The Role of Perception
The Role of Perception
What is perception? How can a person’s perception of others impact an organization’s behavior? What are the positive and negative effects of using perceptive shortcuts when judging others? How are decisions in real world organizations actually made? How can our perceptions shape ethical or moral decisions? These are the questions that will be attempted to be answered in this essay.
According to Robbins, S. (2005) “Perception is a process by which individuals organize and interpret their sensory impressions in order to give meaning to their environment”. The role of perception in the decision-making process goes beyond the five senses (1) sight, (2) hearing, (3) smell, (4) taste, and (5) touch. The representation of perception in decision-making is based on a person’s internal understanding and personal analysis of environmental observations combined with past experiences. Consequently, perception varies from one individual to the next.
There are many factors that can influence or shape a person’s perception during the decision-making process. Robbins, S. (2005) identifies three types of factors that influence perception:1.Factors in the Perceiver: Personal Characteristics•Attitudes: feelings, beliefs or behavioral tendencies towards specific people, ideas, objects etc.
•Personality: individual behaviors, temperament, emotions or state of mind.
•Motives: reasoning toward problem-solving or achieving a goal•Interests: selective concentration on personal likes or dislikes•Experience: knowledge gained from past involvements or exposure.
•Expectations: what is hoped to be achieved.
2.Factors in the Target: Observed Characteristics•Novelty: uniqueness.
•Motion•Sounds•Size•Background•Proximity•Similarity3.Factors in the Situation:•Time•Work setting•Social settingHow can a person’s perception of others impact an organization’s behavior? To find the answer to such a question one must first understand organizational behavior. According to Robbins, S. (2005) organizational behavior (OB) is defined as “a field of study that investigates the impact that individuals, groups, and structure have on behavior within organizations, for the purpose of applying such knowledge toward improving an organization’s effectiveness.” Organizations are run by human beings, not machines. For that reason, a person’s perception can have either a positive or negative impact on an organizations behavior depending on the factors that influence his or her perceptions.
Ones perception of other individuals within an organization can influence the level of commitment as well as cooperation of employees within an organization. Take family-owned and operated (managed) businesses for instance. According to Barnett, T. and Kellermanns, F. (2006) “Securing the commitment and cooperation of nonfamily [sic] employees is likely to be more difficult if they do not perceive that decision outcomes, decision processes, and decision makers are fair or just”.
Non-family employee’s perceptions of the fairness of human resource (HR) practices in such areas as: positions of authority, wages, promotions, discipline and so on within family-owned businesses may vary depending on the existent of family influence within the organization. Barnett, T. and Kellermanns, F. (2006) identifies non-family perceptions of HR practices at three different levels of family influence as:1.Low levels of family influence tend to have little impact on the fairness of HR practices.
2.Moderate levels of family influence tend to have positive effects on the fairness of HR practices.
3.High levels of family influence tend to have negative effects on the fairness of HR decision processes and outcomes.
Clearly, a person’s perception of others can impact an organization’s behavior in many different ways because the overall organizational behavior is not just based on one person’s perspective but rather a collective perspective of all the employees within the organization. However, it is possible for a single person or a small group of people to affect an organization’s behavior i.e. the CEO, family members etc. depending on their level of influence or control over the organization.
What are the positive and negative effects of using perceptive shortcuts when judging others? Perceptive shortcuts can affect the quality of a person’s decision-making and performance. According to Robbins, S. (2005) some of the most frequently used shortcuts include:•Selective perception: selective interpretation based on ones expectations.
•Halo Effect: bias opinion based on first impression or single attribute.
•Contrast effects: assessment of persons qualities based on others with similar qualities.
•Projection: “Attributing one’s own characteristics to other people”.
•Stereotyping: preconceived notion about an individual based one’s perception of the group to which that person belongs.
•Self-fulfilling prophecy: “A situation in which one person inaccurately perceives a second person and the resulting expectations cause the second person to behave in ways consistent with the original perception”.
Positive effects of using perceptive shortcuts when judging others:•Simplify the amount of information being received.
•Having express knowledge of individual characteristics allows interviews to go quickly.
•Grouping people based on similar characteristics can help interviewers to extract applicants with specialized skills quickly.
•It is easier to judge an applicant positively if the interviewer perceives that they are alike.
Negative effects of using perceptive shortcuts when judging others:•Unwarranted conclusions from vague information.
•Having limited knowledge of individual characteristics can lead to hiring a person not suited for a particular position.
•Grouping people based on similar characteristics can lead to distort perceptions of applicants.
•When interviewers perceive applicants to be like themselves their ability to respond to the applicants differences becomes distorted.
These lists could go on and on, but notice that: in theory, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Decisions made in real world organizations are not quite so cut and dry.
How are decisions in real world organizations actually made? In real world organizations decisions depend great deal on the accuracy of managerial perceptions. However, due to the aspect of human nature (shortcut perceptions), the accuracy of managerial perceptions may vary. This often causes some managers to have inaccurate or unrealistic perceptions of an organization.
