Our brains have evolved to be more attuned to negative events than positive events, a phenomenon known as negativity bias. While this bias has served to keep humans alive, it can have negative effects in the workplace.
One aspect of this bias is that we give more weight to negative events than positive ones. For example, a negative customer comment might have a bigger impact on us than a positive comment of equal intensity. Research suggests that the ratio of positive to negative events needs to be about 5:1 for things to even out.
Another aspect of this bias is that we are often unaware of it. It operates automatically and can influence our behavior without us knowing. This can lead to poor decision-making in business.
To avoid these pitfalls, it’s important to:
1. Recognize that the bias exists: Acknowledge that you may have a natural tendency to focus on negative events more than positive ones.
2. Use data to put events into context: Look at the bigger picture and consider all the information available. For example, if you receive a few negative customer reviews, collect all the reviews from the past few months and determine the ratio of positive to negative reviews.
3. Check your math and make the decision: If the ratio of positive to negative reviews is significantly skewed, take action. But if the ratio is close to 50:50, the math doesn’t add up, and it’s best not to make any changes based solely on the negative reviews.
By recognizing the negativity bias, using data to put events into context, and checking your math before making decisions, you can avoid the pitfalls of this bias and make more informed choices for your business.