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Types of Attitudes in the Workplace: Cognitive, Affective & Behavioral Components

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Instructor: Rob Wengrzyn

Rob has an MBA in management, a BS in marketing, and is a doctoral candidate in organizational theory and design.

Attitudes are a way of thinking, and they shape how we relate to the world both in work and outside of work. Learn more about the components of attitudes including cognitive, affective, and conative, and how they impact the workplace. Updated: 12/13/2021

What Are Attitudes?

Anyone who has ever had a 2-year-old fully understands the terrible twos and the attitude a 2-year-old can give you. While that person might be pint-sized, his attitude during the terrible twos can be over ten feet tall and bulletproof.

Now, not all attitudes are as intense as our little 2-year-old, but they are indeed present in every person, and they are part of who we are. Our attitudes are shaped by our experiences, and as we experience more, our attitudes can change. You see, attitudes are a way of thinking, and they shape how we relate to the world both in work and outside of work. Taking this a step further, attitudes have several different components, and those are cognitive, affective and behavioral.

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  • 0:05 What Are Attitudes?
  • 0:47 Components of Attitudes
  • 2:07 Attitudes and the Workplace
  • 3:37 Lesson Summary
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Components of Attitudes

Before we can discuss how attitudes impact the workplace, we need to understand the components of attitudes. Those components are:

  • Cognitive: This represents our thoughts, beliefs and ideas about something. Typically these come to light in generalities or stereotypes, such as 'all pitbulls are dangerous,' or 'all babies are cute.'
  • Affective: This component deals with feelings or emotions that are brought to the surface about something, such as fear or hate. Using our above example, someone might have the attitude that they hate pitbulls because they are dangerous or that they love all babies because they are cute.
  • Conative: This can also be called the behavioral component and centers on individuals acting a certain way towards something, such as 'we better keep those dangerous pitbulls out of the dog park,' or 'I cannot wait to kiss that baby.'

Each one of these components is very different from the other, and they can build upon one another to form our attitudes and therefore affect how we relate to the world. For example, we can believe pitbulls are dangeorus (cognitive), we do not have to hate the pitbulls for being dangerous (affective), but we could still try to keep them out of the dog park because of that fact (conative). Or, we could indeed believe they are all dangerous (cognitive), hate them for it (affective), and that would drive our behavior toward them (conative).

Attitudes and the Workplace

Taking this a step further, we can assemble some ideas of how these three components can impact the workplace. The challenge in the workplace is that now these components are tied to work functions, policy, procedures and organizational structure, as well as the people and individuals present in the organization.

For example, we could have thoughts or beliefs (cognitive) about managers in general, and those thoughts or beliefs could manifest themselves in not trusting a manager (affective), and thus we would never want to develop a close relationship with a manager (conative).

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