Case Study

Case Study

Read the case study ” Hootsuite Uses Social Media to Manage Aspects of the Human Resource Function” and respond to this question.

What does this case teach you about the use of social media in today’s organization?  Explain and support your point of view.

Personality and Individual Behavior

MAJOR QUESTION In the hiring process, do employers care about one’s personality and individual traits?


Personality consists of stable psychological and behavioral attributes that give you your identity. We describe five personality dimensions and five personality traits that managers need to be aware of to understand workplace behavior.

In this and the next four chapters we discuss the third management function (after planning and organizing)—namely, leading. Leading, as we said in  Chapter 1 , is defined as motivating, directing, and otherwise influencing people to work hard to achieve the organization’s goals.

How would you describe yourself? Are you outgoing? aggressive? sociable? tense? passive? lazy? quiet? Whatever the combination of traits, which result from the interaction of your genes and your environment, they constitute your personality. More formally,  personality  consists of the stable psychological traits and behavioral attributes that give a person his or her identity. 10  As a manager, you need to understand personality attributes because they affect how people perceive and act within the organization. 11

The Big Five Personality Dimensions

In recent years, the many personality dimensions have been distilled into a list of factors known as the Big Five. 12  The  Big Five personality dimensions are (1) extroversion, (2) agreeableness, (3) conscientiousness, (4) emotional stability, and (5) openness to experience.

· Extroversion. How outgoing, talkative, sociable, and assertive a person is.

· Agreeableness. How trusting, good-natured, cooperative, and soft-hearted one is.

· Conscientiousness. How dependable, responsible, achievement-oriented, and persistent one is.

· Emotional stability. How relaxed, secure, and unworried one is.

· Openness to experience. How intellectual, imaginative, curious, and broad-minded one is.

Current estimates are that approximately 76% of organizations with more than 100 employees now use some sort of pre- or post-hiring assessment, including personality tests,13 spending more than $500 million annually on such services.14 Companies use these tests, believing that hiring decisions will be more accurate and predictive of high performers. But are they? We’ll discuss this shortly. Dimensions in the Big Five have been associated with performance, leadership behavior, turnover, creativity, and workplace safety.15 Do you wonder if your personality has affected your behavior at work? Sociable and assertive. Does it take a certain kind of personality to be a good salesperson? Have you ever known people who were quiet, unassuming, even shy but who were nevertheless very persistent and persuasive—that is, good salespeople?© Blend Images/Alamy RFPage 359

Where do you think you stand in terms of the Big Five? You can find out by completing  Self-Assessment 11.1 .


Where Do You Stand on the Big Five Dimensions of Personality?

This survey is designed to assess your personality, using the Big Five index. Please be prepared to answer these questions if your instructor has assigned Self-Assessment 11.1 in Connect.

1. What is your personality profile, according to the Big Five?

2. Which of the Big Five is most likely going to help you achieve good grades in your classes and gain employment after graduation?

The Proactive Personality 

A person who scores well on the Big Five dimension of conscientiousness is probably a good worker. He or she may also be a  proactive personality, someone who is more apt to take initiative and persevere to influence the environment. Research reveals that proactive people tend to be more satisfied with their job and committed to their employer, as well as produce more work, than nonproactive individuals. 16

Do Personality Tests Work for the Workplace?

Personality tests are more commonly used to hire managers than entry-level employees (80% and 59% of the time, respectively).17 Nevertheless, many experts conclude personality tests are not a valid predictor of job performance.18 One explanation for this finding is that test takers don’t describe themselves accurately, instead guessing answers that might make them look better. Another is that companies use “off-the-shelf” tests possessing limited validity. You should avoid administering such tests. To overcome these limitations, companies like Pymetrics and Knack use games to assess cognitive ability and decision making. Other companies are looking toward genetic testing.19

The table below will help managers avoid abuses and discrimination lawsuits when using personality and psychological testing for employment decisions. 20  (See  Table 11.1 .)

TABLE 11.1   Cautions about Using Personality Tests in the Workplace

Use professionals. Rely on reputable, licensed psychologists for selecting and overseeing the administration, scoring, and interpretation of personality and psychological tests. This is particularly important, since not every psychologist is expert at these kinds of tests.
Don’t hire on the basis of personality test results alone. Supplement any personality test data with information from reference checks, personal interviews, ability tests, and job performance records. Also avoid hiring people on the basis of specified personality profiles. As a case in point, there is no distinct “managerial personality.”
Be alert for gender, racial, and ethnic bias. Regularly assess any possible adverse impact of personality tests on the hiring of women and minorities. This is truly a matter of great importance, since you don’t want to find your company (or yourself) embroiled in a lawsuit at some point downstream.
Graphology tests don’t work, but integrity tests do. Personality traits and aptitudes cannot be inferred from samples of people’s penmanship, as proponents of graphology tests claim. However, dishonest job applicants can often be screened by integrity tests, since dishonest people are reportedly unable to fake conscientiousness, even on a paper-and-pencil test.

Core Self-Evaluations

A  core self-evaluation represents a broad personality trait comprising four positive individual traits: (1)  self-efficacy, (2)  self-esteem, (3)  locus of control, and (4)  emotional stability. Managers need to be aware of these personality traits so as to understand workplace behavior.

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1. Self-Efficacy: “I Can/Can’t Do This Task”

Self-efficacy  is the belief in one’s personal ability to do a task. This is about your personal belief that you have what it takes to successfully complete a specified task.

