We have expectations from ourselves to be rational beings, maybe with very few exceptions. We certainly have these expectations from everybody else. This is most visible at the organizational level.
People HAVE TO behave rationally/reasonably/logically. We expect us, but mostly everybody else, to analyze the situations objectively, decide rationally the course of action and then implement it according to the plan. We expect to be computing machines that use predictable and accurate algorithms and operate with little or no flaw.
We expect this from our colleagues, the team, the leaders, clients and everybody in between.
Complete input, clean storage, objective processing and complete output.
I will not get into details as there is not enough space. I remember that only the introduction course at Psychology was one year long. I will however try to cover some things that will get us to RETHINK THE THINKING. I believe that if we manage to get a glimpse on how we operate, we will end up being better off than if we continue to expect and pretend the "machine-like" operating.
Let"s start by admitting that reality will never be perceived objectively.
The mere perception distorts the data even if only to store it. To be able to store the data for later access we need to connect it with other data. When we perceive we do it by filtering the data. Those filters choose what data they will store and after that they encode the data they got through (something like 0111010001101000011010010110111001101011). This is surely just the beginning because as the data stays in storage they don"t exactly stay, they interact, they change, they disappear or even create new data. As if there is not enough data contamination yet, the moment we search for, retrieve and extract it, the data gets modified again, selectively accessed and even created.
We have NO CHANCE of perceiving, storing and accessing CLEAN DATA. Think about working with this kind of thing. We do it, every day!
A fraction of this represents the Cognitive biases. There are a lot of them; however, we will talk about those that are most pervasive in organizational life. For an extended list I invite you to wikipedia "list of cognitive biases" and link from link from there on.
Since March just went through, and April actually, most organizations had the Quarterly Performance Reviews. Those awkward situations where employees and their leaders get together to argue about performance. Performance management systems have enough issues built-in them, but let"s assume for a moment that they are ok (for the sake of this article). The biggest issue is that they are used by people and for people. Here we have a new flood of issues.
The principle behind the Performance Management Tools is that if we record performance and we feedback those results to the people, we can influence future performance. Which seems plausible only if we consider the recording and the feedback as rational/objective:
The people that provide data to that process have serious operating issues (we will call them biases)
Cognitive biases are tendencies to think in a certain way. They represent a tendency to systematic deviations (including errors in statistical judgment, social attribution, and memory).
THE FEEDBACK RECEIVER:
False consensus effect - The tendency for people to overestimate the degree to which others agree with them. This leads to things like: "everybody thinks this", "everybody noticed".
The list is long and I invite you to avoid the google effect when you read it.
Considering all this I am not surprised that it takes a huge effort to start the PM activities and complete them. I would procrastinate them for as long as I could or I would perceive this organizational habit as being useless or unnecessarily painful.
Well, you managed to cover this article and to think a bit about all these biases. Remember when remembering this article that there are also these three:
The urge to do the opposite of what someone wants you to do out of a need to resist a perceived attempt to constrain your freedom of choice
The tendency to see oneself as less biased than other people, or to be able to identify more cognitive biases in others than in oneself.
The tendency to revise one"s belief insufficiently when presented with new evidence.
WHAT TO DO ABOUT THEM? Only ONE THING: remember that performance assessment is never about the past. Because of this, it"s never about WHO"S RIGHT and WHO"S WRONG. Nobody is right and nobody is wrong, and that"s awesome.
The only reason why we do PM activities is to LEARN FROM THE PAST and figure out what worked so we can keep doing that and what didn"t work and how we can change it.
The most used phrase in PM activities is "WHAT WILL THE FUTURE LOOK LIKE?" and "WHAT DO WE NEED TO GET THAT FUTURE?". All this can happen when there is a positive and human relationship between the two parties.
If we talk about the past, about who is right and who is wrong we get GUILT and SHAME, even if we win the argument. These feelings lead to helplessness, withdrawal, defense. People need to feel empowered to change their behaviors for the better, both parties.
Cognitive biases will always be there, there is no way to get around them. But we don"t need to. If we change the focus it won"t matter because they will contaminate data and people will focus somewhere else.
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