Feature: Managing Your Biases

Feature: Managing Your Biases

Feature: Managing Your Biases

Andrew Zolli is a futurist who spends a lot of time helping companies prepare for the challenges of the 21st century. Recently, he posited four biases that he believes are essential to understanding human behavior. Of course, in today’s world, the word “bias” has a negative connotation, but the dictionary defines it as a neutral term. It is simply “an inclination of temperament.” In other words, a bias is a predisposition we humans have to do or see things in a certain way.

While that’s an important insight for corporations trying to sell us something, it’s also a critical bit of knowledge for those of us who want to accomplish something, especially when that goal involves your work. If you’re trying to forge a successful career, Zolli’s list can help you better understand why you do what you do in trying to reach that goal. It makes you more aware of the actions and behaviors to which you are predisposed in managing your career and that insight, in turn, enables you to analyze the impact of those inclinations on your success or lack of it.

Zolli describes the four biases of human behavior as follows (with some commentary from me):

  • We bias the personal over the impersonal. We concentrate on that which affects us individually because it most directly affects the extent of our success.
  • We bias the tangible over the intangible. We focus on that which we can see and/or feel because we believe we have a greater probability of using it effectively.
  • We bias the present over the past and the future. We devote our attention to today’s reality because it’s the best way to control what is going to happen to us in the future.
  • We bias desirability over responsibility. We fixate on that which we enjoy because it is the most direct connection to a meaningful and rewarding life.
  • To a greater or lesser extent, all of us share these “inclinations of temperament.” However, while biases are theoretically neutral, the reality is that they have the potential to mislead us in the management of our careers. They can undermine our ability to achieve our goals by inducing us to make bad decisions or take inappropriate actions. If our biases are left unchecked, therefore, they can diminish our success and even push us into failure. Here’s what I mean.

    Biasing the personal over the impersonal. Obviously, each of us wants what’s best for our own careers and for our families who depend on us. Ironically, however, the key to a successful career is not the WIIFM factor: What’s In It For Me?. It is, instead, to adopt exactly the opposite perspective. I call this alternative perspective the WIIMF factor: What Input Insures My Future? The people who experience the most fulfilling and rewarding careers look for ways to contribute their talent to the success of the organizations that employ them. They don’t focus on getting the most out of their employers, but on giving the most to them. And that selfless inclination makes them extraordinarily more self-sufficient. No employer wants to lose or overlook a top performer, so a commitment to being the best you can be for your employer is the single best way to take care of yourself and your family.

    Biasing the tangible over the intangible. More often than not, the one tangible that most influences our career decision-making and direction-setting is our paycheck. Not only do we live in a consumer-based economy, but today, the cost of living is rising before our very eyes. For many of us, therefore, the primary goal in our career is the maximization of our compensation. That focus, however, can actually have exactly the opposite effect. When you make pay the key factor in accepting one job over another, you potentially subject yourself to a daily grind that disappoints and frustrates you. If work is simply something that you must endure to get a paycheck, your performance will inevitably slip and, eventually, so too will what you earn. What’s the alternative? Focus on the nature of the work. Find jobs where you are engaged and challenged and have a chance to perform at your peak. That’s the kind of employment that optimizes both the paycheck and the happiness you bring home from work.

    Biasing the present over the past and the future. The way most of us manage our careers is by paying attention to our job security in the present. We prefer the devil we know-our current employer-to the devil we don’t because that eliminates uncertainty and the need to change. Relying on the present for our continued wellbeing, however, can actually have exactly the opposite effect. In the current global marketplace, employers are banged back and forth by market forces they can’t control or even influence. As a result, they can (and do) promise job security, but they can’t deliver it. The only goal that makes any sense, therefore, isn’t job security; it’s career security. You have to keep an eye on the health of your career in the present and make sure that you avoid occupational obsolescence in the future. Since the state-of-the-art in every field is always advancing, you should continuously prepare yourself for the new responsibilities that development creates. You are, in essence, a work-in-progress that’s never done. Yes, that means you can never coast in your career, but it also removes the limits on where you can go and what you can do in your work. You have the security of being employable at every point in your career.

    Biasing desirability over responsibility. In these times of ever more pressing employer demands, many of us are paying more attention to the maintenance of a healthy work-life balance. We seek this “benefit” because we want to preserve our personal health and the health of our relationships outside the workplace. Our determination to strike such a balance, however, can actually have exactly the opposite effect. The term work-life balance, itself, implies that work is an onerous activity that must be offset with other, more desirable activities. When you accept this view of your work-whether you do so implicitly or explicitly-you consign yourself to a sweatshop-like career. You agree to 30 years or more of tedious, unfulfilling and fundamentally abusive work. On the other hand, when you accept the responsibility for ensuring that employment provides the opportunity for you to express your inherent talent in meaningful challenges on-the-job, you re-imagine your work as some of your best time. When you make it your job to find the right jobs for you, you transform your work into an exercise in self-fulfillment. It doesn’t need to be balanced, therefore, but simply integrated with the other important aspects of your life.