Have you noticed that those who are confident about their ability tend to succeed, whereas those preoccupied with failure tend not to? Indeed, high expectations of self-efficacy have been linked with all kinds of positives: not only success in varied physical and mental tasks but also reduced anxiety and increased tolerance for pain. 21  One study found that the sales performance of life-insurance agents was much better among those with high self-efficacy. 22  A meta-analysis involving 21,616 people also found significant positive correlation between self-efficacy and job performance. 23  Low self-efficacy is associated with  learned helplessness, the debilitating lack of faith in one’s ability to control one’s environment. 24

Photo of Charlie Linville and Tim Medvetz Self-efficacy. Former Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Charlie Linville, 30, shown here (left) with his climbing partner, Tim Medvetz. Linville reached the 29,029-foot summit of Mt. Everest in May 2016, becoming the first combat-wounded veteran to do so. He had already conquered some of the highest peaks in the world on one leg. He was injured while defusing bombs in Afghanistan in 2011, when an explosive device detonated, leading to the amputation of his right leg below the knee. Do you have a personal belief that you can succeed at great things? © Niranjan Shrestha/AP Photo

Among the implications for managers are the following:

· Assign jobs accordingly. Complex, challenging, and autonomous jobs tend to enhance people’s perceptions of their self-efficacy. Boring, tedious jobs generally do the opposite.

· Develop self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is a quality that can be nurtured. Employees with low self-efficacy need lots of constructive pointers and positive feedback. 25  Goal difficulty needs to match individuals’ perceived self-efficacy, but goals can be made more challenging as performance improves. 26  Small successes need to be rewarded. Employees’ expectations can be improved through guided experiences, mentoring, and role modeling. 27

2. Self-Esteem: “I Like/Dislike Myself”

How worthwhile, capable, and acceptable do you think you are? The answer to this question is an indicator of your  self-esteem, the extent to which people like or dislike themselves, their overall self-evaluation. 28 Page 361 Research offers some interesting insights about how high or low self-esteem can affect people and organizations.

· People with high self-esteem. Compared with people with low self-esteem, people with high self-esteem are more apt to handle failure better, to emphasize the positive, to take more risks, and to choose more unconventional jobs. 29  However, when faced with pressure situations, high-self-esteem people have been found to become egotistical and boastful. 30  Some have even been associated with aggressive and violent behavior.

· People with low self-esteem. Conversely, low-self-esteem people confronted with failure have been found to have focused on their weaknesses and to have had primarily negative thoughts. 31  Moreover, they are more dependent on others and are more apt to be influenced by them and to be less likely to take independent positions.

Self-esteem varies around the world. A survey of 13,000 students from 31 countries showed that self-esteem and life satisfaction were moderately related. The relationship was stronger in individualistic countries (United States, Canada, New Zealand) than collectivist cultures (Korea and Japan).32

Can self-esteem be improved? According to one study, “low self-esteem can be raised more by having the person think of desirable characteristics possessed rather than of undesirable characteristics from which he or she is free.” 33  Some ways in which managers can build employee self-esteem are shown below. (See  Table 11.2 .)

TABLE 11.2   Some Ways That Managers Can Boost Employee Self-Esteem

· Reinforce employees’ positive attributes and skills.
· Provide positive feedback whenever possible.
· Break larger projects into smaller tasks and projects.
· Express confidence in employees’ abilities to complete their tasks.
· Provide coaching whenever employees are seen to be struggling to complete tasks.

3. Locus of Control: “I Am/Am Not the Captain of My Fate”

As we discussed briefly in  Chapter 1  locus of control indicates how much people believe they control their fate through their own efforts. If you have an internal locus of control, you believe you control your own destiny. If you have an external locus of control, you believe external forces control you.

Research shows internals and externals have important workplace differences. Internals exhibit less anxiety, greater work motivation, and stronger expectations that effort leads to performance. They also obtain higher salaries.34 Most importantly, one’s internal locus of control can be improved by providing more job autonomy.35

These findings have two important implications for managers:

· Expect different degrees of structure and compliance for each type. Employees with internal locus of control will probably resist close managerial supervision. Hence, they should probably be placed in jobs requiring high initiative and lower compliance. By contrast, employees with external locus of control might do better in highly structured jobs requiring greater compliance.

· Employ different reward systems for each type. Since internals seem to have a greater belief that their actions have a direct effect on the consequences of that action, internals likely would prefer and respond more productively to incentives such as merit pay or sales commissions. (We discuss incentive compensation systems in  Chapter 12 .)

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4. Emotional Stability: “I’m Fairly Secure/Insecure When Working under Pressure”

Emotional stability  is the extent to which people feel secure and unworried and how likely they are to experience negative emotions under pressure. People with low levels of emotional stability are prone to anxiety and tend to view the world negatively, whereas people with high levels tend to show better job performance.

Emotional Intelligence: Understanding Your Emotions and the Emotions of Others

Emotional intelligence (EI or EQ) has been defined as “the ability to carry out accurate reasoning about emotions and the ability to use emotions and emotional knowledge to enhance thought.” 36  Said another way,  emotional intelligence is the ability to monitor your and others’ feelings and to use this information to guide your thinking and actions. The trait of emotional intelligence was first introduced in 1909. Since that time some claim it to be the secret elixir to happiness and higher performance. Are you curious if research supports such lofty conclusions?

What Do We Know about EI?

