Understanding How to Play Nice in the Business Sandbox
Remember back to your days of childhood. Life was simple and your only worries were how to keep your favorite toy away from your little sister and get out of eating your veggies at dinner or taking a bath each night.
Four Perspectives on Human Behavior: What Makes Our Co-workers Tick
As we strive to make sense of how our co-workers impact us at work, let’s first jump back to Psychology 101 and re-educate ourselves on human behavior and the whys and hows of what people do by exploring a “who’s who” of the business sandbox.
The Behaviorist Perspective- Sandbox Stimuli
For instance, if I am driving in my car, hear a siren and look for the
source, my thoughts and actions will vary based upon several factors:
- I see a policeman behind me- Am I being pulled over?
- I see a first responder headed towards me- Should I move over?
- I see a first responder heading away from me
In the above example there is a stimulus and a period of time between my response. The Cognitive Perspective is concerned with understanding what happens between the stimulus and our response and specifically how we use our attention, memory, perception, and cognition in the “stimulus to response” process.
As humans we are curious and have a need to create meaning in what we see and
experience. Every moment of the day we are exposed to hundreds, even thousands, of stimuli, which our brain’s processing power must respond to. Every trivial stimulus can be linked to millions of direct or indirect causes and consequences. How can we handle this if we forget why we walked into a room?
The adaptive response is for the brain to “simplify, omit, generalize and generally use shortcuts” using stereotypes, schemas, and heuristics. We create our own mental model to explain how the world works and how relationships come to exist between various things we experience. We intuitively explore our perception about our own acts and their consequences. Quite simply, our mental models facilitate our ability to make sense and meaning of the world around us.
- The anchoring heuristic, or anchoring bias, occurs when someone relies more heavily on the first piece of information learned when making a choice, even if it’s not the most relevant. In such cases, anchoring is likely to steer individuals wrong.
- The availability heuristic describes the mental shortcut in which someone estimates whether something is likely to occur based on how readily examples come to mind. People tend to overestimate the probability of plane crashes, homicides, and shark attacks, for instance, because examples of such events are easily remembered.
- People who make use of the representativeness heuristic categorize objects (or other people) based on how similar they are to known entities—assuming someone described as “quiet” is more likely to be a librarian than a politician, for instance.
- Satisficing is a decision-making heuristic in which the first option that satisfies certain criteria is selected, even if other, better options may exist.
How well do you know you?
- Think about your last success in the workplace. Why is it that you were
- Think about your last disappointment or failure in the
workplace. Why were you unsuccessful?
- Think about the success of a colleague. To what do you attribute their success?
- Think about a recent failing of a colleague. Do you attribute the failing to a
negative aspect of that individual?
Examine your responses:
In #1 Did you attribute your success to an internal characteristic about you? “I am smart, I work hard, I mobilized the team.”
In #2 Did you attribute your failure to some “thing” or force outside of you? “I didn’t have enough time, the team didn’t deliver, I didn’t have enough material resources or the right information.”
In #3 Did you attribute a colleague’s success to a cause or force outside of them? “They were favored, someone else really did all the work, they
In #4 Did you attribute your colleague’s failure to a character deficit? “They were lazy, stupid, or got ahead of themselves.”
The above examples reflect the Fundamental Attribution Error where we tend to attribute our and other’s behaviors and/or results of those behaviors to internal factors such as personality or character vs. external forces.
Examples 1 and 2 reflect our own self-serving bias where we attribute positive outcomes to our character and our losses to external forces. Psychologists cite low self-esteem as the cause of the self-serving bias.
Examples 3 and 4 reflect attributing someone else’s success to luck or a force outside of themselves and conversely their failings to negative internal traits.
The Psychodynamic Perspective – The Subconscious Sandbox
a person, especially subconscious, and the structures of personality. Sigmund Freud, considered the father of the psychodynamic perspective theorized that our feelings, motives, and decisions are actually influenced in a powerful way by our
past experiences, particularly in childhood, that are stored in our
subconscious. Our behavior is then pre- determined by factors
over which we have no control.
Are you trespassing in your co-workers’ heads?
- Almost never
- Half the time
- Almost always
Using a scale of 1-5 answer the following:
- Do you identify the intent of co-worker’s actions and use this to interact with
- Do you identify the reasons your co-workers do certain things in certain ways?
- Do you identify your co-workers subconscious motives?
- Do you help others to identify the motives and intent of your co-workers?
Heed My Advice
If you answered anything but almost never, you’re mucking around in your colleagues’ heads. Many have tried it and failed. Don’t do it, it’s ugly. I’ve even seen errant texts that were accidentally sent to the very person being psychoanalyzed which lead to verbal attacks, derailed relationships and in one situation a lawsuit which the employer eventually lost.
The Humanistic Perspective- The World is my Sandbox
- Competence: When we gain mastery of tasks and learn different
skills, we are more likely to take actions that will help us achieve
- Autonomy: We need to feel in control of our behaviors, goals, and
- Connection: Our need to have close, gratifying relationships and be liked.
Are you destined for greatness?
- Almost never
- Half the time
- Almost always
Do you feel that you have control over your life?
Are you highly self-motivated?
Do you engage in actions that will bring you closer to your goals?
Do you accept credit for both your successes and your failures?
People who are high in self-determination will rate themselves a 4 or 5. Improving
self-awareness, decision-making skills, self-regulation and goal- setting abilities can
encourage the growth of stronger self-determination.
Working Together in the Business Sandbox
Implementor, shares her experiences and observations surrounding six
facets of human needs, which she refers to as the “6 Cs”:
- Clarity: Without clarity, human beings are confused. People on teams must understand the purpose or vision of the team/organization, their role in it, and the outcomes/goals.
- Connection: People need to know that they belong on the team and in the organization. When feeling disconnected they become depressed, unenthused, dysfunctional, etc.
- Contribution: Successful outcomes from people on teams comes from how they work together and leverage their natural abilities and skills. When not contributing, people can distract or detract from the team.
- Challenge: People need to be challenged to continuously improve and achieve new levels of job mastery. Coaching on targeted results, new skills, and areas of improvement can minimize complacency on the team and retain top talent.
- Consideration: The need to be heard, acknowledged, and appreciated drives people on teams to have high trust and be vulnerable with one another, creating a more unified and successful team. When humans are not considered, they feel disregarded and can quickly become nonproductive.
- Confidence: Confidence leads to new capability and commitment, and is the best route to meaningful ideas and innovation. When your team stands in a place of confidence and bravery there is less fear, apprehension and doubt. Your organization can go forward, pivot faster, and nurture new levels of results.
So is nature or nurture in the workplace more important? Jeanet tells us we must first attend to people’s needs so we can then nurture them to be their best. When needs go unmet, people engage in dispiriting, damaging, even financially disastrous behavior. If managers and leaders attend to the 6 C’s they can create stronger teams and business powerhouses.
Are You Ready to Work Better Together in the Business Sandbox?
Now that you’ve learned more about what makes your co-workers tick and gained some initial awareness of your own sandbox behaviors, what will you do next? Are you ready to take the next step in learning how to play better together with others in the business sandbox? Small actions can make for big outcomes and working better together begins with each and every one of us.
Keep an eye out for part 2 of my “People Primer” series, titled “Brain and
Personality: What Makes Humans “Human” at Work” where we will explore
how our brain and personality foster workplace behaviors. I can’t wait to
share more insights with you about improving your workplace environment.
If you’d like to learn more about how I can help your employees, teams and
leaders work better together, I would love to hear from you. Email me at
firstname.lastname@example.org or schedule a consultation today.
I am here to help!