In one case study on the accuracy of managers’ perceptions Mezias, J. and Starbuck, W. (2003) evaluated 70 different managers and found that:About 35% of the managers had very accurate perceptions, with errors below 11%. About 35% of the managers greatly underestimated sales, with errors ranging from −75% to almost −100%. About 24% of the managers overestimated sales to extreme degrees, with errors ranging from 200% to 4800%. Overall, about two-thirds of the managers expressed unrealistic notions of their business units’ sizes in monetary terms.
Noticeably, several managers did have accurate organizational perceptions. However, the percent of managers with inaccurate perceptions was much higher. One would not have to speculate which managers used shortcut perceptions. Unfortunately, shortcuts cause a continual bias for error.
Organizations concerned with production growth, sales growth, manufacturing concentration and so forth need to follow a more rational decision-making process in order to maximize performance. The rational decision-making process depicts how decisions should be made. Robbins, S. (2005) lists the six steps in the rational decision-making process as:1.Define the problem: compile information regarding the problem.
2.Identify the decision criteria: identify all the relevant criteria that will be important in solving the problem.
3.Allocate weights to the criteria: rank criteria in order from most important to least important.
4.Develop the alternatives: list all the viable alternatives while being aware of all the possible consequences of each alternative.
In addition to the rational decision-making process5.Evaluate the alternatives: analyze and evaluate each alternative in reference to the solution to the problem and rank in order of viability to possible consequences.
6.Select the best alternative: the alternative with the highest rating for success and lowest rating for adverse consequences.
How can our perceptions shape ethical or moral decisions? First, one must look at the criteria for ethical or moral decision-making before determining how a person’s perceptions shape ethical or moral decisions. Robbins, S. (2005) lists three different criteria that can be use in making ethical decisions as:1.Utilitarian: liberal ethical element i.e. the greatest good for the greatest number2.Rights: legal or moral entitlement i.e. protecting the basic rights of individuals3.Justice: being just or fair element i.e. equitable distribution of benefits and costsEach criterion has benefits as well as drawbacks. For example:•Utilitarianism: promotes efficiency and production of the organization, but can result in a lack of regard for the rights of individual workers, generally minorities.
•Rights: protects the rights of individual workers, but can result in a decline in the efficiency and productivity of the organization•Justice: promotes equitable distribution of benefits and costs, but can result in more uncertainty in the effects on efficiency and profits.
Observably, these examples of the criteria for ethical or moral decision-making clearly identify the dilemmas of managerial decision-making. Consequently, one might be more inclined to see how manager’s perceptions of organizational values may sometimes merge with their personal values to form individual business ethical judgments. According to Hunt and Vitell, (1986):This ethical judgment is assumed to be influenced by deontological evaluations (doing what one believes to be right regardless of its consequences), teleological evaluations (assessing one’s action in light of its consequences in the tradition of utilitarianism), or a balance of these two perspectives suggested in the theoretical framework posited by past researchers and practitioners.
In conclusion: Perception is the process by which an individual obtains, interprets, selects, and classifies sensory information. Perception in decision-making is based on a person’s internal understanding of reality rather than reality itself. Therefore, a person’s perception of other individuals within an organization can influence the level of commitment as well as cooperation of employees within an organization. Perceptive shortcuts are a combination of various mental shortcuts used to save time in the decision-making process. Perceptive shortcuts can have both positive and negative affects in the quality of a person’s decision-making and performance.
Decisions in real world organizations are made by using a combination of perceptive shortcuts and the rational decision-making process. Ethical or moral decisions are shaped by a person’s perception of the balance between organizational values and his or her personal value system. Based on these findings, one can conclude that successful people do try to make rational and logical decisions. However, due to internal and external factors of perception not all decisions are rational and logical. The reality of it all is that people are people, and to err is human.
Barnett, T. and Kellermanns, F. (2006). Are We Family and Are We Treated as Family? Nonfamily Employees’ Perceptions of Justice in the Family Firm. Entrepreneurship: Theory & Practice; Vol. 30 Issue 6, p837-854, 18p, 1 diagram. Retrieved November 8, 2007, from http://web.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.apollolibrary.com/ehost/detail?vid=15&hid=101&sid=8db3f227-5161-4202-a37e-220847ed375d%40sessionmgr107Fritzsche, D. and Oz, E. (2007). Personal Values’ Influence on the Ethical Dimension of Decision Making. Journal of Business Ethics. Vol. 75 Issue 4, p335-343, 9p. Retrieved November 9, 2007, from http://web.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.apollolibrary.com/ehost/detail?vid=3&hid=9&sid=179955d8-0df8-48d7-ad28-786c88c92be7%40sessionmgr8Mezias, J. and Starbuck, W. (2003). Studying the Accuracy of Managers’ Perceptions: A Research Odyssey. British Journal of management. Vol. 14 Issue 1, p3-17, 15p, 5 charts, 5 graphs. Retrieved November 7, 2007, from http://web.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.apollolibrary.com/ehost/detail?vid=11&hid=101&sid=8db3f227-5161-4202-a37e-220847ed375d%40sessionmgr107Robbins, S. (2005). Organizational behavior (11th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.