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Labelling part 1

George Alexander Kelly

George Alexander Kelly, (April 28, 1905 – March 6, 1967), was born on a farm near Perth, Sumner County, Kansas and went to Friends University and Park College, where he received a Bachelor's degree in physics and mathematics.

He published The Psychology of Personal Constructs in 1955 and achieved immediate international recognition.
After the war, he was appointed Professor and Director of Clinical Psychology at the Ohio State University, where he remained for twenty years.

One school of thought is that human beings are mere organisms that are driven by needs and desires.

Professor Kelly suggested that people only require a motive for action if you believe that they are inert, that is not moving.
If, on the other hand, you believe that people are constantly on the move and active then no motive is required.

During his work he noticed that people were often labelled in a particular manner, for example, being lazy.
If the situation was analysed for evidence for the label it was easy to establish and justify the fact.
It was always possible to argue for the label given.

The law of the excluded middle

Eventually, Kelly established ‘the law of the excluded middle’.
In essence, if you labelled an item as ‘A’ then it could only be ‘A’ or not ‘A’. There was no other alternative.
So, if you labelled someone as ‘lazy’ then they must either be ‘lazy’ or ‘not lazy’ there was no middle ground.

The Law of the Excluded Middle is one of The Laws of Classical Logic.

Labels tend to stick for no reason based on enough evidence.
In this case the term ‘lazy’ defines the individual and becomes the reason for low performance with no real evidence to back it up.

When presented with a variety of behaviours to chose from a person (is motivated to) will choose the one that seems perfectly logical to them at the time. This may well be completely illogical to another. Many murders have been committed on the spur of the moment when, had there been calmer reflection, it would never have happened.

If you question someone about their behaviour they may well be surprised that you thought it was an odd thing to do.

The compilation of experience may well lead to the accumulation of possible alternative behaviours to choose from.
We realise this many times in our lives. We know that we did things in the past that we wouldn’t do now simply because we have gained in experience, that is, we now have additional behaviours to choose from.

Experience can be gained either by spending more years doing things or by training as a short cut.

Remember that people act according to their available alternative behaviours and not what you think they should be.
That is their motivation and not yours.

Poor attitude

Very few managers talk about workers having a good attitude (as it is expected with the job) but many will refer to the occasional weak performer as having a ‘poor attitude’. The expression of a ‘poor attitude’ means there must be those that have ‘good attitude’ in order to achieve good performance.

What does it mean to have either ‘good’ or ‘poor’ attitude?
How can anyone tell?

How can it be assessed?

There are a few ways that most people will assess attitude:

  • People watch the actions and behaviour of others and make an appropriate conclusion
  • On occasions people are told of the fact. By others no doubt and rarely the individual him or herself
  • From personal experience of the performance required and how it should be tackled

How can the above really assess attitude.
Let’s say that someone is doing the most boring job in the world.
Under normal circumstances an individual might perform this task rather poorly and be labelled accordingly.
However, when being paid to do it that same person might do a fantastic job.
On the face of it you might assume they had a ‘good’ attitude due to their superior performance.

Any second hand views of another’s attitude can only have been derived from observation in the first place which suffers the same problem as above.

In another situation, repetition of a less than favourable job may eventually win you over.
You might actually come to like and enjoy the task.

Trying to assess someone’s attitude based upon observation is hit and miss and is tantamount to guess work.

There is little chance of learning about attitude from the individual himself or herself as he or she will not usually know.
It’s common for people to do things which appear to go against a stated attitude.
Even if they were aware of their attitude an individual does not have to tell you the truth.

Judging another’s attitudes based upon your own experiences assumes that you not only know your own attitudes but have the right to compare them with that of another.

Can another be judged as lazy purely because you have a higher work ethic than the other person?

This can be a dangerous policy for management.
If you have done very well and perform at a high level with very little help and have a strong drive you will assume that others should be the same. In this way, you might believe that others should be self motivated and require very little input.
In some respects this can be called ‘management by exception’, that is, only go to the manager when something is wrong.

If this happens too much there will be little appreciation of any successes, no recognition of achievement and definitely little reinforcement. The result will be a drop in performance levels and general motivation.

The trouble with minimum supervision is that it makes the assumption that if an individual has some supervision it becomes tantamount to proof that this person is performing at a low level.

It is the managers duty to maximise results by maximising performance levels.
If a manager has no idea what’s going on then how can he or she manage properly?

Poor performance may be due to any of a number of reasons and nothing what so ever to do with the basic ‘attitude’ of the individual. For example, personal problems, irritation from being in a traffic jam, health problems etc.