Attitude, Economic Development, and Success

attitudeAttitude is a psychological construct, a mental and emotional entity that inheres in, or characterizes a person. Attitude influences an individual’s choice of action, and responses to challenges, incentives, and rewards.

How Does Attitude Influence Economic Development?

New research indicates that diversity in cultural values has a negative association with regional economic development within European countries.

The findings indicate that a complete analysis of the interaction between culture and the economy should not be limited to an analysis of the prevalence of a selected set of cultural values, but should consider also the extent to which such values are shared by individuals.

Polarized societies in which people disagree on key values are economically affected in a negative way because it makes coordination less efficient, resulting in lower quality of government and less public goods provision, said Dr. Sjoerd Beugelsdijk, lead author of the Scandinavian Journal of Economics study.

Workers in the United States trail other high-income countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in terms of work-life balance. The U.S. tops the list in terms of yearly hours worked and falls significantly behind other countries when looking at efforts to improve work-life balance.

The European Union (EU) explicitly forbids an employer to hire workers for a regular workweek of more than 48 hours. There is no equivalent restriction in the United States. While this restriction doesn’t limit hours of workers who hold more than one job or are self-employed, it is indicative of the general attitude on work-life balance in the EU.

Overall, a much higher percentage of U.S. employees are working 40 hours a week or more compared to the 28 countries in the EU. It should be noted that the EU includes many lower-income countries, some of which are not even part of the OECD, where lower wages make it more likely that employees will work longer hours.

For example ….

The major value that German businesses tend to hold differently than American businesses is the way they express community and professionalism. Along with the tendency to offer polite corrective input when social norms are overstepped, German colleagues are also likely to have a higher expectation that when one commits to a deadline for a deliverable. Setbacks and foreseeable scheduling delays are meant to be folded into a quote for a delivery timeline, and it really doesn’t matter what industry the company operates in. That’s because this value is about personal responsibility, including the responsibility to be honest about your capabilities while delivering quality work.

German professionalism draws from the culture of compartmentalization and social cohesion. When presenting a plan or idea, it is essential that Americans be ready to talk about details and to answer direct questions. This is because the professional decision-making culture prizes analytical reasoning and a commitment to the understanding high-quality, efficient processes that come with system-focused innovation. Going into a meeting with big picture ideas when one is not prepared to discuss the details about implementing those ideas would be considered a major faux pas in many German companies.

In the Workplace

Managers who take a negative outlook on everything usually cause employees to do the same. Negative attitudes cause employees to become cynical about their work, leading to carelessness. Managers who take on a negative attitude usually do so without realizing that it adversely affects the workplace.

A negative attitude can cause workers within a company to develop distrust. Employees can try to achieve success at each other’s expense. A positive attitude, however, can be a motivator that may influence employees to improve their performance and productivity

Differences in Work Attitudes

Americans are criticized by Europeans for working too hard, and not having any culture. Americans in Europe often criticize Europeans for having anti-business attitudes and being cultural snobs. The Asians, on the other hand, make Americans look extremely lazy. In French-speaking North Africa, we have a curious mixture of pro- and anti-business sentiments. Business and money are extremely respected, yet nothing works well. Businesses are extremely inefficient, and services are terrible (including government services).

European work attitudes, with their emphasis on free time for workers and quality of life came directly out of peasant attitudes and revolts against feudalism. Peasants were the lowest class of society, were highly oppressed, heavily taxed, and were at the mercy of justice systems operated by the social classes who took advantage of them. When we study Feudalism as a system, we do not normally address how the peasants felt about it. In fact, peasants did not passively accept the situation, century-after-century. Peasant uprisings and revolts were a common occurrence. Later, as Feudalism’s authority began to weaken, the new urban workers widened the base of the lower class, against the princes and the lords. The upper classes used nepotistic practices to maintain their control over the bureaucracy.

The remnants of these attitudes are found today in European attitudes toward work, where laws and the public demand that workers have plenty of free time and are not taken advantage of by those in management (the old lords and princes).

Promotions into management are not awarded to competent workers; rather only people who are from certain families, or who went to the top categories of schools are permitted into the management tracks. Decision-making in French corporations follows a strict hierarchy, and authority belongs to the office a person holds, rather than to the individual. French managers tend to make the decisions and collaborative teamwork is discouraged. Co-workers tend to feel in competition with each other.

American work attitudes, in contrast, were not not born out of feudalism, but out of freedom, individualism, and capitalism. One of the main reasons Americans left Europe was because they rejected the class system. (This is why American bosses occasionally make the office coffee, to demonstrate to workers that they are not above”others in social class.) In America, one’s social standing at birth does not prohibit one from rising to a prominent position.

While most Americans view themselves as working hard for a chance to get ahead, and believe in more possibilities in their future, employees in class-based societies usually don’t believe they will be able to get ahead, or be rewarded for their efforts, no matter how hard they work. Their societies are not meritocracies, and this accounts for their reluctant attitudes at work.

Business owners tend to exploit anyone working for them who is not a family member, while non-productive family members often have a title and a salary, while doing little. People are less often employed for their skills than for who they are, or who they know. Of course, this makes services notoriously bad for consumers. But even those who lament the exploitation of workers in their own workplace often come home and exploit the labor of those below them.

The Importance of Attitude for Business Success

Being in business is very similar to going on a roller coaster ride, there will be plenty of ups and downs. We will all encounter hard times, heartache, success, failure etc. The key is to realize it’s not what happens that matters; it’s how you choose to respond. A positive and forward-looking mindset is a muscle that needs to be exercised every day.

Too many companies bet on having a cut-throat, high-pressure, take-no-prisoners culture to drive their financial success. But a large and growing body of research on positive organizational psychology demonstrates that not only is a cut-throat environment harmful to productivity over time, but that a positive environment will lead to dramatic benefits for employers, employees, and the bottom line.



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