In Hay (1992) I wrote the following about attitude and personality:
“Let us start by considering “attitude” as a term. What does it mean to you? Whatever your response, you are probably right – the word is used in so many ways. You may have answered: belief, point of view, position, stance, mood, disposition, feeling, humour, mind, spirit, temper, demeanour, air, bearing… or any combination of those. We seem to use the word as a shorthand which enables us to label people’s individual blends of beliefs, emotions and behaviours.
Figure 1 shows the common sequence by which we determine someone’s “attitude”, or even their “personality” – another misused word which has lost its specific meaning. We cannot actually observe the attitude or personality of another so we make some assumptions, using as their evidence those instances of their behaviour which we can observe. … In our saner moments we recognise that this is a nonsense but nevertheless we continue to form many of our conclusions on this shaky basis.” (p.24).
More recently (Hay, 2009) I updated the diagram to show how our conclusions then impact on us seeing in the future only what we expect to see. “Having made our assumptions, we use our ‘attitude assessment’ to predict how the person will behave in the future. We “know” their attitudes so we can ‘foretell’ their behaviour. If they deviate too much from our expectations, we may have to amend our labelling. However, a few variations can always be rationalised away as temporary aberrations. We are now relating to them on the basis of the personality and attitude we have allocated to them – a reasonably reliable way of getting most people to respond just as we anticipate. Persist in treating someone as arrogant and they will eventually behave accordingly; treat someone as friendly and that too will generally turn out to be correct.“ (p.8).
I also gave some new examples, such as a manager transferring someone because his attitude towards his current manager was wrong when in fact the observable behaviour had been that the individual was refusing to change the way they were doing their work even when instructed by their manager. Another example was that of trade union officials who decided to “take the attitude that they might as well agree, reluctantly” to a management suggestion because to refuse would have led to negative outcomes for more people. A third example was off an employee asking for a form to be signed when they gave a refund because “Head Office have the attitude that we might be stealing if we can’t prove the customer exists.”
Hay, Julie (1992) Developing Attitudes Executive Development 5:4 24-26
Hay, Julie (2009) Working it Out at Work: Understanding Attitudes and Building Relationships 2nd edition Hertford: Sherwood Publishing
© 2018 Julie Hay
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