Barney McFingers must be fired.
It is two in the morning and Lynda is staring at the ceiling. Barney has consistently slowed the team’s work, he is always an obstruction, and he gets harsh and complains every time someone suggests that he match the rest of the team’s performance. Lynda hates firing people, but the facts are the facts.
By eight a.m. Lynda is writing Barney’s “You Gotta Go” letter. Company policy is to have an exit interview with at least three managers. So she goes to Nate and asks if he will come. He looks startled, but says “Yes.”
She then goes to Joanne, who also looks startled, but says “Yes.”
Lynda then goes to HR to let them know that there is consensus about Barney.
Ten minutes later, Nate and Joanne show up in HR asking why Barney is being fired. They think Barney is not an obstruction, but that he’s been given way too much work to do and is bogged down.
Lynda’s logic was sound. Barney was not pulling his weight and had to go. When she visited her colleagues, she never even asked if they agreed. She just assumed they wouldn’t disagree with such sound logic.
Lynda is a victim of the False Consensus Effect.
The False Consensus Effect is no stranger to the modern worker. We make choices that are perfectly rational and logical given our current conditions. We don’t realize that there are other, equally logical, explanations and reactions that, when examined, could yield a much better outcome.
Logic, as much as we’d like to think otherwise, is impacted by context and we often don’t know the full context of a situation. The current Tea Party movement is an excellent case-in-point. The members of the Tea Party have limited information about the context of their beliefs. In that limited world-view, their claims make perfect sense. Smaller government means less control and more freedom.
Unfortunately, the truism does not tell a complete picture. While just about anyone you ask would support smaller government (myself included), only a handful of people are actually in or support the Tea Party Movement. This is because there are many differing views on the role of government in different contexts.
Most people who have been through a disaster appreciate the fact that there is someone to help with clean water and food. A quick search of Tea Party and FEMA shows that disaster relief would be very high on the Tea Party list of agencies to remove. While I’m all for smaller government, having been through a series of tornadoes followed by high heat an no drinking water … I was pretty happy to see FEMA and the Red Cross show up.
In business this happens often, we get to the end of a meeting and ask “Are we all in agreement?” Participants nod and mumble. We take that as a yes, but what was really agreed to? Odds are, the people at the table have lacklusterly agreed to something much less grandiose than is in your mind right then.
False Consensus can be dangerous and expensive. When you are moving forward, ask yourself often, “Am I sure I have buy-in from others?” You’ll find yourself asking and usually getting positive responses. But every so often you will be surprised – your assumptions are not common opinion.
Photo by Tonianne