Observe | Understand | Respond

Friday, February 15, 2019

Values, Attitudes And Behavior

When I taught at the 17th Air Force Leadership School in the 80’s, we taught our students about the differences of values, attitudes and behavior.

At that time, the US Air Force was at the leading edge of how to successfully integrate people from a wide range of backgrounds into a cohesive harmonized group.

During the 80’s, many large corporations were actually studying the Air Force model to try to build better cooperation and collaboration within their companies. The companies that Forbes listed over the years as companies of excellence, with high satisfaction and productivity among their employees, were companies that had adopted the Air Force model.

Right now, you may not see this so much, but that is because the contract media has been deep into a demoralization campaign for several decades. Mainstream media does not reflect reality.

During that time the military was still early in the process of integrating women into the force. I was at the front edge of that process. I was often the first woman that the men had to work with, and I can attest to the fact that they struggled to make that adjustment.

Real racism was still an issue back then, too.

The Air Force did some research and discovered that it is difficult to influence a person’s attitude.
It’s almost impossible and not worth the effort to try to change a person’s values. But, you can have what is called “standards of behavior” required.

The reason for this is that people’s self-identities are tied to their values, and to some degree to their attitudes. When you try to change someone in a way that they self-identify, it triggers their survival mechanisms, and they resist the change.

Or to phrase it in way used in pharmacy terms, they become antagonistic to the efforts to change them.

The Air Force decided to bypass trying to change a person’s values or attitudes and instead focused on the behaviors. The decision to focus on behavior essentially solved the integration problem for the Air Force.

People could feel or think whatever they wanted, as long as that didn’t show up in their behaviors in the work place.

This is essentially the gist of professionalism.

A way of behaving that allows smooth, harmonious interactions in the workforce.

The natural result is that as people worked more harmoniously together, their attitudes and values shifted to be more respectful of each other.

A couple of rules of thumb came from this research.

  • Praise in public. Criticize in private. (To mitigate triggering the brain’s survival mechanisms.)
  • When counseling, focus on the behavior, not the person. (Which would include their attitudes and values.)