Voting psychology or “voting behaviour” has an influence in business as much as politics. So as a manager should you ever allow things go to a vote?
Following the recent political elections globally it is evident that voting brings out the strongest of emotions in people.
So how as a leader do you consider your team’s feedback and opinions without bringing down a “political storm” on your shoulders?
The question I’m exploring is not “can you” rather “should you” invite voting and its associated challenges in business.
This article considers the primary considerations of how to approach this area for management based on publicly available research.
In no way am I a psychologist or a politician but I have been a manager for many years and student of the area for more.
These are my opinions based on material I have researched.
- Management 101
- Encouraging actions
- How and where to use voting
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The Why of it All
Firstly, in business the captain needs to know where the boat is going.
When you know where the boat is going, everyone can help towards that goal.
As a manager, keep it simple, you’re the captain.
Yet in a competitive world where opportunity, especially for creative staff, is prominent how do you ensure staff morale remains high and people want to stay?
How do you motivate people?
The argument for democracy is frequently made for and against democracy in the work place.
Caroline Potter of Monster suggests that A Factor for Your Next Job: Organizational Democracy?
Yet Vivek Wadhwa writes Democracy is a great thing, except in the workplace for the Washington Post
So as a leader which one works best for you?
The key is recognising change
Voting psychology is different depending on how many people are involved.
When your business is small, it needs a small crew and strong captain.
Yet as your business grows most managers lose sight of they now have an armada not one boat any more.
As people grow, some are quite happy to remain crew, whilst others have ambitions of becoming captains in their own right.
Recognising the change from when you go from one boat to two or more, is a key differentiation.
An admiral instructs their boats where to be but has to leave each captain to get their by their own means.
This “hands off” requirement is difficult as often an admiral has come up through the ranks and is a good captain in their own right.
It’s very hard to sit back and watch others make the mistakes you’ve made in the past.
How do you contribute effectively?
Do you want them on your boat?
Voting psychology reviews which management system works for the people.
As a captain you have choices. You know you can’t run the boat on your own. You need a crew.
So who do you want in your crew and what do they want?
Across the movies of the Pirates of the Caribbean collection, Captain Jack is seen in a number of stages of captaincy.
- The only one on the boat
- With his own crew of varying sizes
- Working for the Pirate King as part of an armada.
As we watch we see the fascinating choices of the crew.
From agreeing to work for the captain through to them throwing the Captain off his own boat.
As a Captain, motivating people to work the boat is what you want.
Yet it is their personal motivations are what actually what makes them decide if they want to stay or not.
What you’re actually doing is addressing personal motivations to ensure they deliver what you want.
The duplicitous nature of choice
As vocabulary.com defines it “Someone who is duplicitous is almost like two people, saying one thing but then doing something very different, even contradictory.”
In business the captain is working towards delivering the needs of the admiral.
The crew is delivering the needs of the captain.
Yet for motivation reasons the crew needs to believe that what they’re doing is benefiting their motivations.
Are you on the boat to make a wage or are you there to do what the captain wants?
Rousing inspirational speeches like Mel Gibson as William Wallace in Braveheart shows a leader asking people to fight for their own freedom.
Yet it is just as valid to say to fight for William Wallace and his cause.
The key aspect is inspiration. You’re getting people to believe it’s their choice to do something for you.
Where transport makes the world and ability to move from country to country easier, people have greater choices in which kind of society they wish to live in.
Voting psychology explores the approach of the populace to governmental voting.
Yet how people react in society is reflected in how people react to the business they work in.
Voting psychology and Science
A critical focus of science is that is repeatable.
Science: Glossary – Repeatable. A measurement is repeatable if the original experimenter repeats the investigation using same method and equipment and obtains the same results. N.B. “the same” results implies identical, but in reality “the same” means that random error will still be present in the results.
Knowing how a system works means that if you need a desired result you can perform the same steps and get the same results.
Trying to make people predictable is the focus of numerous sciences.
- Social science is concerned with society and the relationships among individuals within society.
- Political science is a subset of social science which deals with systems of governance and the analytics of political activities, political thoughts and political behaviour.
