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How can the attitudes and behaviours of supervisors affect the wider workplace?

Posted on: June 14, 2023

Multiple factors can influence our work environments – both positively and negatively. The supervision and management that we receive while at work, for example, is often a reliable predictor of how employees perceive, interact with, and perform in, both their roles and wider workplaces.

Attitudes and work behaviours held and displayed by supervisors can have significant impacts on company culture. Why is this important? Because good company culture can increase business revenue by 400%. And, if you needed more convincing, a recent report found that 82% of employees would consider quitting their job because of a bad manager. In short, it pays to ensure that supervisors and managers think and act in ways that are aligned with the attitudes and behaviours expected in the business environment. Not only will employees be more engaged, productive and motivated – leading to reduced absenteeism and increased retention – but the bottom-line will also benefit.

In today’s modern business environment, employees expect more from their places of work. As a result, organisations are on the lookout for individuals with the skills and expertise to help them get the most from their managers and teams. Whether that’s transforming leadership behaviours, boosting employee satisfaction, increasing work performance or removing stressors from the work environment – you can find out how.

What is attitude and behaviour in psychology?

The attitudes we hold can have profound impacts on our behaviour and the ways in which we respond to certain situations.

From a psychological standpoint, attitude is comprised of three main components:

  •   Cognitive – an individual’s thoughts and beliefs about something
  •   Affective – an individual’s feelings towards an object, person, issue or event
  •   Behavioural – how an individual’s attitude influences their behaviour.

Essentially, it spans our thoughts and feelings (attitudes) and our actions (behaviours).

What elements of the workplace can be impacted by the attitudes and behaviours of supervisors?

No doubt we can all bring to mind managers, supervisors and leaders who had what we could describe as a ‘good attitude’ – as well as the opposite. How did they make you feel about the company and the value of its work? About your personal performance? What type of environment and team culture did they foster? Were you motivated? Were you fulfilled? Were you inspired? Work attitudes displayed by those in supervisory positions can have both intended, and unintended, positive as well as negative consequences.

Picture a supervisor who is respectful, enthusiastic, supportive and collaborative, who genuinely believes in the value of your work, acknowledges it and is interested in your individual development and career goals. Now picture a supervisor who rarely turns up on time, shows little to no interest in the team’s work or progress, who undermines the company’s culture and fails to make you feel seen, heard or valued. The psychological contract – the ‘informal commitments, expectations and understandings between an employer and employee’ – and its perceived fairness, is highly influential in relation to how employees act, work and behave.

Clearly, attitudes and behaviours held in our personal lives often translate into the professional workplace, and can act as coefficients on the beliefs and actions of our colleagues. Supervisors must remain aware that their beliefs and actions can have meaningful ramifications on aspects such as:

  •   job performance and wider work performance
  •   employee satisfaction and wellbeing
  •   decision-making
  •   employee attitudes and behaviours – such as self-efficacy, motivation and empowerment
  •   organisational culture
  •   organisational commitment
  •   recruitment, retention and turnover intentions.

What is organisational citizenship behaviour?

Organisational citizenship behaviour (OCB) refers to employees who go above and beyond in their workplace roles. It is wholly separate from task performance, as it isn’t essential, but creates an environment that supports others to thrive. When displayed in a group scenario, there are five common behaviours that have the potential to boost the efficacy of teams and the organisations they work for:

  •   Altruism
  •   Courtesy
  •   Sportsmanship
  •   Conscientiousness
  •   Civic virtue.

It’s no coincidence that they’re linked to strong, positive leadership, job satisfaction and value, and supporting others. Transformational Leader Behaviours and their Effects on Followers’ Trust in Leader, Satisfaction and Organizational Citizenship Behaviours (Podsakoff, MacKenzie, Moorman and Fetter, 1990) explores this concept in further detail.

How can supervisors help to embed positive organisational culture?

There are a number of ways to increase OCB – alongside broader attitudes and behaviours you most wish to observe in employees – in the workplace. One of the most useful ways to address this is to screen for it during the various stages of recruitment. Human resource management teams can look for the personality traits and professional characteristics that would have a positive impact on, and help to uphold, company culture and ethos.

One of the most critical approaches is for supervisors, managers and leaders to model the attitudes and behaviours they expect from the wide workforce. It’s critical to have the right people with the right attributes in the right roles. Positive attitudes modelled by others can have mediating effects/moderating effects on the less-than-desirable attitudes and behaviours of others. Where collaboration, teamwork, good communication and integrity is demonstrated and set as the standard, reciprocity from other colleagues is more likely to follow. This phenomenon is upheld by research into the relationship between leadership style and job satisfaction using structural equation modelling (SEM).

Challenging personal biases, addressing the root causes of negative attitudes and behaviours, praising and rewarding employee work performance can all have a positive effect on the wider work demographic.

If a business leader is unsure of the culture ‘on the ground’ or how organisational justice is viewed, it can be a valuable exercise to ask employees for their honest opinions and perspectives, for example via anonymous questionnaires. Interventions can then be developed in line with the feedback from respondents. A wealth of resources exist that can support the assessment and meta-analysis of team-related beliefs and behaviours and development of practice-based solutions: texts such as Team-related Work Attitudes (Allen, 2020), Impact of Transformational Leadership Behaviours and Psychological Optimism on Subordinate Performance (Chen, Wu and Wang, 2015), Contingent Worker Monetary Influence, Work Attitudes and Behaviour (Johnson and Lake, 2019) and The Antecedents of Thriving at Work: A Meta-analytic Review (Liu, Zhang, Wang and Yan, 2021); and sources such as the Academy of Management Journal, the Journal of Business, Personnel Psychology, and the Journal of Applied Psychology.

Adapt organisational attitudes and leadership behaviours to ensure positive outcomes

Gain in-demand business psychology skills – and understand how supervisor behaviours can be used to help meet business objectives – with the University of Wolverhampton’s online MSc Organisational and Business Psychology programme.

Whether you’re looking to take the next step in your career or gain deeper insights into how business and teams operate, our ABP-accredited course is designed to help you succeed in modern, challenging business settings and changing organisational contexts. You’ll combine critical behavioural and social psychology with real-world practice to help shape, influence and improve work environments, on a flexible course that fits around your lifestyle and commitments. As well as specialist understanding of occupational psychology, organisational psychology and human behaviour, bespoke business modules will cover topics such as leadership and leadership styles, global strategy, marketing and operational sustainability.

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