Recent research underscores the importance of developing higher EI, but it does not confirm its lofty expectations. EI was moderately associated with (1) better social relations, well-being, and satisfaction across all ages and contexts, (2) higher creativity, (3) better emotional control, (4) conscientiousness and self-efficacy, and (5) self-rated performance. Interestingly, EI was not found to be a driver of supervisory ratings of performance.37 Daniel Goleman, a psychologist who popularized the trait of EI, concluded that EI is composed of four key components: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management.38 (See  Table 11.3 .)

TABLE 11.3   The Traits of Emotional Intelligence

1.Self-awareness. The most essential trait. This is the ability to read your own emotions and gauge your moods accurately, so you know how you’re affecting others.
2.Self-management. This is the ability to control your emotions and act with honesty and integrity in reliable and adaptable ways. You can leave occasional bad moods outside the office.
3.Social awareness. This includes empathy, allowing you to show others that you care, and organizational intuition, so you keenly understand how your emotions and actions affect others.
4.Relationship management. This is the ability to communicate clearly and convincingly, disarm conflicts, and build strong personal bonds.

Sources: For a current review, see D. Joseph, J. Jin, D. Newman, and E. O’Boyle, “Why Does Self-Reported Emotional Intelligence Predict Job Performance? A Meta-Analytic Investigation of Mixed EI,” Journal of Applied Psychology, March 2015, pp. 298–342. See the box titled “Get Happy Carefully” in D. Goleman, R. Boyatzis, and A. McKee, “Primal Leadership: The Hidden Driver of Great Performance,” Harvard Business Review, Special Issue: Breakthrough Leadership, December 2001, p. 49.

Can You Raise Your EI?

Is there any way to raise your own emotional intelligence, to sharpen your social skills? Although parts of EI represent stable traits that are not readily changed, other aspects, such as using empathy, can be developed. 39  Two suggestions for improvement are as follows:

· Develop awareness of your EI level. Becoming aware of your level of emotional intelligence is the first step. The self-assessment on following page can be used for this purpose. (Some companies use the Personal Profile Analysis during the hiring process to provide insights into a person’s EI.) 40

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Learn about areas needing improvement. The next step is to learn more about those EI aspects in which improvement is needed. For example, to improve your skills at using empathy, find articles on the topic and try to implement their recommendations. One such article suggests that empathy in communications is enhanced by trying to (1) understand how others feel about what they are communicating and (2) gaining appreciation of what people want from an exchange. 41


Emotional Intelligence: Does Empathy Work Better Than Self-interest?

When JetBlue identifies candidates for flight attendants, it not only uses psychological assessments, structured interviews, and the like, it also looks for the nicest people—and then something else: Using customer data analysis, it found that “being helpful trumps being nice,” as two JetBlue executives observed. Indeed, “being helpful even balances out the effect of somebody who is not so nice.”42 As a result of policies developed out of these insights—both reflections of emotional intelligence—customer feedback became more positive.

Is Compassion Good for the Bottom Line? A man named Drake, described as a “happy, generous, and other-focused person, … always interested in helping others whenever he can,” joined banker Bear Stearns, whose managers treated junior staff abusively, furthering an atmosphere of cut-throat competition. Drake was determined to follow his own values and as a senior staffer treated junior bankers with compassion and respect, as well as giving them more opportunities. As a result of one deal in which he gave a junior analyst much responsibility, she pitched a deal that turned out to be the most profitable of the year—catching the eye of senior management.43


Providing support for one another, including offering kindness and compassion when others are struggling. Inspiring one another at work. Avoiding blame and forgiving mistakes. Have you observed these expressions of EQ in a business situation? Do you think they pay off in a happier and even productive workplace?44

Both research and our experience suggest that your emotional intelligence can help or hurt your career. Would you like to know where you stand and what you might do to improve your level of emotional intelligence?

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Values, Attitudes, and Behavior

MAJOR QUESTION How do the hidden aspects of individuals—their values and attitudes—affect employee behavior?


Organizational behavior (OB) considers how to better understand and manage people at work. In this section, we discuss individual values and attitudes and how they affect people’s actions and judgments.

If you look at a company’s annual report or at a brochure from its corporate communications department, you are apt to be given a picture of its formal aspects: Goals. Policies. Hierarchy. Structure.

Could you exert effective leadership if the formal aspects were all you knew about the company? What about the informal aspects? Values. Attitudes. Personalities. Perceptions. Conflicts. Culture. Clearly, you need to know about these hidden, “messy” characteristics as well. (See  Figure 11.1 , left.)

FIGURE 11.1  Formal and informal aspects of an organization Summary graphic of formal and informal aspects of organizations

Organizational Behavior: Trying to Explain and Predict Workplace Behavior

The informal aspects are the focus of the interdisciplinary field known as  organizational behavior (OB), which is dedicated to better understanding and managing people at work. In particular, OB tries to help managers not only explain workplace behavior but also predict it, so that they can better lead and motivate their employees to perform productively. OB looks at two areas:

· Individual behavior. This is the subject of this chapter. We discuss such individual attributes as values, attitudes, personality, perception, and learning.

· Group behavior. This is the subject of later chapters, particularly  Chapter 13 , where we discuss norms, roles, and teams.

Let’s begin by considering individual values, attitudes, and behavior.

Values: What Are Your Consistent Beliefs and Feelings about All Things?

Values are abstract ideals that guide one’s thinking and behavior across all situations. 45  Lifelong behavior patterns are dictated by values that are fairly well set by the time people are in their early teens. After that, however, one’s values can be reshaped by significant life-altering events, such as having a child, undergoing a business failure, or surviving the death of a loved one, a war, or a serious health threat.

