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Attribution theory was developed in 1967 by Harrold Kelly (Youssef-Morgan & Noon, 2017), this theory describes the way in which […]

Attribution theory was developed in 1967 by Harrold Kelly (Youssef-Morgan & Noon, 2017), this theory describes the way in which someone attempts to explain another person’s results are reliant on internal or external factors. Kelly describes three factors, distinctiveness, consensus, and consistency (Schermerhorn, 2012) that help to determine whether outcomes should be attributed to them or if there are outside factors that are responsible. Here in the operations department, if Jon consistently makes mathematical errors that no one else seems to be making, we attribute the problem to Jon because he is the only person making these mistakes. If Jon consistently produces the same mathematical errors that other people in the operations department are making, this could be attributed to a problem in an Excel spreadsheet, or an external factor beyond his control, because multiple people are making the same mistakes. We would believe that the problem was not Jon’s fault. We generally would like to think that positive results are based on internal attributes, and negative results are based on external attributes.
Schermerhorn, J. R. (2012). Organizational Behavior. (12). United States: John Wiley & Sons. Retrieved from
Youssef-Morgan, C., & Noon, A. (2017). Industrial/Organizational Psychology (2nd ed.). San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.

Attribution Theory: Explain in detail to your boss what it means, focus on possible usefulness in managing your department. How do you address this request?
If my boss asked me to explain, “Attribution Theory” theory to her. I would start by giving her a layman’s explanation and grow on it with an example. Ma’am, the Attribution Theory concept was theorized by Fritz Heider. His theory was predicated on the belief that most people tried to understand the actions of others by casually analyzing internal and external attributions. Heider’s theory was furthered by others in social and psychological disciplines. This theory can be very useful for plausible analysis of an individual’s behavior. It should be used to identify issues with personnel in the section or directorate that may need assistance. As leadership you use this new tool to identify trends and schedule sit down meetings to ascertain the root issues of an individual’s problems. I would stress to my leadership that this is just for an initial assessment. You must have the follow-up meeting to ensure that root problems are addressed and the negative behavior is remedied. Additionally, it can be used to identify good behavior and one-on-one meetings can be used to figure out what are the circumstances that’s causing the individual’s good behavior.

Malle, B. F.(2011). Attribution Theories: How People Make Sense of Behavior. Retrieved from
Schermerhorn, J., Osborn, R., Uhl-Bien, M., & Hunt, J. (2012). Organizational behavior. (12th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. ISBN: 9780470878200


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