- Management science, is the broad interdisciplinary study of problem solving and decision making in human organizations, with strong links to management, economics, business, engineering, management consulting, and other sciences
Voting psychology is studied by political science.
Yet in a workplace that advocates everyone having choice can result in higher time commitments and lower efficiencies.
So using the concept of repeatable in science would mean that the “random error” factor is increased depending on people’s personal motivations at the time.
As a manager reading personal motivations is important.
Internal market research
Market research gives you the ability to find out the motivations of your customers.
In this discussion leadership needs to know where the business is going.
Yet at the same time leadership needs to find out the motivations of the crew to ensure they keep delivering.
If one customer wants to change the wrapping to red, whilst 10,000 others want blue. Would you change the wrapping?
As just mentioned, opening the floor to discussion can lead to lower efficiencies as people explore their motivations instead of working.
So choosing how you market research internally can be negative as well as positive. Choosing when, where and why becomes vital.
The emotions of voting
This “exploring” leads to challenging emotions which are part of current personal motivations.
The “mechanisms of affective influence on voting” are a primary focus of voting psychology.
In other words what emotions will influence you when people vote?
- Firstly surprise can magnify the effect of emotions.
- Next anger can make people objectively reduce their research and understanding of the choice.
- Also anxiety can make people read and study more about the choice they face.
- Furthermore fear makes people process more details and makes people delay till they know more.
- Finally pride and shame are motivations to make choices.
The act of voting itself can produce emotional responses that may bias the choices voters make and potentially affect subsequent emotional states.
A study on voters in Israel found that voters’ cortisol levels, the so-called “stress hormone,” were significantly higher immediately before entering a polling place than personal baseline levels measured on a similar, non-election day. This may be significant for voting choices since cortisol is known to affect memory consolidation, memory retrieval, and reward- and risk-seeking behavior. Acute stress may disrupt decision making and affect cognition.
Additionally, research done on voters in Ann Arbor and Durham after the US 2008 elections showed partial evidence that voting for the losing candidate may lead to increased cortisol levels relative to levels among voters who chose the winning candidate.
How and where to use voting
Picking your battles
As a manager you don’t have to be a student of voting psychology but it can help influence your decision making approaches.
As can be reasoned above, asking for people’s input is for management a potentially dangerous thing if used incorrectly.
Used incorrectly it is demotivating and invokes very negative feelings.
However used properly is deeply emotionally motivating and inspirational.
Consequently quite the challenge for a manager.
Strategic and managerial choice should never be opened to general discussion. The team needs one captain, one voice.
If people need to feel that they could contribute to a strategic or managerial approach, then provide a “suggestion box”.
Genuinely review suggestions on a semi regular basis.
Post it note exercises can be a more proactive suggestion box approach.
Following through on “what is reasonable” to achieve is important and improves morale. So what remains?
Where a decision is tactical, crew input can help when channeled as a “choose from these options” approach.
The very principle of Agile development is that the tasks to do are decided by the staff themselves, increasing their “opt-in” desire.
As the captain you have already generally decided where you’re going.
Voting represents a way of gathering informed data (market research) without opening the floor to discussion.
Now you need the crew to follow while enabling them to feel like it’s their decision.
Remember that after a vote, you will have emotional reactions.
Winners buoyed by victory sit alongside or opposite losers feeling resentment.
By combining emotion with imminent decisions it is possible to directly influence the direction of decisions as studied by voting psychology.
Put yourself in their position
Actors put themselves into the lives and roles of others.
This can help you reason out decisions before asking questions.
If everyone is universally forced into an action, the potential for rejection of the idea is much higher.
Get the choice right, you’re a hero. If any part goes wrong, you’re the villain.
Presenting people a choice to opt in and you have a better chance of getting a higher percentage of more motivated people.
The success or failure of the endeavor is reflected in their choice now as well.
Conversely too much choice leads to too many captains and no one crewing the ship.
Management science has identified many leadership approaches, choosing what works for you and your scenario is the only way your boat can operate.
Your team must choose to want to be there and how you enable that, is the power of their choice.
The greatest skill a manager must learn is addressing the motivation of each of their team members individually.