Application of Perception Theories in Organizations

Organization is a place where different types of individuals work together for achieving common as well as individuals goals. In the process of working together they need to understand each other. Such understanding of others depends on one’s perception. Perception plays a vital role in organizations particularly in the field of recruitment, selection, appraisal, promotion and so on. 

People’s perceptions and attributions influence how they behave in their organization. Perception describes the way people filter, organize and interpret sensory information. Attribution explains how people act, determining how people react to the actions of others as well. Accurate perception allows employees to interpret what they see and hear in the workplace effectively to make decisions, complete tasks and act in ethical manner. Faculty perceptions lead to problems in the organization, such as stereotyping, that lead people to erroneously make assumptions. 

Perception is a concept of psychology. The subject of organizational behavior applies the concept to explain various events and behavior that occur in formal organizations. What are those applications? 

Often the main aspects of perception in an organization is how an individual views others, as this can be a major point in how that person will behave within the business. It is also an aspect of how an individual is motivated within an organization. If they preserve people in a certain way then they may believe they are disliked, not listened to or ignored by this person and therefore their motivation to do anything will be far smaller. This is why in organizations, there needs to be sure that employees will in the organization fit before being hired and then when they are hired their first perceptions of others need to be good. 

To achieve first impression good companies will often introduce new employees and current employees in ways which show off key skills and highlight the importance of these people to the team. So positive perceptions are built instead of negatives. The perceptual process is how organizations cope with the aforementioned. 

Attribution Theory

Attribution theory has been proposed to develop explanations of the ways in which we judge people differently, depending on what meaning we attribute to a given behavior. Basically, the theory suggests that when we observe an individual’s behavior, we attempt to determine whether it was internally or externally caused. That determination, however, depends largely on three factors. 

1. Distinctiveness 

Distinctiveness refers to whether an individual displays different behaviors in different situations. Is the employee who arrived late today also the source of complaints by co-workers? What we want to know is, if this behavior is unusual or not. If it is unusual, the observer is likely to give the behavior an external attribution. If this action is not unusual, it will probably be judged as internal. 

2. Consensus 

If everyone, who is faced with a similar situation, responds in the same way, we can say the behavior shows consensus. Our late employee’s behavior would meet this criterion if all employees who took the same route to work were also late. From an attribution perspective if consensus is high, we would be expected to give an external attribution to the employee’s late coming, where as if other employees who took the same route made it into work on time, our conclusion as to causation would be internal. 

3. Consistency

Finally, an observer looks for consistency in a person’s actions. Does the person respond the same way over time? Coming ten minutes late for work is not perceived in the same way for the employee for whom it is a unusual case (he hasn’t been late for several months), as for the employee for whom it is part of routine pattern (he is regularly late two or three times a week). The more consistent the behavior, the more the observer is inclined to attribute it to internal causes. 

Attribution theory tell us that if an employee performs at about the same level on other related tasks as he does on his current task (low distinctiveness), if other employees frequently perform differently better or worse-than employee does on that current task (low consensus) and if employees’ performance on this current task is consistent over time (high consistency), their manager or anyone else who is judging their work is likely to hold them primarily responsible for their task performance. 

In short, it can be stated that the studies on attribution theory have generated the following conclusions: 

  1. When we are explaining our own behavior, we tend to over-estimate the importance of the situation and under estimate our own personality characteristics. 
  2. When we observe someone else behavior, we tend to over-estimate the influence of personality traits and under-estimate situational influences. 
  3. In evaluating the performance of employees, poor performance is generally attributed to internal personal factors, especially when the consequences are serious. 
  4. Employees tend to attribute their success to internal factors and their failures to external causes. 
  5. In casual situations, as we observe the successes and failure of others, we tend to attribute their successes to personality traits such as effort and ability and their failures to external factors such as the difficulty of the task. 

Attribution Errors

Attribution theory states that we have a tendency to explain someone’s behavior by attributing a cause to their behavior. In our effort to try to understand the behavior of others, we either explain their behavior is terms of their personality and disposition (internal), or we explain their behavior in terms of the situation (external). You might, for example, explain your professor’s harsh words about class performance as being the result of his angry personality type, or you might attribute it to his disappointment with the overall class performance. If you attribute his harsh words to an angry personality type, then you have made the fundamental attribution error. 

