Does your organisation keep facing the same problems? Does it keep getting stuck in the same ruts? Feel like there are some obstacles you just can’t overcome?
What’s wrong with your company?
But there is something happening with the people in your company.
Organisations don’t behave, people do — for more than one reason.
One of my favourite Far Side Comics captures this principle nicely.
You may think these builders just aren’t motivated to build the infamous tower straight. Instead, it’s the way they’re holding the plans. It looks good to them!
See, this construction firm didn’t behave, the members did. Were these members just unmotivated to do a good job? No, there was another reason for their behaviour.
Behaviour is typically explained by more than one reason. Yet instead of looking for other reasons, we often make a Fundamental Attribution Error. We assume the reason people behave as they do is simply an issue of motivation.
The Fundamental Attribution Error often leads us to assume the worst of other people.
We fundamentally make an assumption about someone else. We jump to a conclusion. That conclusion drives the rest of our behaviour. Then, we tell ourselves victim, villain, or helpless stories instead of seeing the situation for what it actually is.
There’s Always Another Reason
People often let us down and otherwise act badly for more than one reason. When people fail to live up to their promises, expand your view to include ability as well as motivation.
The reason someone acts the way they do isn’t always an issue with them being under-motivated to perform or over-motivated to make us upset. Maybe they don’t have the skills or knowledge to do what is required.
When we commit the Fundamental Attribution Error, we fail to look at other possible explanations as to what may be going on. But when we learn how to expand our view of others, we can begin to avoid the Fundamental Attribution Error.
Start with Heart
How do we expand our perspective and consider other influences on behaviour? We start with heart.
No, not their heart… ours! We have to take a look at our own motives before we can hope to address confrontations in a healthy way.
Rather than continue to assume you know the reasons for someone else’s behaviour, start asking yourself two questions:
Why would a reasonable, rational, and decent person do this?
Are they just mean and nasty by nature? Is it in their DNA? Not usually. Most of the time, there’s something else driving their behaviour.
What, if anything, am I pretending not to notice about my role in the problem?
Are you blaming someone else for the problem? Usually, confrontations aren’t one-sided. Maybe you didn’t initiate the conflict, but you played a role in the dynamics of the disagreement. Don’t ask if your behaviour contributed to the problem; ask how your behaviour contributed to the problem.
To get effective, improved results in our organisations, we have to examine what’s really happening.
- Consider what the people in the organisation are doing to contribute to the issue. People behave, not companies.
- Find out what’s driving their behaviour. Do they lack skills or knowledge? Is something in the organisational culture working against them? What social dynamics are at play?
- Be honest about how you are contributing to the problem. What’s driving your behaviour? Is there a role you’re playing that you haven’t noticed?
The same old work problem need not elude us. When we get to the root of the issue, solutions emerge that lead us through obstacles we never thought we’d overcome.