From a manager’s point of view, it’s helpful to know that values represent the ideals that underlie how we behave at work. Ideals such as concern for others, self-enhancement, independence, and security are common values in the workplace. 46  Managers who understand an employee’s values are better suited to assign them to meaningful projects and to help avoid conflicts between work activities and personal values.47

Attitudes: What Are Your Consistent Beliefs and Feelings about Specific Things?

Values are abstract ideals—global beliefs and feelings—that are directed toward all objects, people, or events. Values tend to be consistent both over time and over related situations.

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By contrast, attitudes are beliefs and feelings that are directed toward specific objects, people, or events. More formally, an  attitude is defined as a learned predisposition toward a given object. 48  It is important for you to understand the components of attitudes because attitudes directly influence our behavior. 49

Example: Job satisfaction is moderately associated with performance and strongly related to turnover.50 Unhappy workers are less likely to demonstrate high performance, while happy workers are less likely to quit. This is why it is important for managers to track employees’ attitudes and to understand their causes. For example, Earls, a Canadian chain of 65 restaurants with as many as 8,000 employees, has truly adopted this recommendation. The company sends short surveys measuring workplace attitudes to employees’ mobile devices every three months. According to The Wall Street Journal, Earls does this because management has concluded that “the components of engagement—employee happiness and commitment to the business—are exactly what drives sales, and therefore the bottom line.”51

The Three Components of Attitudes: Affective, Cognitive, and Behavioral

Attitudes have three components—affective, cognitive, and behavioral. 52

· The affective component—“I feel.” The  affective component of an attitude consists of the feelings or emotions one has about a situation. How do you feel about people who talk loudly on cell-phones in restaurants? If you feel annoyed or angry, you’re expressing negative emotions, or affect. (If you’re indifferent, your attitude is neutral.)

· The cognitive component—“I believe.” The  cognitive component of an attitude consists of the beliefs and knowledge one has about a situation. What do you think about people in restaurants talking on cell-phones? Is what they’re doing inconsiderate, acceptable, even admirable (because it shows they’re productive)? Your answer reflects your beliefs or ideas about the situation.

· The behavioral component—“I intend.” The  behavioral component of an attitude, also known as the intentional component, is how one intends or expects to behave toward a situation. What would you intend to do if a person talked loudly on a cell-phone at the table next to you? Your action may reflect your negative or positive feelings (affective), your negative or positive beliefs (cognitive), and your intention or lack of intention to do anything (behavioral).

All three components are often manifested at any given time. For example, if you call a corporation and get one of those telephone-tree menus (“For customer service, press 1 …”) that never seem to connect you to a human being, you might be so irritated that you would say

· “I hate being given the runaround.” [affective component—your feelings]

· “That company doesn’t know how to take care of customers.” [cognitive component—your perceptions]

· “I’ll never call them again.” [behavioral component—your intentions]

When Attitudes and Reality Collide: Consistency and Cognitive Dissonance

One of the last things you want, probably, is to be accused of hypocrisy—to be criticized for saying one thing and doing another. Like most people, you no doubt want to maintain consistency between your attitudes and your behavior.

But what if a strongly held attitude bumps up against a harsh reality that contradicts it? Suppose you’re extremely concerned about getting AIDS, which you believe you might get from contact with body fluids, including blood. Then you’re in a life-threatening auto accident in a third-world country and require surgery and blood transfusions—including transfusions of blood from (possibly AIDS-infected) strangers in a blood bank. Do you reject the blood to remain consistent with your beliefs about getting AIDS?

Photo of Leon Festinger Leon Festinger. In 1957, the psychologist and his associates penetrated a cult whose members predicted that most people on earth would perish in a cataclysmic event, except for a handful who would be rescued by aliens in a flying saucer. Festinger found himself standing with cult members on a hilltop, awaiting the event, which, of course, did not happen. Later he proposed the term cognitive dissonance to explain how they rationalized the failure of their prophecy. Have you observed people employing this mechanism when the surefire thing they predicted did not occur?© Estate of Francis Bello/ Science Source

In 1957, social psychologist Leon Festinger proposed the term  cognitive dissonance to describe the psychological discomfort a person experiences between his or her MHHE:Page 366 cognitive attitude and incompatible behavior. 53  Because people are uncomfortable with inconsistency, Festinger theorized, they will seek to reduce the “dissonance,” or tension, of the inconsistency. How they deal with the discomfort, he suggested, depends on three factors:

· Importance. How important are the elements creating the dissonance? Most people can put up with some ambiguities in life. For example, many drivers don’t think obeying speed limits is very important, even though they profess to be law-abiding citizens. People eat greasy foods, even though they know that ultimately those foods may contribute to heart disease.

· Control. How much control does one have over the matters that create dissonance? A juror may not like the idea of voting the death penalty but believe that he or she has no choice but to follow the law in the case. A taxpayer may object to his taxes being spent on, say, special-interest corporate welfare for a particular company but not feel that he can withhold taxes.

· Rewards. What rewards are at stake in the dissonance? You’re apt to cling to old ideas in the face of new evidence if you have a lot invested emotionally or financially in those ideas. If you’re a police officer who worked 20 years to prove a particular suspect guilty of murder, you’re not apt to be very accepting of contradictory evidence after all that time.

The Practical Action box below provides an example of three key methods Festinger suggested to reduce cognitive dissonance.


