Contemporary organisational research urges business leaders to develop an acute understanding of employee attitudes and perspectives to align company and individual values better. To find key things that connect and inspire employees, things that the people creating the business have in common, and utilise them to uncover and drive broader competitive advantages for the business through employee engagement – a critical factor in job performance. (Rich et al., 2010).
I want to discuss the four fundamental concepts influencing individual perspectives: Values, attitudes, perceptions, and behaviours. Based on those four factors, I will address how to foster a positive work environment and explore possible advantages to negative feelings and behaviours in the workplace.
Although at a glance appearing to be a straightforward concept, ‘value’ has a degree of complexity due to its ambiguity.
Being a highly subjective concept that does not necessarily connect to monetary cost or benefit, value is perceived individually. Everyone has a different concept of it and an idea of what is valuable to them personally. There is no one, collective, universal thing that everyone craves, desires or aspires to. Therefore one might define value as a means to an end – a phenomenon of putting importance in an object because it allows a person to fulfil a tendency or pursue a goal (Sheldon, 1914). It is not a single specific thing that is valuable, but it is what that thing allows us to do or achieve that counts.
How can you use this as a Manager or a Business Owner? Ask people about what matters for them, observe, investigate, and act accordingly. Contrary to popular belief, not everyone is driven by money. If you aim to motivate a strongly family-oriented person and values time with their kids more than anything, an afternoon off will be more cherished than any other incentive.
Perception is the process of recognising and learning about other people and the environment. This process is affected by each person’s values and attitudes, as well the behaviours of the people being perceived (Stangor et al., 2014). Depending on the observer’s culture, experience, and personal preferences, the observed person’s characteristics will be perceived differently. As such, perceptions are highly individualised, specific to oneself, and not objective.
perceptions can be changed, but it is a time-consuming process. Confronting a person or simply forcing them to change their view on omething is impossible and might trigger an opposite effect.
McLeod offers a few definitions of an attitude to demonstrate the complexity of this concept in his work. He initially looks at Hogg and Vaughan’s classification describing attitudes as lasting sets of beliefs, sentiments, and behaviors towards objects and issues existing around a person. Eagly and Chaiken, however, define attitude as a psychological tendency to approve and support some ideas while discouraging and diminishing others (McLeod, 2018). I define attitudes as internal perspectives affected by own’s emotions, driving set positive or negative behaviours towards the external environment.
Being aware of the prevailing attitudes of the people around you might help you navigate and predict their future behaviour.
If you get to know them better, what makes them excited or nervous, you can drive their positive responses or diffuse any conflict situations before they occur.
Stangor, Jhangiani and Tarry define behaviour simply as own’s interactions with other people or the environment (Stangor et al., 2014). However, I want to look at the broader aspect of behaviour also demonstrated by the lack of interaction or communication within a set situation.
The concept of social exchange, seeking social rewards by exhibiting socially acceptable and approved behaviours, has a significant, measurable impact on individual actions in the broader society. Even though an individual might seek immediate profit by utilising social norms to maximise personal gain, those exact social expectations tend to even out the equation by inspiring behaviours beneficial to the community in the longer run (Stangor et al., 2014).
As a leader, you can drive the behaviours that you want in your employees by discovering their values and attitudes and shifting perceptions, so they are able to see what you see.
Aligning those three within your team is a challenge that every great Manager must overcome to build an engaging, positive environment. But what does an engaging, positive environment really mean?
Fostering a Positive Work Environment
Rich, Lepine, and Crawford conducted an experiment on a group of 245 firefighters. The study measured an impact of an alignment of personal values, positive (in the context of a given organisation) behaviour, and general job engagement on employee performance. Staff reporting greater engagement simultaneously reported higher value alignment with the organisation and, subsequently, received better behavioural evaluations from the management (Rich et al., 2010).
Based on such findings, one could assume that engagement in the workplace should be a priority. There are countless strategies out there for developing positive working cultures through creating accessible company philosophy, transparent policies, and pro-employee processes. By redeveloping employee relations, allowing for diversity, independent perspectives, and work styles, businesses can drive job satisfaction and long term performance. (Mankidy, 1994)
However, as touched upon in the video below, overly positive cultures can also be degrading (TEDx Talks, 2019).
By not allowing any negative attitudes, perspectives or behaviours, even ones justified by the overall situation within the team or within the organisation, the business can potentially engage in a false sense of self-righteousness and create a bubble of fake success.
Negativity is usually displayed for a reason – if you find the root cause and resolve it, you not only get one more happy employee, you also removed an inefficiency or saved the business money.
If a positive facade gets in the way of negativity, allowing for problem identification and resolution, the management model might have to be reevaluated.
Effective Manager can use individual values, attitudes, perceptions, and behaviours to enrich the business culture and increase performance, as long as he or she can align those four factors on a team and organisational level. By mapping and exploring individual differences, the Manager can foster positive, inclusive employee engagement and work through the negative factors as they arise, rather than dismissing them.
- Mankidy, J. (1994). Towards a positive work culture: Emerging scenario and strategies. Indian Journal of Industrial Relations, 29(4), 428-439. Retrieved April 18, 2021, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/27767325
- McLeod, S. (2018). Attitudes and behaviors. Simply Psychology. https://www.simplypsychology.org/attitudes.html
- Rich, B., Lepine, J., & Crawford, E. (2010). Job engagement: Antecedents and effects on job performance. The Academy of Management Journal, 53(3), 617-635. Retrieved April 18, 2021, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/25684339
- Sheldon, W. (1914). An empirical definition of value. The Journal of Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Methods, 11(5), 113-124. doi:10.2307/2012364
- Stangor, Ch., Jhangiani, R., & Tarry, H. (2014). Principles of social psychology – 1st international edition. BCcampus. https://opentextbc.ca/socialpsychology/
- TEDx Talks (2019, November 22). How toxic positivity leads to more suffering | Mahmoud Khedr | TEDxMenloCollege [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5EOj2Z7hw5w
This article is a part of my MBA series – Edited, expanded series of essays that I wrote as a part of my Master’s Degree journey.