John Grubbs - When Training Matters

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Mary is always late for work, so she must not care about her job.  Chet takes too many breaks.  He is lazy.  Your son still has not cleaned his room after you told him to do so twice.  He is ignoring you.  Do any of these sound familiar?  If so, you are normal.  In social psychology, fundamental attribution error (FAE) is the tendency for people to under-emphasize situational explanations for an individual's observed behavior while over-emphasizing dispositional and personality-based explanations for their behavior. It is the tendency to believe that what people do reflects who they are.  We attribute their behaviors (what they do or say) to their personality and "underattribute" them to the situation or context.  Stay with me, and I promise I will clean this up for you.

To clarify, we label people because of their behaviors.  Yet when we do something similar, we justify the negative behavior.  As a business coach, I see FAE regularly.  Success comes from recognizing FAE in our own lives to avoid attaching labels to unwanted behavior.  This skill must be practiced and learned over time. 

Tom leads a manufacturing operation in Arizona.  He takes pride in being a student of leadership.  He cares deeply about the business and wants the team to be successful.  Tom is a top performer and maintains high-expectations for his team.  Mary is Tom's production foreman, and she reports directly to him.  Lately, Mary has been less vocal about problems and quiet during meetings.  Tom senses something has changed about Mary but cannot quite figure things out.  Her performance is still effective, but Tom knows something is different.  Thought gremlins start working on Tom's mind.  They have him searching for a label to explain the situation.  He thinks Mary is looking for another job.  Or, Mary no longer matches his intensity for excellence about work.  Tom seeks to find a label because of fundamental attribution error (FAE).

FAE is a common type of cognitive bias.  Yes, we get another bias to talk about this week.  Sociologists call this a...

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