Methods for Reducing Cognitive Dissonance

Suppose Juanita has a positive attitude about helping others. One day her boss asks her to work on a special project for an important new client—and it must get done in two months. The project represents significant revenue, and her boss even promises a bonus for successfully completing it on time. Juanita would like to use the bonus to purchase a new car. The rub is that two of her peers have also come to her, seeking help on their project. Juanita believes she is well suited to help them, given her past experience, but she feels it would take time away from completing her special project. Should she make time to help her peers or focus solely on the special project?

Festinger suggested three key ways Juanita can reduce the cognitive dissonance associated with her current situation:

· Change your attitude or behavior or both. Juanita could either (a) tell herself that she can’t help her peers because the special project is too important for the company or (b) schedule extra time each day or week to help her peers.

· Belittle the importance of the inconsistent behavior. Juanita could belittle (in the sense of “make small”) the belief that she needs to help peers every time they ask for assistance.

· Find consonant elements that outweigh dissonant ones. Juanita could tell herself that she can’t help because the company needs the revenue and she needs the bonus.


Have you found yourself in a similar dilemma? Which solution seemed to work best—or would work best—in your case?

Behavior: How Values and Attitudes Affect People’s Actions and Judgments

Values (global) and attitudes (specific) are generally in harmony, but not always. For example, a manager may put a positive value on helpful behavior (global) yet may have a negative attitude toward helping an unethical coworker (specific). Together, however, values and attitudes influence people’s workplace  behavior—their actions and judgments. ●

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How Values and Attitudes Affect Behavior: Thinking beyond Profit to Create Value for Society

As a manager, would you think most employees would agree that innovation is beneficial—that the original Silicon Valley firms prospered because they were constantly creating new products and services? Employees may have the value, then, that innovation is good—that it leads to productivity and profitability.

However, what if employees think that a company’s purpose is to be solely a money-making machine? They might have the attitude that social innovation is unnecessary, even discouraged.

The Thinking behind Great Companies. Great companies, suggests Rosabeth Moss Kanter of Harvard Business School, have broader values—and attitudes. Firms such as IBM, PepsiCo, and Procter & Gamble, she says, “work to make money, of course, but in their choices of how to do so, they think about building enduring institutions. … Society and people are not afterthoughts or inputs to be used and discarded but are core to their purpose.” 54  Balancing public interest with financial interest means that CEOs must expand their investments beyond profit-maximizing activities such as marketing and research and development and include employee empowerment, emotional engagement, values-based leadership, and related social contributions.

Ways of Creating Value. “Affirming purpose and values through service is a regular part of how great companies express their identities,” Kanter believes. Thus, JPMorgan Chase has The Fellowship Initiative, a program to help young American men of color achieve academic and professional success. Coca-Cola invests in small African mango plantations to help farmers in Africa gain livelihoods. Microsoft partners with nonprofit NETHope to create apprenticeships in information technology in Kenya. Gap Inc. has a program for teaching health awareness and literacy to women garment workers in Cambodia and India. The Disney Company provides conservation grants to protect wildlife.55 In West Africa, Procter & Gamble set up Pampers mobile clinics to reduce infant mortality by having health care professionals teach postnatal care, examine babies, and hand out Pampers diapers. “The emotional tugs for P&G employees are strong,” says Kanter; “they feel inspired by the fact that their product is at the center of a mission to save lives.”


Where do you think the inspiration for giving a firm a motivating purpose and values beyond making money should come from? Does it have to come from a company’s leaders? Do you think it could begin as voluntary activity, as with employees finding each other through company chat rooms and sharing ideas in their free time? Creating value. The Nature Conservancy Disney Wilderness Preserve, consisting of 11,500 acres near Orlando, Florida, was created by the Disney Company to protect more than 1,000 species of plants and animals. It’s considered the “secret Disney park,” because few people know about it. © Ian Dagnall/Alamy

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Perception and Individual Behavior

MAJOR QUESTION What are the distortions in perception that can cloud one’s judgment?


Perception, a four-step process, can be skewed by five types of distortion: stereotyping, implicit bias, the halo effect, the recency effect, and causal attribution. We also consider the self-fulfilling prophecy, which can affect our judgment as well.

If you were a smoker, which warning on a cigarette pack would make you think more about quitting? “Smoking seriously harms you and others around you”? A blunt “Smoking kills”? Or a stark graphic image showing decaying teeth?

This is the kind of decision public health authorities in various countries are wrestling with. (One study found that highly graphic images about the negative effects of smoking had the greatest impact on smokers’ intentions to quit.) 56  These officials, in other words, are trying to decide how perception might influence behavior.

The Four Steps in the Perceptual Process

Perception is the process of interpreting and understanding one’s environment. The process of perception is complex, but it can be boiled down to four steps. 57  (See  Figure 11.2 .)

FIGURE 11.2  The four steps in the perceptual process A figure illustrates the four steps in the perceptual process Access the text alternative for Figure 11 2.

In this book, we are less concerned about the theoretical steps in perception than in how perception is distorted, since this has considerable bearing on the manager’s judgment and job. In any one of the four stages of the perception process, misunderstandings or errors in judgment can occur. Perceptual errors can lead to mistakes that can be damaging to yourself, other people, and your organization.

Five Distortions in Perception

Although there are other types of distortion in perception, we will describe the following: (1) stereotyping, (2) implicit bias, (3) the halo effect, (4) the recency effect, and (5) causal attribution.

