People continue fill each day to its maximum. As the world appears to get smaller and move faster, lack of time to relax, think and plan may lead to poor choices, anxiety and incivility.
There is a myth that the Indians didn’t see Columbus’ ships because they couldn’t relate to such a large object on the water. It’s believed the myth is based on Captain Cook traveling to Australia. The aborigines didn’t acknowledge the ship until men approached the shore by canoe. Was it that the aborigines couldn’t see the big ship? Social scientists exploring this phenomenon of perceptual blindness believe the aborigines simply had other priorities. They were not impressed by the grandness of the big ship. They only reacted when the men in canoes approached, then identifying them as a threat.
Why weren’t the aborigines curious? These people were focused on survival. Like today, there was little time to ponder. Most employees are not in danger of starving to death, but struggle to keep up with workload, family and financial obligations. A survey published on workplace ostracism in the Journal of Management found 66% of the 262 respondents felt they were systematically ignored by colleagues. Ostracism is a form of bullying. How much of this is inattention or perceptual blindness?
The Invisible Gorilla, by Chabris and Simons reveals that humans see the world as we expect to see it. We use elective attention and miss much of what is right in front of us. While watching a video to count the number of passes one team makes, a gorilla can dance across the stage without being noticed.
People develop routines to get through each day. Routines allow one to move quickly and efficiently from one task to the next. Routines narrow our focus and may hardwire our beliefs. When employees are doing more with less, hasty decisions and immediate action are commonplace. There is seldom time to look back and evaluate.
Living without curiosity leads to narrow- mindedness. Social scientist, Leon Festinger observed the more committed we are to a belief, the harder it is to relinquish, even in the face of overwhelming contradictory evidence. Instead of acknowledging error in judgment and abandoning the opinion, we tend to develop a new attitude or belief that will justify it.
Humans are more prone to rationalize than to be rational. Neurologist, Robert Burton, adds that certainty is an emotion and there is no correlation between our degree of certainty and the probability that we are correct. The stronger our belief, the more inclined we are to develop perceptual blindness. This is how stereotypes are developed.
Stereotypes, like routines can be helpful and harmless until we take action that is not based on fact. Stereotypes, like routines allow us to make hasty decisions. Decisions without fact- finding; action without curiosity; without weighing options may create harm.
Organizational change guru, Peter Vaill, coined the term permanent whitewater in 1989, identifying the turbulent social and organizational conditions that managerial leaders face. Permanent whitewater, permanent life outside one’s comfort zone is felt through organizations today. Vaill advocates lifelong learning. Learning requires questioning one’s beliefs and being curious.
Employees have learned to survive in whitewater by creating efficient routines, and making decisions before fully evaluating options. Employees have lost the time to ponder, to be curious, to create new options; to learn. Curiosity can shatter stereotypes. Exploring others perspectives may provide understanding and lead to empathy. When people are interested in what others think and believe, it creates a healthy, respectful environment.
Recent RIF may offer tax refund
Employers who implemented an involuntary layoff or Reduction In Force (RIF) after 2008 may file a claim for a refund of Federal Insurance Contributions ACT (FICA) taxes paid on severance benefits. A recent Sixth Circuit decision, United States v. Quality Stores held that severance payments are not wages for FICA tax purposes. Though the case will likely be appealed, consult your tax advisor.
Stronger Reassignment Obligation under ADA
Until last month, employers have relied on EEOC V. Humiston-Keeling, 2000 to select the best-qualified candidate for a disabled employee who is requesting reassignment to an available position. The Seventh Circuit recently reversed its decision now mandating employers to appoint employees with disabilities to vacant positions for which they are qualified, whether or not the person is the best qualified, as long as the reassignment does not present an undue hardship and is reasonable. Employers should review their Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and internal transfer policies.
Association Discrimination on the Rise
The ADA prohibits discrimination against an employee due to an association with a person who is disabled. However, the decision in the Magnus v. St. Mark United Methodist Church case asserts that the ADA does not require employers to accommodate nondisabled employees. In this case, the employee violated attendance and tardiness policies to care for her disabled dependent.