Industrial-Organizational Psychology
Learning Module
Job Attitudes
Prepared by the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology - SIOP
Lesson Objectives
At the end of this lecture, you should:
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Know what job attitudes are, and be familiar with the
assumptions that underlie them.
Be familiar with the role that social psychology has played in
attitude research and theory development.
Understand the relationship between attitudes and behavior,
especially regarding performance on the job.
Understand how I/O psychologists are helping companies to
assess and manage job attitudes and their impact on
organizational performance.
Prepared by the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology - SIOP
Attitudes Defined
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Briefly defined, an “attitude” represents a
predisposition to respond in a favorable or
unfavorable way to persons or objects in one’s
environment.
For instance, when we say we “like” something or
“dislike” something, we are in effect expressing an
attitude toward the person or object.
What are some examples of people or things that
you may have strong attitudes about?
Attitudes: Three Important
Assumptions
Three important assumptions underlie the concept
of attitudes:
1) An attitude is a hypothetical construct - we cannot
actually see attitudes, although we can often see
their consequences.
2) An attitude is a unidimensional construct - it
usually ranges from very positive to very negative.
3) Attitudes are believed to be somewhat related to
subsequent behavior, although as we’ll see, this
relationship can be unclear.
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Prepared by the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology - SIOP
Social Psychology and
Attitude Research I
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Attitude has been a central concept in social
psychology throughout its history.
An attitude is one of many constructs that social
psychologists have invoked to help explain
consistencies and differences in behavior.
For example, if person A responds favorably
toward a particular national group and person B
responds unfavorably toward that same group, the
differences in behaviors can be “explained” by
attributing different attitudes toward the two
persons.
Social Psychology and
Attitude Research II
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Beginning in the 1950’s, social
psychologists studied areas such as:
 How
attitudes are formed.
 How attitudes are changed.
 How attitudes relate to behavioral intentions
- what people intend to do.
 How attitudes relate to behaviors
themselves - what people actually do.
Prepared by the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology - SIOP
Job Attitudes: Three Related
Components
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The job attitude is the middle component in a beliefevaluation-behavior chain:
1) Beliefs about aspects of the job.
“My work has long stretches with nothing to do.”
2) The evaluative component, i.e., the attitude itself.
“I am dissatisfied with my job.”
3) Work-related behavioral intentions that follow
from the attitude.
“I’m intending to quit my job.”
Prepared by the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology - SIOP
Job Attitudes and Actual
Behavior
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The belief, attitude, intention sequence is
presumably followed by actual behavior.
For example, if I believe that my job is boring, and
if my evaluation of my job is that it is unsatisfying,
and I intend to quit, I may indeed actually leave my
job.
This traditional model suggests that behaviors
(including job performance) are largely influenced
by job attitudes.
Recently, this traditional model has been
questioned as being too simple and some more
comprehensive alternatives have been developed.
Prepared by the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology - SIOP
Is A Happy Worker A
Productive Worker?
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Over the years, one of the most strongly held
beliefs among managers and I/O psychologists is
that there is a relationship between a worker’s job
satisfaction and his/her job performance.
In 60 year’s worth of research I/O psychologists
have found highly variable linkages between job
satisfaction and job performance.
The most recent examination by Timothy Judge
and his colleagues suggests a correlation of .30
between satisfaction and performance, a small but
meaningful association.
Why is this association not larger?
Prepared by the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology - SIOP
Some Possible Explanations:
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1) Research and Measurement Issues:
 Is “job performance” defined correctly?
 Can you predict specific behaviors from a general attitude
toward the job.
2) “Moderator” Effects:
 Satisfaction-performance relationship is highly complex
(Katzell, Thompson & Guzzo, 1992)
 For example, the sat-perf relationship may be limited by
constraints on performance, e.g., group norms for
performance, environmental variables such as the speed of
an assembly line.
3) Dispositional Effects:
 Some research has found that a substantial amount of the
variability in job satisfaction may relate to “trait affect.”
Prepared by the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology - SIOP
Implications for Organizational
Policy I
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So, if little direct linkage exists between job
satisfaction and job performance, is it
possible for leaders to manage
organizations so that employees can be
both happy and productive?
