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Attitude: Definition, Types, Functions, Barriers, How to overcome

At the heart of organizational behaviour lie the attitudes that individuals hold toward their work, colleagues, and environment. As a crucial element that can influence behaviour, attitudes are worth studying in greater detail. 

In this article, we provide a comprehensive overview of attitudes in organizational behaviour, covering the types of attitudes, their formation and consequences, and how they can be managed effectively.


Gordon Allport says that “An attitude is a mental and neural stale of readiness, organized through experience, exerting a directive or dynamic influence upon the individual’s response to ill objects and situations with which it is related.”

Newcomb says that “a learned sensitivity to respond in a consistently favourable or unfavourable manner with respect to a given object”. 

Types of Attitudes

Types of Attitudes

Attitudes refer to an individual’s positive or negative evaluation of an object or a situation. In the context of organizational behaviour, attitudes can be classified into three types: job satisfaction, job involvement, and organizational commitment.

Job satisfaction is an individual’s overall evaluation of their job and their satisfaction with its various aspects, such as pay, work environment, and relationships with colleagues. 

Job involvement, Other hand, refers to an individual’s psychological identification with their job and the degree to which they view their job as a central part of their identity. 

Organizational commitment is an individual’s loyalty and attachment to their organization and their willingness to work toward its goals.

Attitudes can be broken down into three major components: cognitive, behavioural, and emotional attitudes.

Cognitive attitudes

Cognitive attitudes are views and thoughts about the object of our attitude. This includes our understanding of a specific thing or topic. 

For example, if you believe that all drugs are harmful, you have a cognitive attitude toward drugs. So it is bad for every person so everything should be in levels.

Behavioural attitudes

Behavioural attitudes are acts we conduct in response to the object of our attitude. This includes how we react or act when we encounter something or a topic about which we have an opinion. 

For example, if you avoid people who smoke, you have a behavioural attitude toward smoking.

Emotional Attitude

This refers to how we feel about the object of our attitude. This encompasses everything like our preferences, dislikes, and fears. 

Understanding the three components of attitudes can thus be beneficial in a variety of situations. 

For example, if you wish to modify someone’s cognitive, behavioral, or emotional attitudes toward a specific object, you can provide them with new information, change their behaviours or experiences, or appeal to their emotions.

Functions of Attitudes

Attitudes can serve various functions, and each function serves a unique purpose. The following are the major functions of attitudes:

Utilitarian Function

Attitudes can serve a utilitarian function by helping us maximize rewards and minimize punishments. 

For instance, if a person has a positive attitude towards exercising, they are more likely to exercise regularly, which can lead to various health benefits. 

In difference, a negative attitude towards exercising can discourage a person from exercising, which can result in health problems.

Social Adjustment Function

Attitudes can serve a social adjustment function by helping us fit into our social environment. So people tend to adopt attitudes that are socially acceptable and in line with the norms and values of their social group

For instance, a person may adopt a positive attitude towards environmental conservation to fit into a group of environmental activists.

Ego-Defensive Function

Attitudes can serve an ego-defensive function by protecting our self-esteem and justifying our behavior. 

For example, a person with a negative attitude towards a particular group of people may justify their discriminatory behavior by convincing themselves that the group.

Value-Expressive Function

Attitudes can serve a value-expressive function by expressing our values and beliefs. People tend to adopt attitudes that align with their core values and beliefs. 

For example, a person who values honesty and integrity may have a negative attitude towards dishonesty.

Knowledge Function

Attitudes can serve a knowledge function by helping us organize and understand our environment. Attitudes help us categorize information and form expectations about objects, people, and situations.

For instance, a person who has a positive attitude towards a particular brand may have certain expectations about the quality and performance of the brand’s products.

Power of Attitudes

Attitudes can have a significant impact on our behaviour and decision-making. Our attitudes can influence our perception of reality, shape our beliefs and values, and determine our behaviour. 

For instance, a person with a positive attitude towards a particular political party may be more likely to vote for that party in an election.

Attitudes can also have a contagious effect on others. When people express their attitudes, they can influence the attitudes of others. 

For instance, when a celebrity expresses their positive attitude towards a particular brand, their fans may adopt a similar attitude towards the brand.

Barriers of Attitude

  • Prior Commitment
  • Insufficient information
  • Consistency and balance
  • The lack of resources
  • System of rewards
  • Change resistance

Prior Commitment

Changing attitudes is not a simple task as there are several barriers that can make it challenging. The first major barrier is prior commitment. 

When someone already feels committed to a particular course of action. So it can be difficult for them to accept new ways of doing those things.

For example, if someone has a strong commitment to a certain political party or religious group, it may be hard for them to accept different perspectives about the other party. 