1. Fundamental Attribution Error 

The fundamental attribution error is our tendency to explain someone’s behavior based on internal factors, such as personality or disposition, and to underestimate the influence that external factors, such as situational influences, have on another person’s behavior. We might, for example, explain the fact that someone is unemployed on his or her character, and blame him or her for his or her plight, when in fact he or she was recently laid off due to a sluggish economy. Of course, there are times when we are correct about our assumptions, but the fundamental attribution error is our tendency to explain the behavior of others based on character or disposition. This is particularly true when the behavior is negative. 

2. Self-serving Bias 

A self-serving bias is nay cognitive or perceptual process that is distorted by the need to maintain and enhance self-esteem. When individuals reject the validity of negative feedback and focus on their strengths and achievements but overlook their faults and failures, or take more responsibility for their group’s work than they give to other members, they are protecting the ego from threat and injury. These cognitive and perceptual tendencies perpetuate illusions and error, but they also serve the self’s need for esteem. For example, a student who attributes earning a good grade in an exam to their own intelligence and preparation but attributes earning a poor grade to the teacher’s poor teaching ability or unfair test questions is exhibiting the self-serving bias. Studies have shown that similar attributions are made in various situations, such as the workplace, interpersonal relationships, sports and consumer decisions. 

Both motivational processes (i.e. self-enhancement, self-presentation) and cognitive processes (i.e. locus of control, self-esteem) influence the self-serving bias. There are both cross-cultural (i.e. individualistic and collectivistic culture differences) and special clinical population (i.e. depression) considerations within the bias. Much of the research on the self-serving bias has used participant self-reports of attribution based on experimental manipulation of task outcomes or in naturalistic situations. Some more modern research, however, has shifted focus to physiological manipulations, such as emotional inducement and neural activation, in an attempt to better understand the biological mechanisms that contribute to the self-serving bias.

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Principles of Perceptual Selection

There are different principles about perceptual selection. The basic principles of perceptual selection are as follows:
Principles of Perceptual Selection
1. Principles of Size 

Size is a characteristic which may affect the perceptual selectivity by affecting the attraction of the perceiver. Generally, bigger is the size of perceived stimulus, higher is the probability that it attracts the attention of the perceiver and he may select it. Usually, letter of higher sizes in newspapers or books are first selected for reading. 

2. Principles of Intensity 

The intensity principle of attention states that the more intense the external stimulus is, the more likely it is to be perceived. A loud sound, strong odor, or bright light are noticed more as compared to a soft sound, weak odor, or dim light. For example, based on the intensity principle, commercials on televisions are slightly louder than the regular programmes. 

3. Principles of Repetition 

The repetition principles states that a repeated stimulus is more attention-getting than a single one. Repetition increases people’s sensitivity or alertness to the stimulus. Advertisers use this principle by repeating advertisement of the same product to attract people’s attention. In the organizational context, repeated instruction, even for the routine work, is based on this principle. 

4. Principles of Novelty and Familiarity 

Novelty and familiarity principle states that either a novel or a familiar external situation can serve as attention getter. New objects or events in a familiar setting, or familiar objects or events in new setting draw better attention. For example, in job rotation, when worker’s jobs are changed from time, they become more attentive to their new jobs as compared to the previous ones. Similarly, communication in familiar jargons attracts more attention. 

5. Principles of Contrast 

The contrast principle states that external stimuli which stand against the background, or which are not what people are expecting, receive more attention. Letter of bold types, persons dressed differently than other; buildings of different colors in the same locality, etc. get more attention. Contrast is a kind of uniqueness which can be used for attention getting. 

6. Principles of Motion 

Motion principle states that a moving object draws more attention as compared to a stationary object. For example, workers may pay more attention to the materials moving by them on a conveyor belt as compared to the maintenance needs of a machine lying next to them. Advertisers use this principle in their advertising by designing signs which incorporate moving parts, for example, commercials on televisions (moving ones) get more attention than print media.

