Factors Affecting Attitudes, Perceptions, and Behaviors in Organizations

Critical to organization and individual behavior are attitudes, perceptions, and behaviors.  Perception is the process of turning observations into behavior and is the meeting place of different thinking styles, background, beliefs, and feelings (Gilorkar, n.d.).  Perception goes hand in hand with attitudes, which are evaluations of people, places, objects, or events that reflect how people feel about things (Gerdes, 2018).  On an individual as well as on an organizational basis, there are several factors which influence our attitudes, perceptions, and behaviors.  Stereotyping, discrimination, and projection are some of the critical factors, having a heavy effect on personal and organizational attitude, perception, and behavior. 

The Effect of Stereotyping 

Based in observations and perceptions from everyday life (Eagly, 2015), stereotyping is a generalized and oversimplified belief or expectation about a group of people as influenced by social groups, peers, media, and parents and is commonplace on the job (Nittle, 2021).  These are unfair assumptions and impact our lives. 

In organizations, stereotyping affects almost every aspect of performance and engagement, as well as psychological satisfaction.  It affects how open employees are to giving and receiving feedback, and how the feedback is perceived as being inaccurate (Kray & Shirako, 2009, p.8).  It can be self-handicapping and affect aspirations of individuals in the workplace, preventing them from seeking leadership roles or certain positions, as well as leading to poor performance as a self-fulfilling prophesy (Kray & Shirako, 2009, p.7).  It affects how people see their peers, evaluate their performance, and compete in the workforce (Kray & Shirako, 2009, p.10).  For instance, women are stereotyped as being weaker, so are perceived as being weaker and with lower performance in the workplace.  Knowing that this threat of stereotyping exists can influence whether a woman even aspires for a high-performance position or role (Kray & Shirako, 2009, p.10). 

Stereotyping affects how leaders are perceived.  For instance, a black, female leader has two sets of stereotypes that exist in individuals’ mindsets, which will affect her followers’ attitudes, behaviors, and perceptions.  Stereotyping also affects an individuals’ willingness to accept a leadership role.  If from an underprivileged class, for instance, the individual may think that their stereotypes of being poor will follow them into a leadership role, so they refuse the position (Kray & Shirako, 2009, p.8-9). 

The Effect of Discrimination 

Resulting from the way our brains categorize different things, with the addition of fear and misunderstanding, discrimination is “unfair or prejudicial treatment” based on characteristics (American Psychological Association, 2019).  Discrimination in the workforce can appear as unfair treatment, harassment, loss of promotion or advancement opportunities, and retaliation between coworkers or in a manager-subordinate relationship (U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, n.d.).  On an individual it can result in deteriorated mental health and increased stress (American Psychological Association, 2019).  Workplace discrimination has long-term effects on physical health as well, especially noted in women as the recipients of gender-based discrimination (O’Brien, 2016).  Individuals also have lower job satisfaction and engagement (Maese & Lloyd, 2021), resulting in reduced task performance (O’Brien, 2016). 

At an organizational level, discrimination can affect the corporate culture.  Due to decreased engagement and job satisfaction, higher turnover rates exist at less inclusive and more discriminatory organizations (Maese & Lloyd, 2021).  Lack of cohesion between team members is an obvious result of discrimination, in addition to reduced team and organizational performance.  Lack of corporate citizenship (O’Brien, 2016) and fitting into the culture are results that effect the organization as well, resulting in a weaker sense of unity and weaker culture.  Discrimination may result in civil suits and bad public relations for the organization as well.  Due to all of these factors, but especially increased turnover and lower engagement, productivity of the organization as a whole suffers. 

The Effect of Projection 

Projection occurs when people project their own feelings on others and assume that others are thinking, feeling, and behaving as they themselves do (Lindberg, 2018).  Simple individual examples are when an unfaithful wife assumes that her husband is cheating on her or an thief is always worried that people are stealing from him.  It has the effect individually of causing the individual who is projecting to make poor decisions based on the projection of their own thoughts, feelings, and actions. 

In a workplace setting, an example is when a coworker accuses you of always wanting your way when you stand up for an idea, even if they are always pushing their own agenda ahead and you are usually agreeable to them.  As soon as there is friction from you, the coworker projects their “my way or the highway” self onto you (Lindberg, 2018).  This is not a true evaluation of who you are, but in your coworker’s twisted perception, you are always wanting your way, just like they are. 

In an organization, projection affects the ability to negotiate effectively.  People are unable to negotiate in business if they incorrectly assume the other party’s thoughts and feelings.  Performance reviews also inaccurate because the reviewer is projecting their own thoughts, feelings, and even suspicions and fears upon the employee being reviewed.  Projection rears its head in a big way in corporate politics, where people act assuming that others have their same dark thoughts and motives (Brenner, 2008). 

Conclusion 

At an individual and organizational level, there are factors which influence attitudes, perceptions, and behaviors.  Three of the key influencing factors are stereotyping, discrimination, and projection.  While they may be deeply-rooted in how humans think, all three of these have a negative effect on interactions with other people.  In an organization, these effects are amplified and have a blast radius that is wider: affecting more people and more stakeholders, affecting productivity, affecting revenue, and affecting the brand of the company. 

References 

American Psychological Association. (2019, October 31). Discrimination: What it is, and how to cope. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/topics/racism-bias-discrimination/types-stress 

Brenner, R. (2008, August 6). Projection Errors at Work. Retrieved from https://chacocanyon.com/pointlookout/080806.shtml 

Eagly, A. (2015, August 25). How Do Stereotypes Form and Can They Be Altered? Retrieved from https://www.ipr.northwestern.edu/news/2015/eagly-stereotypes-social-role-theory.html 

Gerdes, D. (2018, January 21). OB Chapter 3 Attitudes and Job Satisfaction Video for Class [Video]. YouTube. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ah0q7XE6Tjg 

Gilorkar, R. (n.d.). Organisational Behaviour Perception. Retrieved from https://www.economicsdiscussion.net/organisation/organisational-behaviour-perception/31606 

Kray, L. & Shirako, A. (2009). Stereotype Threat in Organizations: An Examination of its Scope, Triggers, and Possible Interventions. RLE Working Paper No. 195-09. Retrieved from http://irle.berkeley.edu/workingpapers/195-09.pdf 

Lindberg, S. (2018, September 15). It’s Not Me, It’s You: Projection Explained in Human Terms. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/projection-psychology 

Maese, E. & Lloyd, C. (2021, May 26). Understanding the Effects of Discrimination in the Workplace. Retrieved from https://www.gallup.com/workplace/349865/understanding-effects-discrimination-workplace.aspx 

Nittle, N. (2021, February 4). What is a Stereotype? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-the-meaning-of-stereotype-2834956 

O’Brien KR, McAbee ST, Hebl MR and Rodgers JR (2016, April 28) The Impact of Interpersonal Discrimination and Stress on Health and Performance for Early Career STEM Academicians. Frontiers in Psychology. 7:615. Retrieved from https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00615/full 

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (nd.). What is Employment Discrimination? Retrieved from https://www.eeoc.gov/youth/what-employment-discrimination 

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