So this is because they have already formed a powerful belief and emotional attachment towards their current position.

Insufficient information

Another barrier to changing attitudes is insufficient information. So it’s means at that time you have not proper information regarding the point or situation. If someone doesn’t have all the necessary information. 

So it can be challenging for them to change their attitude towards something. People need a complete and clear understanding of the new information it can be ma for them to change their perspective. If they lack information, they will not understand the importance of changing their attitude.

Consistency and balance

When it comes to changing mindsets, balance and constancy are also important. It may be difficult for someone to make a change if their attitude is not balanced or compatible with their beliefs and behaviours. 

This means that the individual’s previous views and behaviours must be congruent with the new knowledge supplied.

The lack of resources

It can also be a major impediment to altering attitudes. It could be difficult for someone to make a change if they lack the essential resources. 

For example, if someone wants to transition to a healthier diet but lacks access to nutritious food or the resources to make it, it may be difficult for them to do so.

System of rewards

An improper reward system can also make changing attitudes difficult. Someone may be less likely to change their attitude if they do not believe they would be rewarded for doing so. 

Individuals must be driven to change, and good reward systems will facilitate this process.

Change resistance

It can be a major impediment to altering attitudes. Someone who is resistive to change may be less inclined to change their mind about something. They may be content with their current beliefs and see no reason to change. People may also be afraid of the unknown or of losing something valuable to them.

How to Change the Attitude

Understanding the Importance of Attitude

Before we go deep into how to change our attitude, let’s first understand why it’s essential. Our attitude is a way of looking at the world and the surrounding environment. It’s the communication channel through which we view our experiences, and also see that how it affects the way we see and respond to situations.

So having a positive attitude can improve our mental and emotional well-being, as well as our relationships with others. Other hand, a negative attitude can lead to stress, anxiety, and depression.

Recognizing What We Cannot Change

The first step in changing our attitude recognizes the things we cannot change. It’s essential to accept that some situations are out of our control and that we cannot change them, no matter how hard we try.

This acceptance can be challenging, and it’s natural to feel uncertain and distressed. However, recognizing what we cannot change can free up mental and emotional resources to focus on the things we can change.

Shifting Our Perspective

Once we’ve acknowledged what we cannot change, it’s time to shift our perspective. Instead of focusing on the negative aspects of the situation, we can choose to focus on the positive.

One way to do this is to practice gratitude. Focusing on the things we’re thankful for, even in difficult circumstances, can help us maintain a positive attitude. 

Additionally, reframing the situation and looking for potential opportunities can help us shift our perspective and find meaning in our experiences.

Developing Coping Strategies

So in lastly, it’s essential to develop coping strategies to manage our emotions and maintain a positive attitude. Coping strategies can also include things like mindfulness, exercise, or seeking support from others. These are the common elements.

Mindfulness, for example, can help us stay present and aware of our thoughts and emotions, reducing stress and anxiety. 

Exercise can improve our mental and emotional well-being, and seeking support from others can provide us with a sense of community and help us feel less alone.

Formation and Consequences of Attitudes

Attitudes can be shaped by a variety of factors, including individual personality, life experiences, and situational factors. So it can also be caused by the social context, such as the attitudes of peers, supervisors, or the larger organization.

Attitudes can have an important impact on behaviour, affecting everything from work performance and turnover to organizational citizenship behaviour and absenteeism. 

For example, job satisfaction has been found to be positively associated with job performance, so while high levels of organizational loyalty have been linked to lower levels of turnover.

Managing Attitudes Effectively

Given the potential impact of attitudes on behaviour, managing attitudes effectively can be crucial for organizations. 

So here is a one way to manage attitudes so is to improve job characteristics, like as task variety and liberty, that contribute to job satisfaction. 

Another approach is to increase organizational commitment through socialization and training programs that instill the organization’s values and culture.

Other strategies that can be used to manage attitudes include selecting individuals who are a good fit with the organization’s values and culture, and providing feedback and recognition to employees. And creating a supportive work environment that promotes positive social interactions and reduces stress. 

So additionally, fostering a sense of job involvement by providing opportunities for employees to participate in decision-making and offering opportunities for growth and development can also be effective.


Q. Can attitudes be changed?

Yes, attitudes can change over time, although they are often resistant to change, especially if they are deeply rooted and have a strong emotional component.

Q. Can attitudes be inherited?

Some attitudes are more genetically determined than others, although it is not yet known why this is the case. For example, attitudes towards abortion have been found to be heritable.

Q. Can attitudes influence behaviour?

Yes, attitudes can have a powerful influence over behaviour and affect how people act in various situations.


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