Setting aside the enormous power of our habits, several times each day, we still have a conscious choice to make. While we usually fail to notice that, each of them is inevitably influenced by complex set of biases. And there are literally hundreds of these. Just see this amazing infographic. Despite corporate pushes to always make the best choice possible, finding an optimal one is quite tricky. I even dare to say it’s impossible, given that there’s always a set of factors we’re not even aware of. If we care to be on the spot, usually we’ll just be close enough.
But what if we could do one simple thing to improve the process? Just a small tiny detail? Wouldn’t that be good?
A few years ago, the key employee of my client notified them of canceling his contract. Do you know what the CEO said upon hearing the news? “Damn, that’s bad.” Then he started figuring a way to handle the situation, as everyone would expect. Disbelief, anger, disappointment – all underlined with a notion of uncertain future. To ensure everyone else that things aren’t actually that bad, he called for an all employee meeting, sharing the optimistic operational data and mentioning several promising prospects. He’s never done that before.
As you can imagine, he clearly overdone it, prompting more employees to consider quitting.
A few months ago, a friend of mine – somewhat tired of her current employment – heard that competing business was to open nearby. Even more, they were fishing the job market for people just like her. All she could say was, clearly, “That’s good news!” With new optimism, she updated her resume and filed it instantly. You could see her eyes brightening up and cheering. With emotions and hopes storming within, she started to underperform at work. An ad-hoc feedback session, with HR member involved was, in her perception, just brutal.
The new business didn’t hire her.
A few weeks ago, as I was preparing to leave home in the morning, I checked the weather. It was to be foggy, moisty, and substantially colder than the day before. I distinctly recall saying to myself, “What a bad weather!” As I drove to a client, I kept thinking if any of my plans need updating due to unexpected conditions. As pessimism filled my heart and brain, the obstacles started piling up. I called my assistant and asked her to postpone important meeting to another day.
Then, out of nowhere, a viral thought manifested in my mind. It was strong enough to leave me missing one green light and pushing the envelope of everyone’s behind me tolerance to stupid drivers to their very limits. What if we all used wrong words?
As humans, we’re driven by emotions and gut feeling more than we would ever admit. It’s not really a bad thing. We’re perfect in our imperfection, that’s what makes us human.
The catch is that we can invoke these emotions with incredible ease. And they bias even more, for no valid reason whatsoever. Words like good, bad, great, fantastic – all impact our decision making. Which is sad, as they’re mere opinions, not facts.
What the CEO could’ve said instead? “Okay, that will impact our plans.” That’s a fact. “Damn, that’s bad” is an opinion. Ironically, business can actually benefit from departure of key employee – it sparks evolution, a change, an improvement of process to be more resilient in the future.
My friend? “So I have second career option.” It’s neither good, nor bad, just statement of a fact. And being happy of alternative option is likely to yield better results than being happy because, well, it’s good news.
Myself? “Okay, there’s fog outside”. As many of us, I was programmed in my childhood to automatically associate rainy days and fog with something bad. You know, “Don’t go outside, the weather is bad.” That’s beyond pointless. The weather just is. As are career options. As are events impacting businesses.
Now scroll up and read the last sentence of the second paragraph.
“Wouldn’t that be good?”
I think that stating it like “Wouldn’t that yield more benefits?” would’ve been more factual.
Just give it a shot. You’ll be surprised.