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A mental position with regard to a fact or state; a feeling or emotion toward a fact or state (Merriam-Webster)


Attitudes can be seen as the way a person views something or tends to behave towards it, often in an evaluative way. From the point of view of knowledge management, attitudes are important because they are defined as a part of individual competency, they help to provide a framework for our knowledge, they affect the organizational culture which includes both safety culture and knowledge sharing culture.

Attitudes and knowledge

In literature several functions are given to attitudes, see e.g. the categorization of Katz in [3]. From the point of view of KM, the functions related to knowledge and values are the most important ones.

People need to maintain an organized, meaningful, and stable view of the world. Attitudes and values and general principles can provide a framework for our knowledge. Attitudes achieve this goal by making things fit together and make sense. Attitudes also serve to express one's central values and self-concept. [3]


In the IAEA publications, attitudes of individual employees and managers are linked to safety and safety culture [1]. Attitudes of individuals are part of several safety culture definitions, see e.g. INSAG-4 [2], and in the three-level safety culture model, attitudes are linked to the second level which represents the exposed values [1]. The safety culture definitions recognize that attitudes are generally intangible, but they lead to tangible manifestations [2]. Attitudes are also connected to the characteristics of good safety culture, e.g. management's commitment to safety, which is linked to their safety attitudes, and the questioning attitude of employees [1].

Effect of attitudes on KM

In definitions of culture, attitudes of individuals are usually considered to be a part of organisation's culture. For example, in the Edgar Schein's three level model of organisational culture, refer to [4], exposed values and attitudes form the second level of culture. Thus, the knowledge sharing culture of an organisation includes the attitudes of people which in turn affects knowledge sharing. When designing a KM system for an organisation, one needs to take into account the underlying culture and attitudes of people. In an environment where knowledge sharing is not appreciated and knowledge hoarding is typical, the effectiveness of sharing tools might be low, and possibilities of a culture change may need to be considered.

Possibilities to affect attitudes

Attitudes of employees are greatly influenced by their working environment [2]. The IAEA safety culture publications give guidance in changing and improving safety culture [1]. Before culture change initiatives, an organization should conduct assessment of the current safety culture, including safety attitudes. Examples of surveys are given e.g. in [1]. Tools for changing attitudes as part of the culture change include using positive role models and putting effort in communication [1]. The possibilities of changing attitudes via safety training are seen low [1].


[1] Safety culture in nuclear installations Guidance for use in the enhancement of safety culture, IAEA-TECDOC-1329, 2002,

[2] Safety Culture, A report by the International Nuclear Safety Advisory Group, SAFETY SERIES No.75-INSAG-4, 1991,

[3] Wikipedia,

[4] Edgar H. Schein (1985). Organizational Culture and Leadership. John Wiley & Sons. - See more at:

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