Suppose you are interviewing a new job applicant and you feel that something is missing. You can’t put your finger on it, but you’re a little worried about this person. He says all the right things, his biography is excellent, he would do a perfect job for this job – except that your gut tells you the opposite.
Should you go with your gut?
In such cases, my reaction should be to suspect your gut. Research shows that meetings with candidates are in fact weak indicators of future job performance.
Unfortunately, most employers tend to trust their courage and hire people they like and accept within the group, rather than just the most qualified applicants. In other cases, it makes sense to rely on the gut instinct to make decisions.
Again, research on decision-making shows that most business leaders do not know when to rely on their guts and when. Although most studies have focused on managers and managers, research shows that the same problem applies to physicians, therapists, and other professionals.
This is a challenge I face when I consult with companies to better manage their relationships with workplaces. Research by me and others on decision-making offers some tips that we need to listen to and not do.
Intestine or head
The reactions in our gut are in a more primitive, emotional, and intuitive part of our brain that allows us to survive in our ancestral environment. Tribal loyalty and the immediate recognition of a friend or foe were especially helpful to thrive in this environment.
In modern society, our survival is less at risk, and our gut will force us to focus on the wrong information to make decisions at work and elsewhere.
For example, is the candidate mentioned above similar to you in terms of race, gender, and socioeconomics? Even seemingly small things like clothing choices, speech style, and gestures can make a big difference in determining how you value another person. According to non-verbal communication research, we love people who mimic our tone, body language, and word choices. Our courage automatically determines that those people belong to our tribe and are friends with us, raising their status in our eyes.
This rapid, automatic response of our emotions represents the autopilot thinking system, one of the two thought systems in our brain. It often makes good decisions, but also makes certain systematic thinking mistakes that scientists regularly refer to as cognitive tendencies.
Another system of thought known as a deliberate system is intentional and reflective. It takes effort to open, but it can catch and eliminate the thinking mistakes made by our automatic pilots. In this way, we can solve the systematic mistakes made by the brain in our workplace relationships and other areas of life.
Keep in mind that autopilot and intentional systems are only a simplification of more complex processes, and there is controversy in the scientific community about how they work. However, this system-level approach to daily life is very useful in controlling our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
Due to tribal loyalty, our brains tend to make the mistake of thinking, known as the “halo effect.” The “horn effect” in which one or two negative traits change our whole outlook. Psychologists call this “iron”, that is, we judge this person by the board of our first impressions.
To eliminate the bowel
Now let’s return to the example of a job interview.
Say the person went to the same college you went to. It is more likely to hit. Still, just because a person is like you does not mean that he is doing a good job. Similarly, being able to convey sincerity does not mean that a person is good at performing tasks that require more technical skill than human ability.
Research clearly shows that our intuitions do not always serve us well in making the best decisions (and bring the most profit for the businessman). Scientists call intuition a difficult decision tool that requires adjustments to work properly. Relying on such intuition is particularly detrimental to the diversity of workplaces and opens the door to bias in recruitment, including race, disability, gender, and gender.
Despite numerous studies showing that structured interventions are needed to eliminate bias in recruitment, unfortunately, business people and HR staff rely too much on unstructured interviews and other intuitive decision-making practices. Because of the over-reliance on autopilot systems and the tendency to overestimate our decision-making skills, leaders often resort to recruitment and other business decisions instead of using analytical decision-making tools with better results.
A good adjustment is to make a more rational, less biased choice that will result in the best recruitment, using your system deliberately to eliminate tribal sensitivity. You can list the ways in which the applicant is different from you and give them “positive points” for this, or you can create structured interviews with a series of standard questions given to each applicant in the same way.
Therefore, if your goal is to make the best decisions, avoid such emotional considerations, a mental process in which you believe that what you feel is true, regardless of the real reality.
When your gut can be right
Let’s take a different situation. Say that you have known someone in your business for many years, that you have collaborated with them on various projects and that you have a certain relationship. You already have certain stable feelings about this person, so you have a good starting position.
Imagine that you are talking to him about a potential partnership. For some reason you feel less comfortable than usual. You are not – you are in a good mood, you are well rested, you feel good. You are not sure why you do not feel good in a relationship, because there is clearly nothing wrong. What is happening?
Most likely, your instincts take subtle cues about the closure of something. Maybe that person blinks and doesn’t look into your eyes and smiles less than usual. Since our gut is well regulated to pick up the signs of excretion, we have the courage to take such signals.
Maybe nothing. Maybe the person is having a bad day or not getting enough sleep the night before. However, that person is also trying to pull the wool over your eyes. When people lie, they behave in a similar way to other signs of anxiety, worry, and rejection, and it’s really hard to say what causes these signals.
In general, it’s a good time to consider your gut reaction and be more suspicious than ever.
The gut is important when we make decisions to help us see if something is wrong. However, in most cases when we are faced with important decisions about workplace relationships, we need to trust our heads more than our guts to make the best decisions.
Written by Gleb Tsipursky, Associate Professor of History, Ohio State University.
First published in The Conversation.