Human Behavior at Work

October 27, 2020

As an executive coach my focus is on helping clients raise their leadership capacity in order to lead more effectively. This typically involves tweaking certain behaviors, so leaders can to bring their best selves to the workplace.

While changing one’s behavior can be extremely difficult, it is crucial in order to become a better leader. Keep in mind that behavioral change is not an event, but a process. It requires diligence and patience. It often means that you stop behaving in a certain manner in order to start behaving differently.

“People will do something—including changing their behavior—only if it can be demonstrated that doing so is in their own best interests as defined by their own values,” wrote Marshall Goldsmith in his book What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. “The higher you go in the organization, the more your problems are behavioral. The higher you go, the more your issues are behavioral.”

As much as we may recognize that our current behavior is holding us back, it can be difficult to change because that knowledge alone is not enough to move us forward.

According to Plato, human behavior flows from three main sources: desire, emotion and knowledge. It’s important to keep these elements in mind when trying to understand why we behave the way we do and in how we can change certain behaviors.

Desire

This is about the longing or craving you may have for something that will bring about greater satisfaction or enjoyment. In the workplace, desire drives the expression of your behavior even when it may not serve your best interests. Think about inappropriate comments regarding attraction to another person. Unfiltered desire may actually threaten continued employment. Desire can also provide the motivation or passion you need to initiate a change in behavior.

Emotion

This affective state of your consciousness enables you to experience joy, love, anger, hate, etc. Though some may think they can ignore emotions while at work, to be human means to be emotional and this is true wherever you are. But experiencing emotions at work doesn’t mean simply reacting to them. Instead, you should learn to leverage the information emotions bring about, which means not reacting to them in a way that may undermine your goals but responding to the wisdom they provide in order to behave appropriately. Understanding and practicing this can aid in your ability to initiate behavioral change.

Knowledge

Your knowledge informs how you behave. Though your intentions may be entirely clear to you, that doesn’t mean they are clear to others. Understanding that certain behaviors may be holding you back is very important, but it is not enough. The knowledge you have of your emotions and the desire driving them enables you to behave in a certain manner. This helps you understand how to bring about changes to behaviors that better serve your goals.

More than what you say, it is your behavior that demonstrates most clearly how you show up in the workplace. This behavior can either reflect well or poorly on you. When it undermines your what you intend, it is time for change.

I will be sharing an exciting announcement next week! Be sure to stay tuned and keep an eye out, I can’t wait to share this news with you!


Emotions in Decision-Making

October 15, 2020

Emotions impact our decision-making whether we admit it or not. These emotions are actually available to assist in evaluating an experience and then propel us to take some action upon it. We are informed through felt sensations in our body resulting in feelings that ultimately shape our views and perspectives.

While the US Senate is currently in the process of confirming Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, many are trying to determine how Barrett’s personal views will impact her decision-making as a judge on the highest court in the land. Judge Barrett has been very careful to state that she will rule based on the law and not on her personal views.

However, if we can agree emotions impact our decision-making ultimately leading to better decisions and that emotions help shape our personal views, won’t this mean that Judge Barrett and in fact all judges make rulings that are indeed influenced by the emotions they feel? Afterall, none of us are Spock-like characters devoid of feeling. 

Total objectivity was the goal yet impossible to achieve, I was taught as a journalism student. I suspect total impartiality for a judge is equally impossible to achieve. Experienced criminal lawyers say the outcome of a case is largely determined by the judge one gets. Exercising complete impartiality is a worthy goal, but should we really believe it’s possible to achieve and realistic to find?

According to American Nobel Laureate scientist Herbert Simon, emotions influence, skew or sometimes completely determine the outcome of a large number of decisions we make each day.

We shouldn’t rely solely on our gut instinct to make important decisions, nor should we deny the emotions we feel while deliberating with only rational thinking. Emotions, when correctly interpreted, can actually assist in making the best decisions. Trust your gut, but back it up with facts and data to support it.

Psychologists differentiate between integral (e.g., envy and regret) emotions and incidental (e.g., sadness and anger) emotions. Integral emotions are those caused by the decision, such as thinking about the implications of a decision causes anxiety. This anxiety is actually very useful information for you to consider and you may need to be more cautious.

On the other hand, incidental emotions should have nothing to do with your decision-making. For example, it you’re about to make a financial transaction, being sad or angry should play no role in this very rational decision and yet it often does.  When you are angry, it’s extremely important to take a breath and pause because you are probably not in a good space for making a rational decision and could very well result in a costly mistake.  

Because of the many ways our emotions can affect us, it’s important to be aware of them and take them into consideration whenever we are in a deliberative frame of mind. Emotions are there to assist or undermine us, but they can’t be ignored.

“When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with the creatures of emotion,” said American writer and lecturer Dale Carnegie. Use the information your emotions provide to help you make the best decisions.