Behavioral sciences: how do they improve the work environment?

“We are predictably irrational”, Defined Dan Ariely. We do not always choose what benefits us most, nor can we sustain our commitments over time. If we are tired, hungry or angry, our decisions will be different from what we would make "rationally." Generally, we maintain some routines and choices because they avoid us having to reason and make decisions, not because we believe they are good for us or for our environment.

There are surprising examples that illustrate the above, such as the choice of coffee size at a Starbucks location. Experiments have proven that if they offer us only two options, a small glass and a large one, we will choose the small one so that it does not seem exaggerated, but if there are three options, the choice will be that of the medium, since nobody likes to seem extremist. This would be the reason to offer three options and not two. In this way people will buy a larger glass than if they only offered two options. Is this rational? No. Is it predictable? Yes.

Contexts, biases, concentration, spirit of the pack and long-term commitment

Context is a great influence in our decisions: "Why not steal if everyone steals" – many claim. Another incontrastable example is the case of exceeding the maximum speeds allowed on the roads. The typical answer is: “I drive at this speed because everyone goes faster than allowed, and we have to move at the speed of the traffic”

Being late for an appointment is another one of the most common cases. We are usually late because we believe we can travel faster than we can really do it. We overestimate our abilities. In many studies of social psychology, vehicle drivers are asked to rate themselves. 90% place themselves in the top 50%. This is mathematically impossible. But self perception is very subjective and biased.

People have a limited attention span and respond a lot to the stimuli around us. For example, when driving on the route, the maximum allowed speed is usually forgotten, which is why it is important (and effective) to remember the speed limit, through frequent signs.

Behavioral sciences teach us that the "pack spirit" is very present in humans and that we tend to imitate others. This point can be illustrated with studies linked to the promotion of the reduction of household electricity consumption. In them, it is proved that neither the economic arguments (how much money could we save), nor ecological (the environmental impact of our energy savings) are as effective when mobilizing the decrease in consumption, as the argument of indicating that the neighbors already They are doing it. We do because others do.

Behavioral sciences show us that we find it very difficult to sustain long-term goals. The determination to sign up for a gym and the willingness to improve our fitness are faced with the difficulty of training three times a week for years. This is where you are also looking for short-term objectives, feedback or feedback from third parties, and reinforcing the commitment can make a big difference. The challenge is to seek instant gratification in long-term activities.

Principles of behavioral sciences that favor healthier and quality environments

These tools can help us understand how to generate healthier, care and quality work environments. If we focus on workplace violence and achieve that it is frowned upon in an organization, if everyone knows that violent profiles are analyzed and that there are permanently both oral and written reminders about behavior patterns then the sense of the pack and the reminders about Relevance of the issue will hinder the outbreak of violent behavior in the workplace. On the contrary, if the issue is ignored, there is no work to raise awareness, remember and prevent, violence will be much more likely to manifest itself.

Codes of conduct are very useful tools, especially if they can be discussed and even built together. The permanent reminder of the rules, by graphic or audiovisual means, training or group activities are short-term reinforcements, to achieve long-term objectives. Having healthier, inclusive and respectful organizations is achieved if we understand that it is an ongoing task, since people are predictably irrational.

Tips to achieve (and sustain) respect for the rules and a good working environment:

  • Try to discern between what really matters to people (and not in what they say matters to them).
  • The incentive must be valuable for those who receive it and economical for those who offer it.
  • Permanently remember the rules and values.
  • Balance the long and short term objectives in order to sustain the initiatives.
  • Healthy contexts help healthy behaviors.
  • Evaluate the feedback, if the expected result is not obtained, try something different.
  • Collaborative incentives are more effective than opponents.
  • Never assume that people will do something just because it is correct.
  • Comfort will overcome reason: achievements must be sustained with work.
  • People will always try to beat the system. The creativity is infinite.

(*) Director of Innovation @ Reach and Managing Director of Integrity Meter.

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