    If Zolli is correct about these biases-that they are inherent characteristics of the human species-then we must be cognizant of the angst they can cause in our careers. Rather than be alarmed by that knowledge, however, we should embrace it. The wonderful thing about the human species is that we can learn from ourselves. We can acquire self-knowledge and use that insight to change our direction and reform our biases so that they benefit rather than harm us. That’s my prescription for a healthy and rewarding career.

    Thanks for reading,

    Peter

    P.S. Please tell your friends and colleagues about the WEDDLE’s newsletter.

    P.S.S. Don’t forget to send us your new e-mail address if you move.

    This Issue’s Sponsor: Recognizing Richard Rabbit

    This issue of WEDDLE’s newsletter is brought to you through the generous support of Recognizing Richard Rabbit, Peter Weddle’s huge bestseller in a little book that is this year’s first choice for summer reading on the beach.

    Recognizing Richard Rabbit is a fable for adults, young and not so young. In the genre of Who Moved My Cheese, it’s a tale about some forest friends who make an amazing discovery by trying to help one of their own. They don’t uncover the key to organizational change, however, or to setting strategic goals for the enterprise. No, Recognizing Richard Rabbit is a much more personal book and its gift is unique to each and every reader.

    This story is not about self-improvement, but about self exploration. It is all about finding the secret to authentic living. To being your own true self. How does Recognizing Richard Rabbit do that? Unlike traditional fables, this tale unfolds in two synchronized journeys: one in fiction, the other in nonfiction. In essence, you are invited to tap both the creative and the analytic sides of your brain-to probe the whole of your inherent talent-so you can find the pathway to the person you were meant to be.

    Recognizing Richard Rabbit won’t be in bookstores for several weeks. You, however, can own it right now. All you have to do is call WEDDLE’s at 317.598.9768. So, don’t delay; call today. Make sure you have Recognizing Richard Rabbit packed in your suitcase for your summer vacation.

    Section Two: Site News You Can Use

    Bernard Hodes Group recently conducted a survey of job seekers on Facebook and found that customer service is still not what it should be the recruiting process. When asked to describe what happened after they applied for a job on a company Web-site, the respondents reported as follows:

  • 41% said they never received a response;
  • 28% decided not to submit a resume or application after looking at what they would have to do;
  • 15% said they were invited for an interview;
  • 11% said they received a timely acknowledgement of their submission; and
  • 5% said they received an acknowledgement some time later.
  • The fact that four-out-of-ten job applicants say they never receive a response is distressing to employers and recruiters. They believe they’ve made a concerted effort over the past year or so to ensure that every person’s application is quickly and politely acknowledged. So, why do so many people continue to feel as if they are tossing their resume into a black hole? While there are still some Neanderthals out there among employing organizations, I think the culprit for many job seekers is more likely to be their spam filter. The employer’s acknowledgement gets marked as spam and dumped in a file most of us never look at. How can you avoid this situation? Every time you apply for a job, add the URL or Web-site address of the employer to the “white list” maintained by your Internet Service Provider and/or email manager. That way those computers will know it’s a message you want to receive.

    The Conference Board explored the vacation plans of U.S. workers and found that the number of people who expect to take a week or more off is now at a 30 year low. Only 39% of the respondents in an April survey said that they were planning to take time off for a holiday over the next six months. Such a finding is understandable in today’s uncertain economic times; not only are people uneasy about being out of sight in the workplace, but employers themselves are depending on every single person’s contribution. Recent research, however, indicates that when you put off your vacation or ditch it altogether, you are undermining your health and thus your ability to perform at your peak on-the-job. To put it more bluntly, when you fail to give your body and mind a chance to regenerate, you’re not improving your job security, you’re hurting it. Why? Because the working-without-a-break syndrome greatly increases stress and the associated health problems that stress creates. Indeed, in a study published in 2000, those who failed to take an annual vacation had a 21% greater risk of death from all causes and were 32% more likely to die of a heart attack. There’s faux time off, however, and there’s actual time away from the office. If you have any doubt about that, just take a look at all of the Blackberries and Treos out on the beach this summer. If you really want to reduce your stress and recharge your enthusiasm for and contribution to your job, take a real vacation and invest the time to plan it carefully. According to a recent article in Prevention magazine, the average American spends just 4 hours preparing for a vacation. That’s hardly a meaningful commitment of effort, but may not be as bad as it sounds. Citing work by the American College of Surgeons, the article also notes that Americans spend even less time researching “a medical procedure or surgeon.” Go figure.

