In This Article Attitudes

  • Introduction
  • Definitions
  • Origin and History
  • Evaluating Specific Job Attitudes
  • Recent Work on Job Attitudes

Management Attitudes
by
Deidra J. Schleicher, John D. Watt
  • LAST REVIEWED: 18 October 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 January 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846740-0003

Introduction

Attitudes are a central concept in the organizational sciences (i.e., organizational behavior, human resources, and industrial-organizational psychology). They occupy much space in the research literature and are the focus of many practical interventions in organizations. This is because job and organizational attitudes serve as antecedents to important individual and organizational outcomes (e.g., performance, counterproductive behavior, withdrawal, and turnover). Such attitudes reflect employees’ relatively stable evaluative dispositions toward referents such as the organization, their supervisor, or the job; these evaluations vary in intensity and favorability and tend to guide an employee’s responses to these targets. A number of constructs that would fall under this definition of job attitude have been studied in the organizational sciences. There are multiple job attitudes, as opposed to just one, because although all entail an evaluation of aspects of the organizational context, specific job attitudes vary both with regard to the target of evaluation (e.g., the job or the organization) and with regard to what dimensions are believed to be important in the “favorability” assessment. The most popular of these specific job attitudes include job satisfaction, organizational commitment, job involvement, and employee engagement. In this bibliography, we first define attitudes, provide a brief history of the study of job attitudes in organizations, and review some conceptual issues related to attitudes in general that are important for understanding how attitudes operate in organizations. The remainder of the bibliography is organized around the most frequently studied specific job attitudes—job satisfaction, organizational commitment, job involvement, and employee engagement. For each of these job attitudes, we discuss definitional and measurement issues and review research examining their antecedents and consequences. We close with a brief summary of newer directions being taken in job attitudes research.

Definitions

In general terms, an attitude is an individual’s general opinion about, or evaluation of, some target. Although attitudes are studied in a number of different disciplines (e.g., political science, marketing, management, and organizational behavior), their ontological home is generally agreed to be social psychology. That is, social psychologists first identified the notion and existence of attitudes (see Allport 1935), and the bulk of more “basic” research on the nature of attitudes continues to come from social psychology (see, e.g., Albarracin, et al. 2005; Forgas, et al. 2010). Political scientists, marketing researchers, and management researchers in turn use this more basic research, applying and adapting the construct of attitudes to the domains of their work (political opinions, consumer preferences, and job attitudes, respectively). The definition of attitude typically used in the social and organizational psychology and management literatures is a relatively stable evaluation regarding a specific entity, which varies in intensity (strength) and favorability (valence) and tends to guide an individual’s responses to that object (Eagly and Chaiken 1993; see also Fazio 1995).

  • Albarracin, Dolores, Blair T. Johnson, and Mark P. Zanna, eds. The Handbook of Attitudes. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2005.

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    Excellent contemporary overview of several aspects of attitudes as studied by social psychologists.

  • Allport, Gordon W. “Attitudes.” In Handbook of Social Psychology. Edited by Carl Murchison, 798–884. Worchester, MA: Clark University Press, 1935.

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    Gordon Allport was one of the founders of attitude research, and he noted in this seminal piece that “the concept of attitude is probably the most distinctive and indispensable concept in contemporary American social psychology” (p. 799).

  • Eagly, Alice H., and Shelly Chaiken. The Psychology of Attitudes. Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1993.

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    Very influential and widely cited text on the nature of attitudes; in it, Eagly and Chaiken define an attitude as “a psychological tendency that is expressed by evaluating a particular entity with some degree of favor or disfavor” (p. 1).

  • Fazio, Russell H. “Attitudes as Object-Evaluation Associations: Determinants, Consequences, and Correlates of Attitude Accessibility.” In Attitude Strength: Antecedents and Consequences. Edited by Richard E. Petty and Jon A. Krosnick, 247–282. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1995.

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    In this more “cognitively oriented” treatment of attitudes (examining attitude accessibility), Fazio defines an attitude as “an association in memory between a given object and a given summary evaluation of the object” (p. 247).

  • Forgas, Joseph P., Joel Cooper, and William D. Crano, eds. The Psychology of Attitudes and Attitude Change. Sydney Symposium of Social Psychology 12. New York: Psychology Press, 2010.

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    This edited book includes chapters on cognitive and affective processes in attitudes, attitudes and persuasion, and applications of attitude research. This book is Volume 12 in the Sydney Symposium of Social Psychology series, an annual event that invites leading researchers from around the world to discuss an important integrative theme in social psychology. Their contributions are then revised into book chapters.

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