Attitudes and Behaviours

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performanceThere was an interesting conversation that took place not long ago on HR Linked In, in which the following question was posted:

Can changing a behavior really change an attitude? It’s often said that changing a workplace behavior can be “easily” done through strong and immediately enforced incentives/disincentives. But does changing a behavior also result in a changed attitude? What do you do with an employee who’s behavior has changed for the better but they still have a very “bad attitude” towards such things as racism, sexism, ageism, etc? Will this person change over time or will his/her continued attitude negatively infect others around them?” (Dr. Eli Sopow)

The feedback on the discussion seems to be wavering between whether behaviours change attitudes, or attitudes change behaviours. I think that attitudes are formed by one’s beliefs and these ultimately affect behaviours.

74879093As an example, if you believe that your supervisor has no clue what you do on a day-to- day basis, you probably don’t have the best attitude toward him or her. Your poor attitude probably affects your behaviours and the way in which you do your work. You may speak poorly of your supervisor to peers; you may neglect certain tasks you have been asked to perform as you don’t personally see value in doing them.

However, I think that if your supervisor were able to provide some background into what his/her experience is as it relates to your position (as an example) you may change your beliefs. This knowledge may very well change your attitude toward your supervisor. Maybe you will see that in fact, your supervisor has more of an awareness that you thought; and there is a ‘method to his madness’ so to speak.

Now, the bigger question is changing “attitudes” one has around racism, sexism, ageism, etc. Again, this is a belief system of some sort. You will never change everyone’s mindset; nor should that be your goal. At best, you may only be able to change the behaviour based on incentives/disincentives…and the attitude will remain.

employee_misconduct2I think that it is incumbent upon the leadership in an organization to clearly identify acceptable and non-acceptable behaviours. With the right environment and proper education around some of the mis-guided beliefs that are out there; you may be able to adjust some attitudes.

Leaders must not tolerate attitudes that allow poor behaviours to become the norm. As Steven Covey states in his book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, seek first to understand, then be understood. So, we must help everyone seek to understand. We need to find a way to change some of the attitudes that are preventing us from having successful workplaces.

When we make ourselves more ‘human’ and approachable to employees, they too will become more open and trusting. This, I believe will change attitudes and behaviours. I say let’s work on the attitudes and I’m confident we’ll see a change in behaviours.

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