Breaking Down Work Related Attitudes
Work-related attitudes and behaviors are concerned with various aspects of the job itself, the setting (and organization) in which the work is conducted, and the people involved in it.— Greenberg and Baron (2000, p. 170)
- Attitudes may be defined as an individual’s evaluative statements—either favorable or unfavorable —about objects, people, or events.
Attitudes reflect how we feel about something. They encompass such affective feelings as likes and dislikes, and satisfactions and dissatisfactions.
- For example, when I say “I like my job,” I am expressing my attitude about work.
Attitudes are complex. Our needs, past experiences, self-concept, and personality shape the beliefs, feelings, and opinion we hold towards the perceived world.
If you were to ask others about their attitude toward religion, sport, or the organization they work for, you may get a simple response, but the reasons underlying the response are probably complex. In order to fully understand attitudes, we need to consider their fundamental components.
Traditionally, behavioral scientist have proposed three components of attitudes. We’ll spend the latter part of this entry briefly describing each, but for now, here they are in order.
- The Cognitive ComponentCognition is the aspect of an attitude that is based in description of or belief in the way things are. For example, the statement “my pay is low” is a description. The cognitive component of an attitude sets the stage for the more critical part of an attitude—its affective component.
- The Affective ComponentAffect is the emotional or feeling segment of an attitude and is reflected in the statement “I am angry over how little I’m paid”. Affect can lead to behavioral outcomes.
- The Behavioral ComponentThe behavioral component of an attitude refers to an intention to behave in a certain way toward someone or something (to continue the example, “I’m going to look for another job that pays better”).
Viewing attitudes as being made up of three components—cognition, affect, and behavior— is helpful in understanding their complexity and the potential relationship between attitudes and behavior.
Note that these components are closely related, and cognition and affect in particular are inseparable in many ways. For example, imagine you concluded that someone had just treated you unfairly.
Aren’t you likely to have feelings about that, occurring virtually instantaneously with the thought? Therefore, cognition and affect are intertwined.
The figure below illustrates how the three components of an attitude are related.
As example in the figure indicates, an employee didn’t get a promotion he thought he deserved; a co-worker got it instead. The employee’s attitude toward his supervisor is illustrated as follows:
- the employee thought he deserved the promotion (cognition),
- the employee strongly dislikes his supervisor (affect), and
- the employee is looking for another job (behavior).
Although we often assume that cognition causes affect, which then causes behavior, in reality these components are often difficult to separate.
A person can have thousands of attitudes, but within the sphere of organizational behavior, researchers focus their attention on three types of work-related attitudes. They include job satisfaction, job involvement, and organizational commitment.
- Job satisfactionThe term job satisfaction describes a positive feeling about a job, resulting from an evaluation of its characteristics. A person with a high level of job satisfaction holds positive feelings about his or her job, while a dissatisfied person holds negative feelings tending to job dissatisfaction. See Job SatisfactionOpens in new window
- Job involvementRelated to job satisfaction is job involvement, which measures the degree to which people identify psychologically with their job and consider their perceived performance level important to self-worth. Employees with a high level of job involvement strongly identify with and really care about the kind of work they do. See Job InvolvementOpens in new window
- Organizational commitmentThe third majob job attitude is organizational commitment, a state in which an employee identifies with a particular organization and its goals and wishes to maintain membership in the organization. While high job involvement means identifying with your specific job, high organizational commitment means identifying with your employing organization. See Organizational CommitmentOpens in new window
A few other attitudes attracting attention from researchers include perceived organizational support and employee engagement.