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Values, Attitudes, Emotions, and Moods In The Workplace

Updated on September 18, 2012

How people behave in an organization is often closely tied to how they feel about their work. This can be measured in two primary ways: job satisfaction and organizational commitment.

Both of these can be analyzed through two lenses:

Values, or the core thoughts/feelings that are held by a person or organization for a long period of time.

Work Attitudes, or the moods and emotions experienced by a person in relation to their jobs

Values in the Workplace

Work values are those that an employee holds in regards to work, specifically about expectations, outcomes, acceptable behaviors, etc. These can be further subcategorized into intrinsic work values – those related to the actual nature of the job itself – and extrinsic work values, which are related to compensation, time, etc. Intrinsic work values would include things like “helping people,” “creativity,” etc. Extrinsic work values would include “time with family,” “monetary reward,” etc. While most people obviously hold both intrinsic and extrinsic work values, most tend to value one over the other. Those who “work for passion” but may not receive much pay have stronger intrinsic values. Those who work primarily to provide for their families, even if they don’t “like” the work, have stronger extrinsic values.

Ethical values also factor into the workplace. Ethical values are employees’ beliefs about right and wrong. Some of the common ethical frameworks include:

Utilitarian values – the notion that the greatest good for the greatest number of people is the end goal.

Moral rights values – the idea that decisions should be primarily based on natural, fundamental rights (like life, liberty, and property)

Justice values – the concept that fairness and equitability are the primary targets

Many organizations establish a code of ethics – a set of formal rules and standards delineating right from wrong. Organizations that routinely engage in ethics violations risk being outed by a whistleblower – an employee who informs management or regulatory agencies about unethical conduct in an organization.

Attitudes in the Workplace

Work attitudes are shorter-term feelings than values. They are often tied to the daily/weekly work situation.

Job satisfaction describes how satisfied people feel with their jobs. Maintaining high levels of job satisfaction generally requires a company to consistently fulfill both their employees’ intrinsic values and extrinsic values. For example, even with a six figure salary, job satisfaction might not be very high if the employees are forced to repeat the exact same routine every day. On the other hand, a very interesting job might not be satisfying if it doesn’t cover the rent.

Job satisfaction is tied to organizational commitment: the level of commitment and loyalty people have to their organization as a whole. Employees with high organizational commitment are more likely to work unpaid weekends or longer days if they feel it will “pay off” for the company. Employees with low organizational commitment, on the other hand, are out of the office as soon as the clock hits five.

There are three primary components to work attitudes: cognitive components (beliefs), affective components (feelings), and behaviors (actions). While moods can obviously vary based on events in an employee’s work and personal life, they’re likely to hover around a certain level on average.

Workplace moods are strongly tied to personality (see this article for an explanation). Positive affectivity is linked to positive moods at work, while negative affectivity is linked to negative moods at worked.

Mood is an important component of organizational behavior. Research shows that employees with positive moods are more helpful and perform better. On the other hand, employees with negative moods can often be responsible for incivility and rudeness in the workplace.

Emotions in the Workplace

Emotions are intense but short-term feelings. (Moods are more pervasive, and emotions can, over long periods of time, cause moods.) While emotions are important in every workplace, they are especially important in workplaces requiring employees to present themselves in a certain way. For example, no matter how they may be feeling, police officers, flight attendants, and waiters must always maintain a professional and friendly demeanor. This is an example of a display rule: a rule governing how people must present themselves. Jobs with stringent display rules require extensive emotional labor on the part of employees. (Emotional labor is defined as effort exerted by an employee to maintain a certain set of moods/emotions.) If external presentations of emotions conflict with internal feelings, employees may experience emotional dissonance.


Job Satisfaction and Organizational Behavior: The Relationship Between Values, Attitudes, Moods, and Emotions

Job satisfaction in the United States is at an all time low. This is a problem for companies, because high levels of job satisfaction generally result in higher productivity (as well as happier employees). Thus, understanding job satisfaction from an organizational behavior perspective is especially crucial in today’s challenging economy.

Factors that Influence Job Satisfaction

Personality is a key determinant of job satisfaction. People with positive affectivity are more likely to be satisfied with their jobs than are people with negative affectivity. However, personality isn’t everything. Factors like the work situation (pay, hours, intrinsic values of the work, relationships with coworkers, superiors, and subordinates), social influence, and values can also affect job satisfaction. While managers obviously can’t change personalities, they can exert influence on these other factors. Luckily, personality is responsible for only about 30% of aggregate job satisfaction.

By analyzing employees’ values, managers can clue in on how to properly motivate them. Those who “work for passion” but may not receive much pay have stronger intrinsic values. Those who work primarily to provide for their families, even if they don’t “like” the work, have stronger extrinsic values. Obviously, motivating factors for these types of employees are different – one may respond better to an increased paycheck, while the other might respond better to more personally engaging assignments.

The work situation is generally the most important determinant of job satisfaction, and managers should do their best to keep it positive. Key factors include:

The physical environment (is it too noisy, too hot, too cold, etc)

The intellectual environment (is the job intellectually stimulating? Do employees learn and better themselves, or do they perform routine “mechanical” tasks?)

The organizational environment (is the organization flexible? Do they pay well? Do they provide good benefits and job security?)

Social influence is the final component of job satisfaction. It acts both within work (coworkers) and outside of work (friends). If employees are proud to tell their friends about their work, they’re clearly satisfied with their jobs.

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    • ktrapp profile image

      Kristin Trapp 4 years ago from Illinois

      I couldn't help but try to categorize my webmaster position as I read this Hub. I have to say that for me extrinsic work values outweigh intrinsic work values by far. But it's a great work situation with a great team of people in the technology office, that offers a lot of flexibility in terms of work hours and the ability to work some of them from home that creates a high level of job satisfaction. The positive personalities are the icing on the cake.

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 4 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      Herzberg points to different factors on satisfaction and motivaation. What's key here is that there are specific factors that help improve it and another set that diminishes it. Employers need to understand what their employees need.

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