Essays on Attribution Theory and Its Relevance to Management Practice Essay

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The paper 'Attribution Theory and Its Relevance to Management Practice' is a great example of a Management Essay. Attribution theory is a theory that analyzes the manner in which people interpret events and how this influences their behavior and thinking. The theory assumes that individuals normally attempt to determine why other people behave in the manner that they do by relating attribute causes to behavior. According to Woolfolk (2007), an individual seeking to determine why another person behaved in a particular manner may account for one or more causes of the behavior.

Attribution theory is also described as a motivational theory analyzing how an average person interprets the meaning or significance of an event depending on his or her intentions to determine the cause of the event. The theory thus analyzes how individuals make sense of their environment and what cause and effect conclusions they draw about the behaviors of other people as well as themselves. The theory has found wide application in several fields including education, law, clinical psychology, and the mental health sector. In all these fields, a strong relationship between self-concept and achievement exists.

Attribution theory is also applied in management practice (Woolfolk, 2007). This essay analyzes the attribution theory through a review of the relevant literature available on the theory. The essay also explains the application of attribution theory to the management of employees and/or consumer behavior. Attribution theory Attribution theory is among the most influential modern theory with inference for academic motivation, consumer behavior, and employee behavior. It integrates behavior modification in the sense that it emphasizes the fact that people are strongly motivated by the satisfying result of being able to feel contented with themselves.

It integrates cognitive theory and self-efficacy theory in the sense that it stresses that an individual’ s current self-perception will have a great impact in which they infer the success or failure of their present efforts and hence their future tendency of acting in the same manner. According to Elsbach (2005), a significant assumption of attribution theory is that individuals normally deduce their situations in a manner that maintains their positive self-image. This implies that individuals will attribute their success or failure to causes that will make them feel as comfortable as possible.

The fundamental principle in this theory as it relates to motivation is that an individual’ s own perception or ascription for success or failure determines the level of effort that the individual will grant to that activity in the future. Types of attributions in the theory Individuals make attributions in order to achieve cognitive control over their surroundings by explaining and inferring the causes of particular behaviors and environmental occurrences. Making attributions maintains order and predictability in people’ s lives and helps them perceive life in a positive manner.

According to the theory, the process of making attributions involves analyzing the circumstances by drawing conclusions about the disposition of others and self. They then integrate this conclusion with the inferences about the environment and the impact it has on people’ s behavior (Maltby, 1996). There are two basic types of attributions: External Attribution The cause of an event is blamed on an outside factor, agent, or force. These are considered as out-of-control of the individual. The actions of a person are thus influenced, controlled, or totally determined by influences that are not within the control of the person.

The individual thus feels not responsible for his/her actions. This attribution is also referred to as Situational Attribution (Maltby, 1996).   Internal Attribution The causes of behavior are blamed on inside factors, agents, or force. These are within the control of the individual. Individuals feel responsible for their behavior because it is not influenced, limited, or entirely determined by factors outside their control (Maltby, 1996). This is also known as Dispositional Attribution.   Factors that affect the formation of attributions Easterby-Smith et al (2000) note that some of the factors that affect the formation of attributions include: consistency information, distinctiveness information, and consensus information.

Consistency information is the level to which an individual responds towards an issue in different circumstances. While distinctiveness information is the level in which a person acts differently in different circumstances. Consensus information is the level to which other people respond similarly in a similar situation (Ross & Fletcher, 1995). Achievement can be attributed to one or a combination of the following: effort, ability, degree of task difficulty, and luck.   The process of attribution theory Attribution is normally a three-stage process; perception, judgment, and attribute.

The perception stage is where a manager observes another person’ s behavior. This stage is followed by the judgment stage in which the manager determines deliberateness. At this stage, one must believe that an action was intentionally executed. This is the last stage in which the manager determines whether the was compelled to act in a particular manner or not. After following this process, a manager is able to determine the appropriate reward or punishment for the employees to motivate them in accomplishing their tasks (Das & Teng, 1999).     Application of attribution theory Attribution theory is widely applied in management practice, particularly in the management of employee and consumer behavior.   Self-concept and achievement Attribution theory has been used to explain the relationship between self-concept and achievement.

Causal attributions influence affective responses to either success or failure. In the academic world, for instance, a student will not likely feel proud of success after getting an ‘ A” from a tutor who only awards that grade. In an organization setting an employee will not feel proud after achieving a sales volume which everyone else has achieved.

An employee will experience much pride after may be reaching a target that no one else has achieved. Employees with higher ratings of self-esteem and more attainments in the workplace will likely attribute their achievement to internal, stable, uncontrollable factors such as the ability. On the contrary, they will attribute their failure to internal, unstable, controllable factors like effort or external non-controllable factors such as duty. This understanding helps managers in understanding the behavior patterns of their employees for easier control (Mathis & Jackson, 2008).   Attribution theory has been applied in explaining the variation in motivation between high and low achievers at the workplace.

According to the theory, high achievers will not avoid duties because they feel that success is an outcome of high quality and effort of which they are sure of. These achievers believe that failure is a consequence of bad luck or other uncontrollable factors. Low achievers will tend to doubt their capability and believe that success is associated with luck or other factors outside their control.

The manager is thus able to develop the most appropriate motivating measures depending on individual employee capabilities (Lewis & Daltroy, 1990).     Drawbacks of attribution theory in management Attribution theory normally experiences the basic attrition error. Attribution error is the tendency to overlook the impact of external factors and overestimate the impact of internal factors when drawing conclusions about the behavior of others. A manager may for example attribute poor sales to the laziness of the employees instead of the poor quality of a product. This decision can result in negative consequences in organizations due to the demoralization of the employees (Weary & Edwards, 1994).

Another disadvantage of this theory is that there always tends to be a self-serving bias in its application. This is where people tend to attribute internal factors to their success while attributing the external factors to failures. This has the effect of limiting managerial responsiveness in an organization. Other drawbacks in the application of the theory include the selective perception in which individuals selectively infer what they see depending on their interests, skills, and perception and the Rater errors.

The rater error is a situation where an individual’ s impression of another in a certain field influences their personal judgment on them in another field (Gilovich & Savitsky, 2000).   Conclusion This theory has analyzed the Attribution Theory by reviewing the relevant literature available on the theory. The essay has also discussed the application of attribution theory in management practice. The theory basically explains the ways in which people view and make judgments about others at work or in other real-life situations. The theory explains how people describe other’ s behavior and make efforts to determine why they acted in the way they did.

Individuals also make attributions about their behavior. The theory is very useful to the managers because it helps them establish why employees show particular behavior in various situations and circumstances (Armstrong, 2006). Through this, the managers can then determine the weakness and strengths of each employee and thus determine the appropriate motivation measures to apply in various situations. The managers should determine whether a certain behavior is attributable to external or internal factors in order to establish the appropriate reward or punishment for the employees.

The managers should however be wary of the drawbacks associated with the application of attribution theory. For instance, a wrong interpretation of the estimation of the impact of either external or internal factors can result in devastating consequences in the organization.


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