1. Stereotyping: “Those Sorts of People Are Pretty Much the Same”

If you’re a tall African American man, do people make remarks about basketball players? If you’re of Irish descent, do people believe you drink a lot? If you’re Jewish, do people think you’re money-oriented? If you’re a woman, do people think you’re automatically nurturing? All these are stereotypes.  Stereotyping is the tendency to attribute to an individual the characteristics one believes are typical of the group to which that individual belongs. 58

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Principal areas of stereotyping that should be of concern to you as a manager are (1) sex-role stereotypes, (2) age stereotypes, and (3) race/ethnicity stereotypes. (People with disabilities, discussed in  Section 11.5 , are also apt to be stereotyped.)

Sex-Role Stereotypes

sex-role stereotype is the belief that differing traits and abilities make males and females particularly well suited to different roles. Thus, for example, people tend to prefer male bosses (33%) to female bosses (20%) in a new job, according to a recent Gallup poll, even though the public generally views women as being every bit as capable as men at being leaders, according to Pew Research.59 (Reverse bias can occur when managers fighting bias against women overdo it and discriminate against men.)60

A summary of research revealed that

· Men were preferred for male-dominated jobs (such as firefighter), but there was no preference for either gender in female-dominated jobs (such as nurse).

· Women have a harder time than men in being perceived as effective leaders. (The exception: Women were seen as more effective when the organization faced a crisis and needed a turnaround.)

· Women of color are more negatively affected by sex-role stereotypes than are white women or men in general.61

Age Stereotypes

Another example of an inaccurate stereotype is the belief that older workers are less motivated, more resistant to change, less trusting, less healthy, and more likely to have problems with work–life balance. A recent study refuted all these negative beliefs about age.62 Unfortunately, these stereotypes likely fuel bias against older employees. A 2013 survey of 1,500 older workers, for example, showed that 92% considered bias against them “very” or “somewhat” commonplace.63

Race/Ethnicity Stereotypes

Studies of race-based stereotypes have demonstrated that people of color experienced more perceived discrimination and less psychological support than whites.64 Perceived racial discrimination was also associated with more negative work attitudes, physical health, psychological health, and organizational citizenship behavior.65

2. Implicit Bias: “I Really Don’t Think I’m Biased, but I Just Have a Feeling about Some People”

More than 85% of Americans consider themselves to be unprejudiced, but researchers conclude that most hold some degree of implicit racial bias.66

Explicit bias reflects attitudes or beliefs endorsed at a conscious level—for example, “I don’t let any teenage black men wearing hoodies come into my store; they might hold me up.”  Implicit bias  is the attitudes or beliefs that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner—for example, from several New York City police officers, “We had to shoot him, he seemed to be reaching for a gun.” (This was the 1999 shooting of Guinean immigrant Amadou Diallo, who was killed when police fired 41 rounds as he pulled out his wallet.)67

Implicit bias has come more into the forefront of public discussion with the rise in the number of deaths of African Americans at the hands of the police in Ferguson, Missouri; in Cleveland; and on Staten Island in New York, among other places (as well as the 2016 shooting of several white police officers by an African American male in Dallas).68 But implicit bias also operates on more subtle levels: In one famous study, social scientists sent thousands of resumes with identical content to employers with job openings and measured which received callbacks for interviews. On some resumes, some stereotypically African American names were used (such as “Jamal”) and on others stereotypically white names were used (like “Brendan”). The same resume was roughly 50% more likely to result in callback for an interview if it had a “white” name.69

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If changing explicit bias is difficult, taking steps to root out implicit bias is even harder. Nevertheless, police departments, in particular, are taking great steps forward, requiring intergroup contact, positive feedback, clear norms of behavior, and similar matters.70

3. The Halo Effect: “One Trait Tells Me All I Need to Know”

We often use faces as markers for gender, race, and age, but face and body characteristics can lead us to fall back on cultural stereotypes. For example, height has been associated with perceptions of prosperity—high income—and occupational success. Excess weight can be stereotypically associated with negative traits such as laziness, incompetence, and lack of discipline.71 These examples illustrate the  halo effect, in which we form an impression of an individual based on a single trait. (The phenomenon is also called the horn-and-halo effect, because not only can a single positive trait be generalized into an array of positive traits but the reverse is also true.)

As if we needed additional proof that life is unfair, it has been shown that attractive people generally are treated better than unattractive people. Attractive members of Congress get more TV coverage, and attractive political candidates win more often. 72  Attractive students have higher expectations by teachers in terms of academic achievement. 73  Attractive employees are generally paid higher salaries than unattractive ones are, and attractive CEOs are paid more than less appealing CEOs. 74  (Male CEOs also tend to be taller—6 feet compared to an average man’s 5-feet-10.5 inches, in one Swedish study.) 75  Clearly, however, if a manager fails to look at all of an individual’s traits, he or she has no right to complain if that employee doesn’t work out.


The Halo Effect: Do Good Looks Make People Richer and Happier?

