Performance problems hang out in specific locations. All the dysfunctional behaviors seem to gather in a toxic cluster at the intersection of SEP Street and WIIFM Way. The road named for "Someone Else's Problem" is a narrow corridor twisting between solid walls that block off views on either side. The "What's In It For Me" path gets more traffic. It also attracts much attention because it is a slippery surface that manages to run downhill in both directions. WIIFM Way dead-ends at the SEP Street garbage dump labeled The Selfish Indifference Center. Kindred spirits congregate there.
Funny, that a few months ago I had drafted the core of these thoughts about how patterns form in the ways things go wrong, when lo and behold, fellow regular Chuck Czismar posted on the same topic.
Rather than discuss one example of sensible economic behavioral bias, let's consider the process as a journey. Which path was the start? Which is the finish? My theory is that SEP Street travelers arrived there from WIIFM Way. Those indifferent to consequences affecting others (those who are "not-me") find themselves sliding down the easy greasy slime of WIIFM Way to the crowded but lonely Selfish Indifference Center at SEP Street. The home of the heartless is filled with like narcissistic egoists all obsessing each about themselves, incapable of empathy with their fellow bottom-dwellers. They find it natural to exploit and victimize others because they lack the emotional stability or psychological governors that monitor and control normal behaviors.
Self-centered people obsessed with personal advantage can be remarkably callous to the needs of others. As far as they are concerned, no one else on earth comes before themselves; and they act accordingly. Innumerable observers have noted that people always do exactly what they want to do. Unfortunately, not everyone is capable of benevolence or concern for others. Even worse, a number of those soulless unfeeling walking dead have learned how to simulate socially acceptable behavior. Sociopaths can intellectualize to imitate emotions that are instinctive in normal personalities.
Modern technology has popularized evil and made its presence more overt today. While deleting the usual scam emails I receive each day, it became obvious how the Internet has simplified criminal behavior. Just a matter of a few keystrokes ... maybe the application of a language translation program ... and a few thousand deceptive solicitations are launched into the ether for global distribution. Sending out electronic thieves is easy. No need to leave the comfort of your home to loiter sweating or shivering in a dark alley waiting for a potential victim to pass, either.
Hate to admit it, but there are some seriously bad people out there. Given enough time, you will encounter them. They will show themselves by their actions. If employees, it becomes our responsibility to deal with them: to identify them and to deflect or discourage their offenses. Moreover, we need to create tripwires and maintain defenses against the depredations of exploiters who see all others as potential victims. Hope that falls within your Total Rewards skill set!
E. James (Jim) Brennan is an independent compensation advisor with extensive total rewards experience. After corporate HR jobs in manufacturing, he consulted to various industries throughout North America, became Senior Associate of pay survey software publisher ERI and returned to consulting in 2015. A prolific writer (author of the Performance Management Workbook) and speaker, Jim gave expert witness testimony in many reasonable executive compensation cases and also serves on the Advisory Board of the Compensation and Benefits Review.
Image courtesy of Chris Dobyns