    Harvard Business Review published a new analysis of the glass ceiling in an article entitled “One Reason Women Don’t Make It to the C-Suite” by Louann Brizendine MD. The author posits that among the reasons for the dearth of women CEOs, COOs and CFOs is the reality of timing. She believes there is a “go-for-it moment in most careers, a point when hard charging men and women get their shot to separate from the crowd and put themselves on a path to senior positions in the enterprise.” The problem, however, is that this transitory moment is better timed to the male than the female brain. According to Dr. Brizendine, the chance to reach for the brass ring typically occurs in one’s forties, a good time for men, but not for women. In their forties, men have gained the knowledge and experience they need to compete for senior level leadership positions. Women are similarly prepared, but they are wired in their brain chemistry to focus on other things at that point in time. The author notes, “For reasons important to the survival of the species, women in childbearing years undergo changes that intensify their focus on the viability of offspring. It’s a passing phenomenon, but ill-timed for those with career ambitions.” It’s not clear whether this view is correct, but if it is, what should you do? If you’d like to see yourself sitting in the corner office some day, make sure your employer knows that. The fact that you opt out of the competition at one point in time doesn’t mean that you don’t want to opt back in at another. Given the all too human nature of most organizations, you’ll probably have to do some convincing of skeptics that you’re still serious about reaching for the top, but if you broach the subject with candor and sincerity, you might just find a receptive audience. After all, today’s organizations need all the leadership talent they can get.

    WEDDLE’s announced a fast-acting and effective antidote to slower hiring in a slow economy. It’s WEDDLE’s WIZNotes-Fast Facts on Job Boards. These books are a quick reference to job openings on the Internet and an inexpensive job search aid. Each WIZNotes includes compact, but complete profiles of the key sites that specialize in a specific career field or employment situation. There are WIZNotes for:

  • Sales & Marketing professionals,
  • Finance & Accounting professionals,
  • Engineering professionals,
  • Human Resource professionals,
  • Scientists
  • Women Professionals
  • Managers & Executives,
  • and

  • Recent Graduates.
  • Plus, there are WIZNotes on:

  • Finding a Job on the Web
  • Writing a Great Resume
  • All you have to do is select the WIZNotes that’s right for you. Each volume has exactly the information you need to find the right job boards and career portals for you. And best of all, at $12.95 each, WEDDLE’s WIZNotes are a bargain to boot! To order your WIZNotes, click on the link to your left or call 317.598.9768. Order today!

    Section Three: Site Profiles

    Site Spotlite … from the pages of WEDDLE’s 2007/8 Guides and Directories

    There are 50,000 job boards now in operation in North America and an equal number operating elsewhere around the world. The key to a successful online job search, therefore, is knowing where to find and how to select the best sites for your specific employment objective. WEDDLE’s 2007/8 Guide identifies 350 of the top sites worldwide and provides the information you need to determine which job boards will deliver the best opportunities for you. For example:

    Physics Today Online Career Center Network

    http://www.physicstoday.org/jobs

    Post full time jobs: Yes

    Post part time, contract or consulting jobs: No

    Distribution of jobs: International

    Number of jobs: 260+

    Salary levels of jobs: Not Reported

    Offer a job agent: Yes

    How long are resumes stored: 1 year

    Restrictions on who can post: Must be in appropriate career field

    Other services for job seekers: Career information

    Member, International Association of Employment Web Sites: Yes

    Get Recognizing Richard Rabbit Today!

    This issue of WEDDLE’s newsletter is brought to you through the generous support of Recognizing Richard Rabbit, Peter Weddle’s huge bestseller in a little book that is this year’s first choice for summer reading on the beach.

    Recognizing Richard Rabbit is a fable for adults, young and not so young. In the genre of Who Moved My Cheese, it’s a tale about some forest friends who make an amazing discovery by trying to help one of their own. They don’t uncover the key to organizational change, however, or to setting strategic goals for the enterprise. No, Recognizing Richard Rabbit is a much more personal book and its gift is unique to each and every reader.

    This story is not about self-improvement, but about self exploration. It is all about finding the secret to authentic living. To being your own true self. How does Recognizing Richard Rabbit do that? Unlike traditional fables, this tale unfolds in two synchronized journeys: one in fiction, the other in nonfiction. In essence, you are invited to tap both the creative and the analytic sides of your brain-to probe the whole of your inherent talent-so you can find the pathway to the person you were meant to be.

    Recognizing Richard Rabbit won’t be in bookstores for several weeks. You, however, can own it right now. All you have to do is call WEDDLE’s at 317.598.9768. So, don’t delay; call today. Make sure you have Recognizing Richard Rabbit packed in your suitcase for your summer vacation.