Are attractive employees paid more than ordinary (or unattractive) people for the same work? Are they happier? That would seem to be the case, according to a study involving more than 25,000 people worldwide. 76

$250,000 More. Five large surveys conducted from 1971 to 2009 in the United States, Britain, and Germany found that beautiful people earn an extra $250,000 during their careers than the least attractive people. In addition, says University of Texas economist Daniel Hamermesh, leader of the study, the best-looking people are more likely to remain employed, get promoted, find a higher-earning (and better-looking) spouse, and even get better deals on home loans. 77  Hamermesh is also author of Beauty Pays: Why Attractive People Are More Successful. 78  “In economic terms, beauty is scarce. People distinguish themselves and pay attention to beauty,” he says. “Companies realize that hiring better-looking people helps in various ways. In every market, whether it’s jobs or marriage, beauty matters.” 79  The result of all this is that beautiful people are generally happier people than ordinary folks. “The majority of beauty’s effect on happiness works through its impact on economic outcomes,” says Hamermesh. 80

Do Good Looks Produce Confident Communicators? Another study produces additional insights: 81

· Although beautiful people are no better than ordinary people at solving puzzles such as mazes, they are more self-confident about their abilities. “Being good looking,” says one article about the study, “seems to be strongly associated with self-confidence, a trait that is apparently attractive to employers.” 82

· When study subjects pretending to be employers looked only at resumes, physical appearance had no effect on their judgments, as you might expect. When photos, in-person interviews, and even phone interviews were involved, employers showed higher estimates for beautiful people’s productivity—especially when they had face-to-face interviews but even with telephone-only interviews, the result, apparently, of the effect of self-confidence that came across on the phone.

· Good-looking people are good communicators, which also contributes to employers’ positive perceptions.

The Halo Misperception. In sum, “Employers (wrongly) expect good-looking workers to perform better than their less-attractive counterparts under both visual and oral interaction,” said the researchers, “even after controlling for individual worker characteristics and worker confidence.” 83


Are you influenced in your judgment of people by how attractive they are? Do you think as a manager you could look beyond people’s physical appearance to be a good judge of their competence? Why?

Page 371Photo of attractive and well-dressed employees Handsomely compensated. Attractive employees are generally paid better than unattractive ones are. Why do you think that is? Do you think it’s inevitable?© Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock RF

4. The Recency Effect: “The Most Recent Impressions Are the Ones That Count”

The  recency effect is the tendency to remember recent information better than earlier information, perhaps because when you activate your recall, the later recollections are still present in working memory. 84  You see this misperception often operating among investors (even professionals), who are more likely to buy a stock if they see something about it in the news or if it has a high one-day return. 85


The Recency Effect: Performance Reviews, Student Evaluations, and Investment Decisions

Not just a few employees have had the experience of making some mistake happen recently, and then it ends up being “the entire topic of your performance review even if you’ve done a great job the rest of the year,” as one writer points out.86 This is just one example of the recency effect in action.

Another is when students do their own “performance reviews”—do student course evaluations of their professors. Here, too, their ratings may be affected by course activities that are closer to the time of the formal appraisal.87

The recency effect appears quite frequently among stock market investors. “People extrapolate what just happened into more of the same,” says one wealth fund manager.88 That is, people leap into holdings that are doing well and cash out investments that are doing poorly, forgetting that at some point the trends will be reversed.


Why does the recency effect occur? Like other habits, it makes things easier, says one financial planner. “Because it’s easier, we’re inclined to use our recent experience as the baseline for what will happen in the future.”89 What decision(s) would you admit to making in which you were influenced by the recency effect?

5. Causal Attributions

Causal attribution is the activity of inferring causes for observed behavior. Rightly or wrongly, we constantly formulate cause-and-effect explanations for our own and others’ behavior. Attributional statements such as the followingPage 372 are common: “Joe drinks too much because he has no willpower, but I need a few drinks after work because I’m under a lot of pressure.”

Even though our causal attributions tend to be self-serving and are often invalid, it’s important to understand how people formulate attributions because they profoundly affect organizational behavior. For example, a supervisor who attributes an employee’s poor performance to a lack of effort might reprimand that person. However, training might be deemed necessary if the supervisor attributes the poor performance to a lack of ability.

As a manager, you need to be alert to two attributional tendencies that can distort one’s interpretation of observed behavior—the fundamental attribution bias and the self-serving bias.

· Fundamental attribution bias. In the  fundamental attribution bias, people attribute another person’s behavior to his or her personal characteristics rather than to situational factors.

Example: A study of manufacturing employees found that top managers attributed the cause of industrial back pain to individuals, whereas workers attributed it to the environment. 90

· Self-serving bias. In the  self-serving bias, people tend to take more personal responsibility for success than for failure.

Example: Europeans blamed Wall Street for the 2010 economic collapse in Greece. However, a Wall Street Journal article points out that a close look at Greece’s finances “over the nearly 10 years since it adopted the euro shows not only that Greece was the principal author of its debt problems, but also that fellow European governments repeatedly turned a blind eye to its flouting of rules.” 91

The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy, or Pygmalion Effect

The  self-fulfilling prophecy, also known as the  Pygmalion (“pig-mail-yun”)  effect, describes the phenomenon in which people’s expectations of themselves or others lead them to behave in ways that make those expectations come true.

Expectations are important. An example is a waiter who expects some poorly dressed customers to be stingy tippers, who therefore gives them poor service and so gets the result he or she expected—a much lower tip than usual. Research has shown that by raising managers’ expectations for individuals performing a wide variety of tasks, higher levels of achievement and productivity can be achieved. 92

The lesson for you as a manager is that when you expect employees to perform badly, they probably will, and when you expect them to perform well, they probably will. (In the G. B. Shaw play Pygmalion, a speech coach bets he can get a lower-class girl to change her accent and her demeanor so that she can pass herself off as a duchess. In six months, she successfully “passes” in high society, having assumed the attributes of a woman of sensitivity and taste.)

