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Irrational Thinking in the Workplace

May 22, 2017

What does it mean to be “irrational?” Behavioral economics identifies rational behavior as making choices that result in the most optimal benefit for the individual. Acting “irrational” means going against this vein of thought. A CEO giving up a lucrative job because he/she wants to retire early could be deemed irrational. I would argue against this, but, the point is we as humans have a hard time making decisions that are in our long term best interest.


We often (not always) eat too much, exercise too little, choose the wrong foods to eat, we don’t save enough for retirement, we make impulse decisions and we are quirky. Humans are emotional. We make plans… great plans, but end up not executing the vision. The majority of us have that gap where we know what we want to do, we just cannot pull the trigger. We are not supercomputers capable of processing all the information coming at us in a split second, designing complex equations and determining probability.


If it is true that we have a hard time making decisions that are in our best interest, how can we expect an employee then; to make decisions that are in the best interest of the company? Is it impossible? Some will argue yes, but for this article we are going to argue no. First thing’s first, the answer is not, “make the individual bow to the company and put the interests of the company before his/her own.” That is an old, yet all too common way of thinking. The company is most important, the company is #1, the company should always be first in your mind. No, no, no.


Managers, if you want your team members to think of the best interests of the company your environment and culture has to be top notch. What do we mean by this? Team members have to identify with the core values and mission statement of the company. Managers have to live their company values and model the behavior they wish to see. The ecosystem has to be one where team members identify with what is going on. If your team members feel valued, appreciated and understood, they will enjoy coming to work, enjoy contributing and want to act in the best interest of the company. Every manager wants a high performing team. You cannot achieve that without a high performance culture.


Team Members, if you want to contribute to the growth of a company please take a moment to understand their culture. If the culture does not align, Walk Away!


We need a supportive environment in the best of situations to enable us to work through our own interests. If you get stuck working with team members that are toxic it will suck the life out of you. Far too many companies do not take the issue of workplace culture seriously and as a result many of us are stuck in horrible situations suffering emotional and physical hardship as a result. Work with a company that fits your values and beliefs. You will be much better in the long run.


Our “irrationality” makes us unique. Accept it, embrace it and move forward not expecting perfection but striving for daily improvement.



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