Attribution theory is a social psychology concept that explains how people attribute certain behaviors to internal or external factors. Attribution theory suggests that an individual’s behavior depends on their perception of the cause for their decisions and actions. This means that managers need to understand why their workers behave in certain ways in order to make better decisions about how to motivate and manage them. With this understanding, managers can use attribution theory to “justify” worker’s behaviors by attributing it either internally (the worker) or externally (the environment).
In general, there are two types of attributions: dispositional attribution, which relates to a person’s beliefs, attitudes, skills, abilities and/or personality; and situational attribution which refers to environmental factors such as luck or circumstances over which the individual has no control. For example, if a manager notices that one of his workers is not performing well due to lack of motivation he could attribute it either dispositionally—by saying the employee lacks initiative—or situationally—by suggesting they are facing personal difficulties outside of work (Cury et al., 2017). In both cases the manager would be using attribution theory as a way of justifying why the employee may not be performing up to expectations.
How does attribution theory allow managers to “justify” workers’ behaviors
With regard to dispositional attributions, research suggests that when performance is attributed internally (to characteristics such as effort), employees feel greater responsibility for their performance and tend to strive harder in order achieve more positive outcomes (Conroy & Dobbins 1989). Furthermore, this type of internalized self-motivation is more likely than situational attributions when trying explain improved performance levels from one period of time another (Kanfer 1990). This can help managers justify any improvements made by an employee by highlighting their efforts rather than any external influences like changes in policy or resources.
On the other hand with regards situational attributions research suggests these are also beneficial as they can provide employees with relief from feelings associated with guilt or shame due bad performance outcomes (Van den Bosch & Poell 2018). By placing the blame on something outwith direct control such as lack resources or outdated policies can lighten any negative feelings associated with failure while still providing recognition for good intentions despite unfortunate circumstances -allowing managers verbalize appreciation without diminishing responsibility altogether.
To conclude then both dispositional and situational attributions offer useful insights into how managers can justify worker’s performances giving much needed context helping improve decision making processes throughout an organization. Through recognizing effort shown by employees through dispositional attribution encourages further engagement while absolving some culpability from unsuccessful outcome through situational explanation allows for greater understanding between manager and staff relationship thus creating healthier working environments overall .