Everything about yourself affects how you see things in your day to day life. Your beliefs, your attitudes, your experiences all shift your point of view in a way that is specific to you. This can sometimes be a good thing, as a different perspective on a topic or task can allow group members to find multiple solutions. However, it can be negative if your perception of things begins to cloud your judgement or is severely altered from what it should be. While you do have some degree of control over your own perception and attribution towards things-usually by making a conscious effort to take a second look-you cannot control the perception and attribution of others.
The concepts of perception and attribution are things we encounter every day without realizing it. You normally don't actively think about why you interpreted something the way you did, just the interpretation and how it pertains to the situation at hand. In a working environment, they can make significant differences in how things are done individually and in groups. For business in general it plays a massive role from a marketing and public relations standpoint, as many businesses try to present themselves so that potential customers will perceive them in a certain way. In regards to a business' organizational behavior, it can shape multiple different aspects and impact the tone of the workplace even if the source is a single person.
This article will take a closer look at what roles perception and attribution play in organizational behavior. Both concepts will be defined, with additional discussion on attribution theory as it pertains to business. You will also learn what you can do to prevent any adverse effects of perception and attribution from affecting your business, and what options are available when there is an effect.
Perception is simply defined as how a person sees the world around them and how they interpret that information. It's a subconscious things that the mind does and is contingent on your ability to pay attention to your surroundings and your existing knowledge.1 The mind will occasionally filter information out, which is why you don't notice every single thing around you; it would be a complete information overload otherwise.
In organizational behavior and business, perception often helps shape a person's personality and how they act in certain situations. These can affect how they respond to certain things-like stressful situations-their performance at tasks, and even their creativity.2 For management, paying attention to personality traits in employees can help them determine the person's work ethic and strengths. That is, if the manager's perception is not hindered in some way. In most cases, the root cause of perception problems can be linked to one particular issue:
Things like ego and attitude can also warp a person's perception in a situation from reality. Those aspects of a person's personality can make it rather hard for others to work with them, affecting their workplace relationships in addition to their performance. Another example of perception vs. reality would be an employee who thinks that they've done more than enough work to earn a promotion. However, their supervisor knows they've barely made a dent in the workload of their current position, let alone enough to justify a move up. In such cases, it's more than just a difference in opinion and it can be disruptive to the overall environment of the workplace and the business' organizational behavior.
Attribution is what happens when a person takes the information they perceived and determines a reason as to what happened. What you attribute things like success to depends on your own perception and behaviors, which may be wrong due to being unrealistic or having the incorrect information for the situation. Things like bias and misconceptions can cloud that reasoning, which can interfere with a person's proficiency in the workplace and may contribute to issues with diversity.
One of the concepts used in organizational behavior to help improve perception and attribution is attribution theory. The theory was first brought forth by psychologist Fritz Heider in the 1950s and stated that people had a desire to explain the reasoning behind their actions and the actions of others.4 It was expanded upon over the years by fellow psychologists Bernard Weiner and Harold Kelley, both of whom looked at the factors in a person's life that can impact their perception and their validity. They also looked at what impact certain attributions can have when a person acts upon them. Today, the theory is used to help people explain the causes behind human behaviors and largely make sense of them.5
In business, attribution theory is applicable to the members of a business' management team more so than it is to the standard employees. Managers are responsible for interpreting behavior and actions throughout the business to ensure that things are remaining as they should be and to keep an eye out for problems. If they make mistakes in their perceptions and attributions-or they are otherwise clouded by their own bias-then that can reflect throughout the company more so than if they were a regular employee. This is because it's the management staff that are the primary decision makers in the business' daily operations, and their power in the business gives them more control over it.
Errors in their judgement and interpretation of things could end up wasting time and money for the business and could hurt the business' bottom line. It can also disrupt organizational behavior, as employees themselves could interpret management's response as hostile or incompetent. In some cases, an employee whose behavior is being misattributed by their supervisor and is being unjustly punished for it may feel like they are being singled out or victimized at work. As a result, their interactions with their supervisor and peers may become negative-especially if they do not feel like their co-workers are defending them or are even supporting the supervisor's views of them. Their work could undoubtedly suffer, as the punishments may infringe upon their allotted work time and decrease their production rate (which may result in more punishments). The same can occur if an employee is being unjustly rewarded for work or accomplishments that are not theirs to claim. The responsible party may feel like this is an ethics violation between co-workers, or they may receive some punishment when they come forward to claim their work because management doesn't believe them.
Managing Effects on Your Business
The effects that perception and attribution have on a business and its organizational behavior can be both positive and negative. The difference in outcome tends to rely on the people in the business and the responses towards their actions. There are also other additional factors-again, the industry, size, and location of the business-that may influence the effect of perception and attribution in the work environment. However, there is some degree of control that a business has over the effects and use them to their advantage.
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