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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