Doing the ‘Right’ Thing

Doing the ‘Right’ Thing In the last post, you have a new job as a tester for children’s on-line games. Larry, the senior designer and a fun guy, has asked you to work on a serious game without your boss’ knowledge. What is the right thing to do? What should you do? Obviously, if this were above board, you’d jump at the chance to work on a real game. But it clearly isn’t. You know what you should do. A good employee would not only say `no` but even tell your boss Malcolm. After all, they`re using work time. In the next post, I`ll deal with saying no but keeping quiet. This one is about saying `no` but deciding to tell Malcolm. Should you tell the boss? I bet you recoil at the idea of telling Malcolm, don’t you? Understandable. But in fact, Larry and his gang are stealing something very valuable. The company trades money (your salary) for your expertise. When employees engage in non-work activities during work, it violates that implicit agreement. So, if you’re against stealing, you actually should tell Malcolm. This still makes you kind of queasy? Let’s play out what might happen if you did….

The Big Career Chance

The Big Career Chance The career situation You have a new job as a tester for children’s on-line games.  Two weeks in, it seems like a pretty good place, with a lot of career opportunities. The obvious leader is Larry, the senior designer. You haven’t quite made it in with the pack but you’re hopeful. Testing Pen is a programmer. You’re reviewing the bugs you’ve found with her. Pen: Gosh, that’s a strange one. You: Yeah, and only happens when the forest background is playing. Pen: (opens the files)  Hmmm—nothing obvious, but I’ll give a look. You: Unless Larry intended some sub-routine he dropped. Should we ask him? He’s over there with Caleb. Pen: Looks like they’re busy. You: But Malcolm (everybody’s boss) wants it in production asap. Pen: Larry’s busy. He won’t thank you for breaking in. You: But… Pen: Trust me, you don’t want to get involved. You: Huh? In what? Pen: (looks back to the screen) I’m sure I’ll find that bug. What did she mean? But it’s pretty clear she doesn’t want to talk. Larry’s project About a week later, Larry comes to your desk. Larry: You must be quite the hotshot. Malcolm doesn`t go over…

Should You Fight the Status Quo? Usually No.

Should You Fight the Status Quo? Usually No. Since groupthink tends to support the status quo and is relatively unfriendly to innovation, isn’t it your duty as an employee of the company to fight it? Certainly, companies need innovation, even if they’re not very good at it (see my book: Creating the Innovation Culture). You can count on the fingers of one hand CEOs who say, “No, no—new thinking is not welcome here.” So companies need to minimize groupthink to maximize new ideas. But while it`s good for the company, is it good for you?  Not necessarily You’d hope that suggesting a really innovative idea would have your co-workers hailing you as the new Einstein. Well, might happen but equally possibly, they`ll spend the time explaining why it won`t work. But because you’re so enthusiastic, you keep pushing. If you do it long enough, you might experience an odd phenomenon. The group may see you as generating conflict by your continued persistence insistence. Groups tend not to like and even ostracize those who rock the boat and will often interpret it as a personal failing (“She’s so hard to get along with”) rather than an effort to help the group…

Can You Prevent Group Conformity? Maybe.

Can You Prevent Group Conformity? Maybe. Groupthink is a powerful but unseen force in organizations. In our example, you were wise to consider how you would be perceived by the group and it probably didn’t matter that you went along with the majority. But what if the outcome had been really important? Or if you were sure you had the right answer? How could you discourage conformity to open up the discussion? Below are ways to handle the most common groupthink. Groupthink/conformity symptom What you can do Confirmation bias. A group only considers information supporting what it has already decided is true. You can call the group on its actions. “I wonder if we should slow down a bit to be sure we consider all possibilities.  Jessica had a good point. Could you repeat it?”   Information cascade. As more people believe, the idea’s legitimacy increases and the desire for other solutions falls.[1] Again, bring the group’s attention to its behavior. “Whoa. I think Dan’s idea has great potential but Beth, you’re the expert in systems architecture. Do you think Dan’s idea will fly?”   False consensus effect. Overestimating the commonness of your beliefs and undervaluing opposing views.[2] “I don’t…

Dysfunctional Decision-making—Thinking Yes, Saying No or Vice Versa

Dysfunctional Decision-making—Thinking Yes, Saying No or Vice Versa Everybody wants to make good decisions but there can be situations where that’s not possible. Indeed, the way a conclusion is reached can be completely dysfunctional. Often due to a group falling prey to groupthink. Let’s work through an example. You work in a large document shredding company. The company needs a new strategic direction because businesses now post confidential documents to secure sites. The President’s note to staff asked for out-of-the-box ideas. Your chance for profile Your Director was attending these meetings but the baby came early and you`re her replacement. You have a great idea you can`t wait to table. Everybody at the meeting is more senior than you. It’s a bit daunting but also an ideal opportunity to get air time in front of managers who could promote you. The Director of Ops, Jeff, is chairing. The first dysfunctional groupthink technique Jeff: Let’s get started. Welcome, Steph. At the last meeting, we pretty much agreed to a new fleet of trucks to pick up both recycling and documents for shredding. Somebody: Yeah, the way to go. (general murmur of agreement) You speak up But you happen to be looking…