It’s May 2014 and Tony Abbot and Joe Hockey have prepared their first Federal Budget for the Australian public. With that in mind, I thought it’s appropriate to look at loss in term of human nature. It is relevant to us generally and as managers in the workforce.
Researchers show us, that the avoidance of loss is a far greater motivator than motivation to pursue gain.
That’s why the news leading up the Budget has been purposely leaked about the introduction of a Deficit Levy, and that the trip to the doctor will cost Australians more.
Pain and Loss: It’s how we are programmed
Our brains are wired specifically to look for loss, pain and danger.
The tendency to avoid loss, served our ancestors very well. If there was movement in a nearby bush, there was not enough time to investigate whether the noise came from something you wanted to eat or whether the noise was from something deciding whether you were further down the food chain to it 🙂
Our ancestors had to be on their guard, and those who were not, probably didn’t live long enough to pass on their gene pool.
So what’s this got to do with the modern office environment?
Loss in the workforce:
Sometimes change involves actual loss, for example when redundancies, retrenchments, performance appraisals and layoffs occur.
A restructure might mean a person could be demoted and therefore lose their social standing. It might also mean that pay and benefits are reduced. A relocation of an office might mean that a person may face new travel expenses or spend less time with their family.
If you’re the manager of individuals losing from a change, an understanding of the motivator to avoid loss helps you to acknowledge and manage the loss for that person. Here are few tips or lessons for leaders to consider.
1. Acknowledge loss.
Acknowledging the loss is much better than concealing or trying to lessen it. When leaders try to spin the explanation of a change, it’s so much more frustrating to staff and detrimental to the trust they have in you as their leader, than if the leader acknowledges that loss and empathetically understands impact.
2. Aim to preserve trust and goodwill.
A leader can lose the trust and goodwill of the people if they overplay good news or downplay bad news.
People have BS detectors. These detectors warn them to proceed carefully. To avoid being caught in the BS detector, a leader should not cloak bad news as anything other than loss. If done so, then leader will more likely to and retain the trust of his/her people.
Whilst most people can process and accommodate loss, it’s often the attempted concealing of loss that annoys people most.
3. 14 positive pieces of news to 1 piece of bad news.
Bad news and loss is such a powerful motivator that Duke’s Dan Ariely estimates that it takes as much as 14 good pieces of news to outweigh one piece of bad news.
Giving bad news is inevitable. But knowing how important it is to avoid loss, we should be aware that when we give bad news, like redundancies, lay offs and retrenchments, it’s best to be direct and then explain the reasons.
With thanks to the inspiration and good work of author Andrew O’Keeffe.
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