, even if reaching them requires unethical behavior or manipulating other people (Wilson, Near, and Miller, 1996).
Final Points & Conclusion
Cultural differences can act as a barrier to precise perception of others’ behavior. Moreover, cultural differences can influence attitudes. Attitudes of Americans toward people in Russia, Cubans toward capitalism, and French Canadians toward France are learned in society. Within the United States are subcultures—ethnic communities, ghetto communities, and religious groups – also play a role in shaping people’s attitudes. Attitude plays a vital role in the formation of perceptions, values and motivation within the organizational framework. House, Wright, and Aditya (1997) have found that cultural differences in societies and in organizations can explain the differences in individuals’ expectations and assumptions about their environments, attitudes toward others, modes of social interaction, expressions of emotions and global behavior patterns, and reactions to others (Greenberg, 2003). House, Wright and Aditya (1997) point out that even in the perception of leadership cultural differences can be seen: “Charismatic leadership may be acted in the highly assertive manner, as in the case of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., or in a quiet, nonassertive manner, as in the case of Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and Mother Teresa”. This shows that the manner in which effective leaders “lead” varies greatly with differences in culture.
Thus we find that individual attitudes, values, personality, ethics, and cultural differences influence organizational behavior.
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