Importantly, while job satisfaction and job
performance may have little direct impact
on one another, the same organizational
conditions, or “levers” may impact both.
Prepared by the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology - SIOP
Implications for
Organizational Policy II
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Research and practice indicate that:
 Creating jobs that are intrinsically interesting and
important to the people performing them
 Equitably linking extrinsic rewards such as pay to
performance
 and setting clear, challenging, acceptable goals…
Helps companies to perform better on the whole than
companies that don’t do these things.
Organizations need not manage for either
satisfaction or performance; high satisfaction and
high performance are goals that can be met jointly.
How I/O Psychologists Help
Organizations to Assess and to
Manage Attitudes
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Attitude Surveys
Job Design
Personnel Selection
Change Management
Training
Performance Appraisal
Prepared by the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology - SIOP
There’s More to it than just
General Job Satisfaction
Other commonly measured job attitudes include:
 Attitudes toward specific job features
 Performance
evaluations
 Benefit programs
 Organizational leaders
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Organizational commitment
Career commitment
Work-life balance
Attitudes Exercise - Set-Up
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Situation: You are an I/O psychologist who has
been asked to provide your expertise on the
following issue. The Residential Life Department
of a large university has been experiencing an
usually high rate of turnover among it’s Resident
Assistants (RA’s) during the last year. Over 60%
of the university’s RA’s have recently left their
positions, and with those that remain, poor
performance is commonplace. This situation is
very troubling, given the costs of training RA’s and
of replacing them when they leave.
Prepared by the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology - SIOP
Attitudes Exercise
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Given what you know about how I/O
psychologists help organizations to
address the attitudes of their employees,
what steps would you undertake to
examine the problem? What questions
would you ask, and what recommendations
might you make?
Prepared by the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology - SIOP
Summary of Learning Points
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Most psychologists believe that attitudes are an
important precursor to behavior.
Attitudes on the job - e.g., job satisfaction - are
also related to behavior, although not necessarily
to summary measures of job performance.
On the whole, companies whose workers have
positive attitudes are more effective than those
whose workers do not.
I/O psychologists help companies assess,
understand, and influence job satisfaction through
mechanisms such as attitude surveys and job
design.
Instructor Resources
The following books and journal articles were used in preparation of the Job Attitudes
module - you may find them useful in your own preparation.
1) Cranny, C.J., Smith, P.C. & Stone, E.F.(Eds.) (1992). Job Satisfaction: How people feel
about their jobs and how it affects their performance. Lexington Books: NY (Note: Part
3 concerning the consequences of job satisfaction is particularly helpful.)
2) Steers, R.M. & Porter, L.W (Eds.) (1991). Motivation and Work Behavior. (5th ed.).
McGraw-Hill:NY. (Note: Chapter 6 on Job Attitudes and Performance is particularly
helpful.)
3) Shaw, M.E. & Costanzo, P.R. (1982) Theories of Social Psychology (2nd ed.). New York:
McGraw-Hill. (Note: Pages 285-288 concerning theories of attitudes and behavioral
intentions are particularly helpful.)
4) Ajzen I. & Fishbein, M. (1977). Attitude-behavior relations: A theoretical analysis and
review of empirical literature. Psychological Bulletin, 84, 888-918.
5) Iaffaldono, M.T. & Muchinsky, P.M. (1985). Job satisfaction and job performance: A metaanalysis. Psychological Bulletin, 97, 251-273.
6) Muchinsky, P.M. (1999). Psychology applied to work (6th ed.). Wadsworth: Belmont:CA.
(Note: Chapter 9 is particularly helpful on the topic of job attitudes.)
7) Staw, Barry M. (1986). Organizational psychology and the pursuit of the
happy/productive worker. California Management Review, 28 (4), 40-53.
8) Judge, T. A.; Thoresen, C. J.; Bono, J. E., & Patton, G. K. (2001) The job satisfaction-job
performance relationship: A qualitative and quantitative review. Psychological Bulletin,
127, 376-407.
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