Research in a variety of industries and occupations shows that the effect of the self-fulfilling prophecy can be quite strong.93 That is, managerial expectations powerfully influence employee behavior and performance. Among the things managers can do to create positive performance expectations: Recognize that everyone has the potential to increase his or her performance. Introduce new employees as if they have outstanding potential. Encourage employees to visualize the successful execution of tasks. Help them master key skills.94

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Work-Related Attitudes and Behaviors Managers Need to Deal With

MAJOR QUESTION Is it important for managers to pay attention to employee attitudes?


Attitudes are important because they affect behavior. Managers need to be alert to the key work-related attitudes having to do with engagement, job satisfaction, and organizational commitment. Among the types of employee behavior they should attend to are their on-the-job performance and productivity, absenteeism and turnover, organizational citizenship behaviors, and counterproductive work behaviors.

“Keep the employees happy,” we often hear. It’s true that attitudes are important, the reason being that attitudes affect behavior. But is keeping employees happy all that managers need to know to get results? We discuss motivation for performance in the next chapter. Here, let us consider what managers need to know about key work-related attitudes and behaviors.

Three types of attitudes managers are particularly interested in are (1) employee engagement, (2) job satisfaction, and (3) organizational commitment.

1. Employee Engagement: How Connected Are You to Your Work?

Research on job involvement has evolved into the study of an individual difference called  employee engagement, defined as an individual’s involvement, satisfaction, and enthusiasm for work. 95  Engaged employees are expected to have feelings of urgency, intensity, and enthusiasm, as well as focus, which make them more committed to their employer and to put more effort into their jobs. 96  In other words, such employees “give their all” at work.

The U.S. workforce displays above-average global levels of engagement, according to consulting firm Aon Hewitt. The firm’s 15-year study of engagement shows worldwide levels at 62% in comparison to a North American rate of 66%. This bodes well for the U.S. workforce because highly engaged employees can achieve 12% higher customer satisfaction/loyalty, 18% more productivity, and 12% greater profitability.97 Other recent academic studies similarly showed a positive relationship between employee engagement, performance, and physical and psychological well-being and corporate-level financial performance and customer satisfaction.98 Engaged employees tend to be positive or optimistic, proactive, and conscientious and to possess high levels of human and social capital.

Employees are also more likely to become engaged when an organization has the kind of culture that promotes employee development, recognition, and trust between management and employees. 99  Job security and feelings of psychological safety (when employees feel free of fear in trying new ideas) also propel job engagement. 100

Do you want to achieve higher grades in your classes? If yes, you will find that being engaged in your studies will help. You can determine your level of engagement with your studies by completing  Self-Assessment 11.3 . Results can be used to develop an engagement improvement plan.


To What Extent Are You Engaged in Your Studies?

The following survey was designed to assess your level of engagement in your studies. Please be prepared to answer these questions if your instructor has assigned Self-Assessment 11.3 in Connect.

1. What is your level of engagement?

2. Find your three lowest-rated items. Based on the content of these items, what can you do to improve your level of engagement? Hint: Doing this requires you to identify the cause of the low ratings for each item.

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2. Job Satisfaction: How Much Do You Like or Dislike Your Job?

Job satisfaction is the extent to which you feel positive or negative about various aspects of your work. Most people don’t like everything about their jobs. Their overall satisfaction depends on how they feel about several components, such as work, pay, promotions, coworkers, and supervision. 101  Among the key correlates of job satisfaction are stronger motivation, job involvement, organizational commitment, and life satisfaction and less absenteeism, tardiness, turnover, and perceived stress. 102

Reportedly only 48.3% of U.S. workers were satisfied with their jobs in 2015, down from 61.1% in 1987, according to a study of 5,000 households. 103  But another survey found that employee job satisfaction in 2015 was 88%, up from a low of 77% in 2002. 104  Job satisfaction today is much better, of course, than in the aftermath of the Great Recession. Then Americans were forced to work longer hours and often for the same or less pay, and many struck back by suing employers for violating wage-and-hour laws, as by forcing them to work off the clock or without overtime pay. 105

But what is the relationship between job satisfaction and job performance—does more satisfaction cause better performance or does better performance cause more satisfaction? This is a subject of much debate among management scholars. 106  One comprehensive study found that (1) job satisfaction and performance are moderately related, meaning that employee job satisfaction is a key work attitude managers should consider when trying to increase performance; but (2) the relationship between satisfaction and performance is complex and it seems that both variables influence each other through a host of individual differences and work-environment characteristics. 107

How satisfied are you with the job you are in now, if you have one, or the last job you had?


How Satisfied Are You with Your Present Job?

The following survey was designed to assess how satisfied you are with your current job, or a previous job, if you’re not presently working. Please be prepared to answer these questions if your instructor has assigned Self-Assessment 11.4 in Connect.

1. What is your level of satisfaction with recognition, compensation, and supervision?

2. If you have low to medium satisfaction with any aspect of the job, identify what can be done to increase your job satisfaction. Be sure to consider what you can do, what your boss might do, or what the organization might do. Be specific.

3. Organizational Commitment: How Much Do You Identify with Your Organization?

Organizational commitment reflects the extent to which an employee identifies with an organization and is committed to its goals. For instance, some managers question whether mothers with children can be fully committed to their jobs, although one survey found that only 4% of more than 2,612 women said that their bosses think that they are not as committed to their jobs because they have children. 108  Research shows a significant positive relationship between organizational commitment and job satisfaction, performance, turnover, and organizational citizenship behavior—discussed in the next section. 109  Thus, if managers are able to increase job satisfaction, employees may show higher levels of commitment, which in turn can elicit higher performance and lower employee turnover. 110

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