Enjoying Your Work
Attitude change and ‘What’s in it for me?’
Attitudes allow people to organize the incredible amounts of information to which they are exposed.
For example, if people have strong attitudes about specific career paths, they can organize information about the education they will need, internships that they should seek, networks that they should to develop, and the interview process that they will eventually face.
Strong attitudes also allow people to communicate public images to others.
In the business world, strong attitudes can deal with the value of hard work, the importance of giving back to the community through volunteer work, and the necessity of mentoring younger employees.
When people hold strong attitudes, they do not change quickly and easily. People who are in favor of unlimited oil drilling do not read Rachel Carson's book, "Silent Spring," and all of a sudden run for the presidency of the Sierra Club. Or, they do not read a newspaper article about the dangers of speeding on the freeways and then write to their legislators about the wisdom of bringing back the van cams. If people want to address the attitudes of others, a goal more realistic than change is to nudge them to consider different viewpoints and to encourage expansion of their thinking.
Let's use the example of mentoring younger and less experienced employees in the workplace. Managers may be concerned that young workers are floundering around on the job because they do not know company policies and do not know how to develop new projects. The managers may ask some older and experienced employees to develop mentoring relationships with the younger workers. The potential mentors may object. They may say, "I think I have enough on my plate already. I think I would be neglecting my current projects, and my long time customers and clients, if I took on mentoring responsibilities."
If managers want more mentoring activities, they have to engage in attitude change. They have to persuade potential mentors that time spent with younger employees is good for the company. But, as discussed above, attitudes do not change easily. Managers are well advised to nudge people slowly toward new behaviors rather than to expect overnight change. One step managers can take is to encourage potential mentors to engage in active thinking about the proposal. Yale University's William McGuire calls this encouraging the generation of related cognitions.
If efforts to influence attitudes are to be successful, people must think about how the managers' mentoring proposal relates to them, personally. That is, they must generate related thoughts or cognitions. These cognitions will be different for different people, and they will often deal with answers to the question, "What's in it for me?"
Some potential mentors will consider the thought that if they are successful, younger employees will be able to make more contributions to the company and so ease everyone's workload. Others will think about the possibility of younger employees becoming highly successful in 10 years and then remembering their mentors from the old days. Still others will accept the managers' proposal out of short term self-interest, feeling that it will increase the chances of their own promotions in their company.
Managers should realize that different potential mentors will accept their proposal after considering different cognitions. Managers can assist the acceptance of their mentoring proposal by covering a series of ideas in their communications. Managers can mention the spreading out of workloads, the fact that some mentees today will be executives tomorrow, and the types of company activities that look good in promotion applications.
Without the generation of related cognitions, potential mentors will shift their attentions from the mentoring proposal to the many other issues competing for their time and efforts in the workplace.
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The purpose of this column is to increase understanding of human behavior as it has an impact on the workplace. Given the amount of time people spend at work, job satisfaction should ideally be high and it should contribute to general life happiness. Enjoyment can increase as people learn more about workplace psychology, communication, and group influences.
Richard Brislin is a professor in the College of Business Administration, University of Hawaii. He can be reached through the College Relations Office: firstname.lastname@example.org