A Leader’s Guide to Why People Behave the Way They Do Analysis
There are more than seven billion people in the planet. While people may share several similarities, there are certain differences that exist in each person’s behavior. These differences are visible especially in a place of work. If a person were to take time to observe his or her workmates, he or she would take note of the discordant demeanor exhibited by the co-workers. For instance, certain individuals complete their tasks in time and meet deadlines while others do not. These behaviors are not only vital to work relations but also out of office relations. The article “A Leader’s Guide to Why People Behave the Way They Do” by James G. Clawson explores how discerning human behavior can help someone to not only become an effective leader but also an amicable colleague.
Understanding human behavior is not a simple task given that people tend to choose sides of them to manifest or suppress depending on the situation and their influences. This is why in certain occasions, people may find it difficult to understand when their colleagues decide to behave in ways that they are not familiar with or ways they contemplate not normal according to their perceptions of them. Based on this understanding, Clawson emphasizes the need for individuals to note the similarities and differences or dissimilarities in human behavior in their quest of understanding why people behave the way they do in formal and informal settings. For instance, there are human characteristics that are universal such as drinking, reproduction, breathing, eating, playing, smiling and socializing among others (Clawson, 2008). The dissimilarities in human behavior can be attributed to differences in family, regional, organizational, national and sub-national cultures.
The first step in discerning human behavior is to comprehend the fact that people were born and raised in different environments. People have discordant and diverse backgrounds and these dissimilarities are what shape their characters and demeanors. It is no surprise that often the initial step taken by therapists in helping their clients is guiding them to see how their backgrounds and the environments they grew up in influenced their behavior. Irrespective of the current place of residence of people, their behaviors are normally influenced to a large extent by their family tenets and upbringings. These differences are evident in the workplace whereby certain individuals litter and leave water running and lights on while others do not based on their prior family training. The institutions or organizations that people attend or work in also influence their demeanor. Depending on the rules that are upheld by a given organization or institution, an individual will over time behave in accordance to the set rules. It is for this reason why employees of one company display discordant character traits compared to employees of another company in that some can approach work casually while others formally.
The region where an individual emanates also has an impact on his or her behavior. Depending on the county, city or town where a person comes from, his behavior may be influenced by that region’s culture. While in most cases people suppress behaviors influenced by regional, national and sub-national cultures, workplaces are not short of jests, taunts and prejudices about these regions. For instance, a person may make a well-intentioned or inappropriate joke about a colleague based on his or her place or country of origin. Such allusions of a person’s behavior to a certain region or country may influence the kind of relations that people have in workplaces in that some may take them as jokes while others may consider them as insults or discriminatory comments resulting in tensions at the workplace especially between leaders and subordinates.
On a personal level, this article has taught me not to prematurely judge people based on their behavior or character traits. It is easy to have a predisposed perception of an individual based on his or her individuality without understanding that a person’s individuality is the outcome of several external influences. For instance, a leader may talk harshly to subordinates, react in a hostile manner or make offensive and sexually demeaning comments to subordinates as a result of a previous altercation that he or she had with a partner. A subordinate who may not be aware of the previous altercation and has been a victim of sexual and physical assault before may consider the leader’s demeanor as extremely offensive and demeaning and decide to sue him or her. This example brings to light the need to know fellow workmates or colleagues on a personal level first before forming an opinion about their behavior. This will go a long way in building positive and lasting relationships despite the quibbles brought about by people’s demeanors.
There are key implications highlighted by this article on a business level. For instance, as a manager, one should be aware of his or her memetic endowment and motivations (Dawkins, 1990). These are vital because managers may sometimes make business decisions based on their desire or attempt to fill some psychological hole, only for the decision to result in business failure. In order to be more effective in working with, engaging and managing other people, managers or leaders must take note of the psychological icebergs that exist in the workplace and those exhibited by employees. This is because when people observe something, they tend to compare that event with their personal set of values, assumptions, beliefs and expectations regarding the way the world should be (Clawson, 2008). Understanding the gaps between what leaders or managers observe and what they expect could be the key to better relations at the workplace.
The values, assumptions, beliefs and expectations of the managers are not the only prominent ones at the workplace. The core values, assumptions, beliefs and expectations (VABEs) of every employee is vital and the only way for managers and subordinates to have a positive working relationship is to understand each other’s core values, assumptions, beliefs and expectations. This will help leaders or managers in guiding other employees through a change process. Once a leader learns of a co-worker’s or subordinate’s behavior that is based on his or her central values, assumptions, beliefs and expectations by observing, listening or testing, he or she can determine whether or not the assumptions provide a basis for demeanor that is in line with the objectives of the institution or organization. In a situation whereby an individual’s values, assumptions, beliefs and expectations do not match those of the organization culture, he or she can engage in extended mentoring or coaching or look for a better alignment in another institution or organization (Clawson, 2008). Finally, when a manager or leader discovers through personality tests that a person’s inappropriate demeanor is based on assumptions that are critical to his or her personality, the manager may contemplate giving the person alternative assignments since it is highly unlikely that the person’s core values will change quickly. These implications outlined by Clawson that are applicable on a personal and business reiterate the need for understanding human behavior.
Clawson, J. (2008). A Leader’s Guide to Why People Behave the Way They Do. Darden Case No. UVA-OB-0744.