A child is wailing two rows down from you on an overcrowded flight to Montreal. You glance over, wonder what the commotion is about and resolve to buy the overpriced earplugs (ok, they’re really headphones) that the flight attendant is proffering. Maybe, just maybe you might be able to get some sleep. Ten minutes later the wailing has intensified to banshee like levels. Why doesn’t the father do something? If you were the parent you would…
How many times have we had thoughts such as these? We see a situation, make a snap judgement and attach blame based on our pre-conceived idea of some personal lack of character or ability. What’s interesting, is that if we were in the same situation we would consider the external circumstances. Our child is crying because our flight got delayed three times, or we had to switch planes unexpectedly because of a malfunction, or little Timmy is teething.
This tendency to place emphasis on internal characteristics (personality) to explain someone else's behavior, rather than considering the situation's external factors, is the Fundamental Attribution Bias.
You: The Leader
You signed up to be the leader and you now understand that failures are a result of multiple factors. However, you may be alone in your thinking because of the information you have access to. As the leader, you have an opportunity to define how your team analyzes failures to extract maximum learning. You can teach them to interrogate reality and resist the temptation to point at a single data point or single person. Create a culture that avoids laying blame and instead focus on one that accurately tries to describe reality.
Author Edwin Friedman once wrote, “In any situation, the person who can most accurately describe reality without laying blame will emerge as the leader, whether designated or not.”
Now here is where it gets interesting: The leader who creates this type of culture is also creating an invisible force field that protects against "The Fundamental Attribution Bias" as those around you become more likely to look at all factors which contributed to any failure or defect. This team will also craft better solutions and workarounds to prevent future failures. How about that?
Leadership doesn't feel so lonely all of a sudden.
Why the Attribution Effect Matters on a Day to Day Basis
Clients: Why This Matters When You’re Hiring
You look at a candidate’s resume and notice that he took a lower paying job and a lesser title in his most recent role. You are about to put the resume on the discard pile and then stop – everything else about the candidate is ticking all the right boxes, is it worth the interview?
Candidates: Why This Matters in an Interview
Before you judge a person’s actions, words or resume consider the Attribution Effect. Understand that we have a tendency to perceive someone’s actions as a reflection of their personality, rather than external circumstances. In contrast, we are much more likely to look at situational factors when it comes to ourselves. This can make us rush to judgement and discard a worthy candidate, or become disenchanted with a member of our team. Ultimately, by understanding how the Attribution Effect can colour our perception we can become better managers, team members and hiring agents - and that is well worth the investment of time.
Want to read more about the Attribution Effect? Check out this Wikipedia article.
Your Next Step
No one should walk the job search or hiring road alone. At Clarity Recruitment we help others realize their success through a process that marries proprietary technology with unwavering commitment. Contact us today to take control of your career, or to partner with us to hire well.
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