This article explores five social phenomena and gives examples of how they may occur in a business setting. If you're interested in this area, you may wish to read the following articles:
- Twenty emotions and feelings that drive motivation
- Twenty ways your brain helps you make terrible decisions
- Decision-bias in HR - are you making fair decisions?
“A small change at a certain point in time can substantially affect events at a later stage and alter the course of the future.”
EXAMPLE: An employee in a lowly position at a company is offered a move to another company for five times the salary. They decide to stay – the next day they are offered a promotion, and within three years are promoted to senior manager. The company that offered them the initial position goes bust.
“Subjects will improve or modify their behaviour in response to the knowledge that they are being measured.”
EXAMPLE: Telling an employee you’ll be listening in on a call will change their behaviour during that call, something that wouldn’t have happened if you’d listened in without telling them
“The more expectation placed on the people, the more that person will deliver.”
EXAMPLE: Increasing targets for sales staff will increase their output
“A small change causes another small change which causes another small change and the cycle continues, often resulting in a much larger overall effect that initially anticipated.”
EXAMPLE: Everyone at a company leaves between 5:30 and 6pm. One employee decides to start leaving at 5pm. Another employee decides to do the same, which encourages another one, and so on.
“The failure of an individual part of a system triggers the failing of successive parts so the whole system fails.”
EXAMPLE: A member of the finance team becomes ill and goes off work for several weeks. The other team members pick up his workload. One, already under stress, cannot cope and has to take time off for stress. Another makes a serious error and is suspended while the issue is investigated. The remaining members cannot cope with the workload and the management has to bring in new staff temporarily.
“Those in a control group being compared with an experimental group may work harder to overcome the perceived disadvantage.”
EXAMPLE: Assembly line workers being compared to a new automated assembly system will work harder to overcome the ‘disadvantage’ of being human.
Do you think these social phenomena are accurate or have no basis in the real world?
Jamie Lawrence is editor of global online HR publication and community HRZone.com. He is committed to driving forward the HR agenda and making sure that HR directors have the knowledge and insight necessary to make HR felt across the whole organisation. He regularly speaks to audiences of 250+ and has interviewed key HR industry names,...