The success of a business or organization is dependent on numerous factors such as employee’s level of education, relevant experience, valuable past or present contributions to the organization etc. Yet a key ingredient is perception and attribution. How employees perceive the stimuli of their workplace plays a major role in forming an environment that is productive and profitable. Thus I would like to concentrate on the perception and attribution theory and its general implications in the workplace. The process by which we select, organize, and evaluate the stimuli in our environment to make it meaningful for ourselves is perception.
Thus if a staunch Republican and an avid Democrat watch the same presidential debate, both would have very strong arguments as to why their candidate won the debate even though both may have lost or only one won. Thus the effect of our environmental stimuli is directly dependent on how we perceive and attribute changes throughout our everyday lives. There are three stages of the perceptual process: selection, organization, and evaluation. A key element of how we perceive the stimuli within our world is selection. This concerns with how we filter the information our senses receive.
Thus an employee working in a new department may hear words that are unfamiliar yet part of the day-to-day jargon within the department. Even though the employee knows and understand the word, he/she was not perceiving or ‘hearing’ it used in the context yet soon the employee will begin to use the new word regularly. What causes a particular perception of an employee as opposed to another employee within the same workplace environment? The differentiation underlies within the internal and external factors of the associate.
The sensory sensors they have ‘turned on’ are driven by their internal motives for working, their moral values, interests, attitudes, past experience and workplace expectations. Thus an employee seeking advancement within an organization would be more interested to references related to promotions, contests, or extra organizational involvement as opposed to a content associate who may not even hear the message. An external factor that influences perception would anything that draws our attention due to its size, motion, intensity, scarcity and the object’s salience.
Thus an employee leaves Tuesday evening with a subconscious expectation of the office layout, when he/she returns Wednesday morning and sees the office rearranged, his perceptions were stimulated by external factors that caused the associate to notice a change in size, location, and objects that stand out (salience). Thus each day all of us are bombarded with stimuli, yet how we process and organize them is the second stage of the perceptual process. Subconsciously we can process hundreds of stimuli per second. We organize what we perceive into simpler processes.
The most common simplistic approach is the cause-and-effect relationships. We also organize stimuli into schemas, mental maps of different concepts, events, or types of stimuli that contain both the attributes of the concept and the relationship among the attributes. All employees have different schemas about the topic of excellence, honesty, leadership, etc. Thus if a coworker admits their wrong, we automatically assume that they are less likely to be perpetual liars or thieves simply due to the fact that the coworker was honest with you.
This leads to the last stage of perceptual process, evaluation. Throughout the day to day norms of a workplace, an employee will be bombarded with stimuli that they automatically select based on their internal and external factors organize into simpler mental maps or schema and then evaluates for reaction. Another term commonly used is inference. Employees interpret stimuli in subjective as opposed to objective manors. Conclusions will be biased based on the foundations set on their selection processes, i. e. oral values, interests, attitudes, past experiences, goals, expectations, and physical/mental condition at that particular moment in time. The same employee may perceive the same actions by the same manager, yet have difference perceptions based upon the internal factors affecting his/her inferences. Thus perception within a workplace can have significant effect on how employees interact amongst each other and with management. The lesson learned for those in management is to play a major role as to what your employees perceive (office layout, norms and rules) because they have a large affect on the bottom line.