Our brain has limitations in its processing capacity and doesn’t function like an algorithm. Whereas a computer can process seemingly endless amounts of data, a human brain is limited in the amount of information it can structurally process simultaneously. It simply can’t identify, process, analyze, understand, and visualize every single bit of information it is presented in a systematic and rational way. A deviation that occurs in our thinking process often leads us to make incorrect judgments which can lead to poor decision-making. Organizations benefit from actively fostering kindness. In workplaces, when people receive an act of kindness, they pay it back.
This information processing limitation of the brain is called ‘bounded rationality’ and this is what causes cognitive biases. Bounded rationality leads our brain to take mental shortcuts in the way it processes information. For instance, it may select, consciously or unconsciously, only some information it needs to make a judgment and/or take a decision, and leave out, consciously or unconsciously, other information. We make poor judgments and consequently take wrong decisions when we base ourselves on limited information.
There is a confidence gap – the under- and over-estimates on each side – in the minds of both novices and experts. The acute disappointment when the presentation is late and not what was expected leads to frustration in the team. For years business leaders have been told how important it is to be professional and that there is no place for emotion in the workplace.
For many people, hearing a colleague say, “Thank you so much” in the hallway, or a manager telling you “Great job” after a presentation was a highlight of office life. Now, these seem like traditions from another lifetime. Without water cooler interactions, casual lunches, and coffee breaks with colleagues, we don’t have the same opportunities for social connection as before. Without them, it can be much harder to find joy in our work.
We offer a humble suggestion: Kindness.
Complexities of cognitive biases in the workplace
Nonetheless, people are often hesitant to give compliments. Why? The idea of approaching someone and saying something nice can trigger social anxiety and discomfort. For this reason, we assume people will feel uncomfortable and be bothered by receiving a compliment when the opposite is true.
People are naturally sensitive to the behaviors of high-status team members. By giving compliments and praising their employees, leaders are likely to motivate team members to copy their behavior and create norms of kindness in teams. The power of kindness can mitigate the ill effects of our increasingly online social world. It is an essential leadership skill that can cascade through people, changing the culture of the workplace along the way. When people feel like they matter when they feel significant, they perform at their best and this benefits your customers/clients and your bottom line.