Based on an extensive review of surveys of employers, an analysis concluded that “the most important consideration in hiring and the biggest deficit among new workforce entrants are the attitudes concerning work that they bring with them to their jobs.
The most important function of an attitude can only be ascertained by considering it about the person who holds it and the environment in which they operate.
Consequently, what is the same attitude may serve rather different purposes depending on who holds it and where/when it becomes salient to them.
Attitudes differ in strength.
Strong, central attitudes refer to important attitude objects that are strongly related to the self.
These attitudes are often related to important values.
Daniel Katz outlines 4 functions of attitudes;
- Adjustment Function.
- Ego-Defensive Function.
- Value-Expressive Function.
- Knowledge Function.
Attitudes often help people to adjust to their work environment.
When employees are well treated, they are likely to develop a positive attitude toward management and the organization.
When employees are criticized and given a minimal salary, they are likely to develop a negative attitude toward management and the organization.
These attitudes help employees adjust to their environment and are a basis for future behavior. The adjustment function directs people toward pleasurable or rewarding objects and away from unpleasant, undesirable ones.
It serves the utilitarian concept of maximizing reward and minimizing punishment.
Thus, the attitudes of consumers depend to a large degree on their perceptions of what is needed satisfying and what is punishing.
The ego-defensive function refers to holding attitudes that protect our self-esteem or that justify actions that make us feel guilty.
This function involves psychoanalytic principles where people use defense mechanisms to protect themselves from psychological harm.
Mechanisms include denial, repression, projection, rationalization, etc.
For example; an older manager whose decisions are continually challenged by a younger subordinate manager may feel that the later is brash, cocky, immature, and inexperienced.
In truth, the younger subordinate may be right in challenging the decisions.
The older manager may not be a very effective leader and may constantly make poor decisions.
On the other hand, the older manager is not going to admit this but will try to protect the ego by blaming the other party.
Whereas ego defensive attitudes are formed to protect a person’s self-image, value-expressive attitudes enable the expression of the person’s centrally held values.
Central values tend to establish our identity and gain us social approval thereby showing us who we are, and what we stand for.
Some attitudes are important to a person because they express values that are integral to that person’s self-concept.
Therefore consumers adopt certain attitudes to translate their values into something more tangible and easily expressed.
Our value-expressive attitudes are closely related to our self-concept.
One whose central value is freedom, the individual may express very positive attitudes towards the decentralization of authority in the organization, flexible work schedules, and relaxation of dress standards.
The knowledge function refers to our need which is consistent and relatively stable.
This allows us to predict what is likely to happen, and so gives us a sense of control.
Some attitudes are useful because they help to make the world more understandable.
They help people ascribe causes to events and direct attention towards features of people or situations that are likely to be useful in making sense of them.
Consequently, they help to make the world more understandable, predictable, and knowable. Knowing a person’s attitude helps us predict their behavior.
For example- people who are not familiar with nuclear energy may develop an attitude that is dangerous and should not be used as an energy source.
Stereotyping is another example.
In the absence of knowledge about a person, we may use a stereotyped attitude for judging the person.
Smeets and Holland investigated the relationship between the functions of attitudes and the importance of attitudes.
In a laboratory study, they assessed attitude centrality towards Amnesty International and the level of self-esteem among participants.
Ultimately these functions serve people’s need to protect and enhance the image they hold of themselves.
In more general terms, these functions are the motivational bases that shape and reinforce positive attitudes toward goal objects perceived as need satisfying and/or negative attitudes toward other objects perceived as punishing or threatening.
The functions themselves can help us to understand why people hold attitudes.