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Specific Application of Perception in Organizations

People often see the same phenomenon differently both within the organizational context and outside the organization. For example, in relation to a strike, a manager may perceive the immediate cause of the strike as trivial, while the workers may see it as very serious. Similarly, when there is any accident in the factory, the supervisor may treat it as the carelessness of workers while the workers may treat it as the high-handedness of management and lack of adequate provisions of security measures. A manager is mainly concerned with the achievement of organizational objectives through specified behavior of its members. And the behavior of the people is invariably affected by perception. The behavior of people gets affected by the facts which they consider important even though factually that may be incorrect or non-existent. The organizational world has begun to realize the importance of perception so that managers are trained to understand human perception as much as possible. The understanding of perception is the key to understand and control behavior. The major areas where the special attention is required in regard to perceptual accuracy and management and behavioral application of perception of utmost importance, are followings:

a) Employment Interview

A major input to find who is hired and who is rejected in any organization is the employment interview. It’s fair to say that few people are hired without an interview. But the evidence indicates that interviewers make perceptual judgments that are often inaccurate. In addition, agreement among interviewers is often poor, that is different interviewers see different things in the same candidate and thus arrive at different conclusions about the applicant. Interviewers generally draw early impressions that become very quickly entranced. If negative information is exposed early in the interview, it tends to be more heavily weighted than if that same information comes out later. Studies indicate that most interviewers’ decisions change very little after the first four or five minutes of their interview. As a result, information elicited early in the interview carries greater weight than does information later eluted “Good applicant” is probably characterized more by the absence of unfavorable characteristics than by the presence of favorable characteristics.

b) Selection of Employees

It is one of the areas, where managers need to be very careful. Normally, employees are selected on the basis of selection tests, interviews and reviews of the applicant’s background. There are various cases, where information is vague and managers are subject to many of the perceptual problems where they make the selection decisions. Managers sometimes get swayed away by Halo effect and stereo-typing. There can be times when manager’s emotional state is not fit for justifying his role as a selective authority. He might make a mountain out of molehill when not in a good mood.

c) Performance Appraisal

Every organization has some system of performance appraisal. It is generally done by superiors and sometimes by people at different levels as in 360 degree performance appraisal. Many a time, it has been found that superiors or others get carried by Halo effect or their personal biases. They have liking or favor for some people and dislike for others. These factors act as hindrance to objective performances appraisal. And sometimes these factors weight so much in favor of or against some employees that the real purpose of performance appraisal gets defeated.

d) Delegation of Authority

In organizational set up delegating authority to do various task is the way of life. But, a manager decision whether to delegate or whom to delegate is many time affected by his perception of employees. Various perceptual errors make him delegate someone who is not the best available choice in the organizations for that job. And this phenomenon has a very discouraging effect on the person who has been overlooked and his perception regarding delegating authority changes towards unreality.

e) Interpersonal Working Relationship

Organizations are intended to bring about integrated behavior. Therefore, managers in the organization need to know whether or not members share similar or at least compatible perceptions. If they do not, the problems of the organization becomes greater and requires efforts to make perceptions more compatible. Mis-perceptions usually lead to strained relations and may even result in open conflict among people.

f) Employee Effort

In many organizations, the level of an employee’s effort is given high importance just as teacher frequently consider how hard you try in a course as well as you perform in examinations. So often do managers. An assessment of an individual’s effort is a subjective judgment susceptible to perceptual distortions and bias.

g) Employee Loyalty

Another important judgment that managers make about employees is whether or not they are loyal to the organization. Despite the general decline in employees, especially those in the managerial ranks, openly disparage the firm. Furthermore, in some organization, if the word gets around that an employee is looking at other employment opportunities outside the firm, that employee may be labeled as disloyal and he may be cut off from all future advancement opportunities. The issue is not whether organizations are right in demanding loyalty. The issue is that many do, and that assessment of an employee’s loyalty by one decision maker may be seen as excessive conformity by another. An employee who questions a top management decision may be seen as disloyal by some, yet caring and concerned by others.

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