How can I get less defensive?

Always secure nicely!

Study with 950 managers examines the frequency and causes of defensive decisions

Although they actually know better, decision-makers often do not choose the best option from a factual point of view. Instead, they often try to minimize the risk to themselves. How often managers rely on such so-called defensive decisions and how a lack of communication and error culture causes this behavior has been investigated by a research team from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development. To do this, they interviewed 950 executives from a public institution.

Whether in a large private company or in a public institution: Executives constantly have to make decisions that have an impact on the workforce, the organization and, of course, on themselves. Ideally, they choose the option that is best for the organization. But this is far from always happening. Often the bosses choose the worse alternative from the point of view of the organization in order to protect themselves. This alternative can be more convenient, less headwind, or allow someone else to take responsibility if something goes wrong.

In order to research the frequency and reasons for these defensive decisions, a team from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development asked 950 managers from all hierarchical levels in a public institution in an anonymous study. Around 80 percent of respondents said that at least one of the ten most important decisions of the past twelve months was defensive. On average, about 25 percent of key decisions were not in the best interests of the organization. At the same time, initial results from DAX companies show that defensive decisions are even more common here.

A lack of error culture promotes defensive behavior

“Defensive decisions are widespread in many organizations. They exist in public institutions, in the private sector as well as in hospitals, "says Florian Artinger, research associate in the Adaptive Rationality research department at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and co-founder of Simply Rational GmbH, a spin-off of the institute At the top management levels there are decision-makers for whom many of the most important decisions are not primarily in the best interests of the organization, but first serve to protect themselves, reports Artinger There is a work culture in the team and the frequency of defensive decisions. "

The decision-makers were asked how they perceive the communication and error culture in their team, both important aspects of an organizational culture. Those who rated the error culture as bad made defensive decisions significantly more often than someone who found the error culture to be good. Often decisions have to be made in a complex and dynamic environment in which there is a risk of failure. In an organization with a positive error culture, failures are not stigmatized and you support each other, even when mistakes happen. A connection with the communication culture could also be determined. In a positive communication culture, everyone in the team has the opportunity to talk about ideas, opinions or concerns without fear of disadvantages. Executives who reported working on a team with a good communication culture made less defensive decisions.

“Defensive decisions not only cause significant additional costs. They also have a negative impact on innovation, leadership or customer satisfaction. In order for managers to make the best decisions for the organization again, they need a culture of mistakes instead of a culture of security, ”says Gerd Gigerenzer, co-author of the study, director of the Harding Center for Risk Competence at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and co-founder of Simply Rational.

KS / mez