We all have attitudes. Some refer to these attitudes as values or beliefs. Attitudes are the “why” of your behaviors. We constantly process thoughts and ideas. When we select one idea or thought we have and take the time to form an attitude about it, we then most likely, will take some action on that thought or idea.
These attitudes develop in stages and they relate to stimuli such as conflict, stress or even pain. For example, when I was nine, the neighbor’s dog tried to bite me on the leg. Fortunately, he missed my leg, but tore a big piece out of my favorite dress. I might have formed the attitude that all dogs are bad. I modified that a bit to be careful around all strange dogs. Of course, not everything is that simple. Think about how you might answer the following questions:
- Should we protect wildlife at the expense of a person’s vocation?
- Should we spend a larger portion of our tax dollars on education or the military?
- Should the federal government spend any of your tax dollars on support of the arts?
- Should the Ten Commandments be allowed to hang on the wall of a federal courtroom?
- What percentage of our tax dollars should go to social programs and which ones should benefit?
Obviously, these questions can spark a lot of debate, conflict and even violence. At this point, you might be wondering, what all of this has to do with your business — in a word, plenty.
The attitudes that people hold can have a huge affect on your business. Look at question number four above. The person who might fight to have federal courtrooms display the Ten Commandments probably has what we call, a high Tradition attitude. On the other hand, the person who would be in favor of spending money on the military might be a high Utilitarian. The high Utilitarian is competitive, has a high orientation toward the bottom-line, wants practical solutions and is always in tune with the revenue clock. It is obvious how these two attitudes might not fit the same job tasks. It is also easy to summarize how these two attitudes could wind up in conflict.
Conflict is going to occur and even some conflict is desirable. However, some attitudes may cause so much conflict that it becomes too much of a good thing. People are passionate about their beliefs and oftentimes, people express those beliefs in a passionate manner. Therefore, it is important for employees to have attitudes that fit your organization’s culture.
While the Utilitarian discussed above might enjoy a fast past environment or culture, the Traditional and the Theoretical may not. The Theoretical enjoys the space to accrue knowledge. While they aren’t necessarily poor sales people, they have to fight being buried in the specifics and losing a grasp of the big picture. They tend to allow the minutia to bog them down. This does not lend itself to a fast-paced culture. An employee holding a Traditional attitude is well-disciplined, produces accurate work and delivers good customer service. On the other hand, this attitude prefers routine, rules, regulations and structure. In addition, this attitude has difficulty adapting to a rapidly changing marketplace and multi-tasking. Again, not a good fit for a fast-paced culture. How can organizations avoid, mismatching talent to jobs, ill fits to the culture and reduce conflict?
- Conduct job benchmarking by letting the job talk and tell you what it needs to operate at its optimal level.
- Use assessments when hiring. Then match these to the benchmark. Gaps between what the talent has to offer and what the job requires will be obvious.
- Conduct communication training regularly. While we have been at this communication thing for eons, we still fail at it miserably. Ensuring that your communication training consists of understanding both others and ourselves will put your organization light years ahead of your competitors.
- Teach tolerance. Just because someone has a different attitude about a topic does not spell disaster. On the contrary, a diverse pool of attitudes, ideas and communication styles help make an organization innovative, dynamic and productive and each attitude must be respected.
Attitudes are the “why” of our actions. It is important to understand ourselves. However, in order to achieve meaningful interactions with others, we really need to be able to understand others. Further, professional development has a positive affect around on-the-job performance by aligning individuals with their jobs and understanding strengths and weaknesses. When an employees are in alignment with the requirements of superior performance for a job, understands their attitudes as well as those of others, they will be more engaged, productive and the organization will profit in many ways.