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3 Reasons We Make Bad Decisions at Work


It’s estimated that an average person has around 70,000 thoughts per day, and obviously, not all of them are productive. It’s not surprising that most of us make a bad decision or two every now and again. We’ll a look at some of the common reasons why we make bad decisions in hopes of preventing you from making them in the future.


(Photo Credit: David Goehring/Flickr)

Call it an honest mistake or a rash decision, but the bottom line is, a bad choice is a bad choice. As it turns out, a great deal of why we make poor choices can be explained by cognitive biases that sway us into thinking that the wrong choice is the right one. Business Insider illustrates 20 of these cognitive biases in its infographic so that you get a better understanding of how these biases affect your decision-making. Here are three that might seem familiar:

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1. Bandwagon Effect – The bandwagon effect is what your mom was referring to all those years ago, when she asked you if you’d feel compelled to jump off a bridge, if your friends were doing it. She was trying to save you from peer pressure (and herself from buying you that toy that “everyone” had); as an adult, resisting the bandwagon effect can keep you from making disastrous career decisions or bad calls for your team.

The bandwagon effect is a “powerful form of groupthink,” says Business Insider, and is often “the reason why meetings are often unproductive.” It’s difficult to go against the grain and feel excluded from the majority, however, sometimes being in the minority is what’s best for you.

2. Ostrich Effect – Better known as “burying one’s head in the sand,” the ostrich effect is our tendency to turn a blind eye to the realities of a given situation, usually because it’s in our best interest to do so. We are stubborn beings and when we want something, we will do anything to make it ours, even if that means ignoring the fact that our decisions could have negative consequences. It’s the risk we’re willing to take (or ignore) to satiate our needs and wants.

3. Overconfidence – There’s nothing wrong with being confident in life, but be careful not to get too sure of yourself, because you could be riding for a fall. Part of being successful is being confident, taking risks, and not being afraid to make mistakes, however, you also need to know your limits so that you’re not setting yourself up for failure. As Toba Beta says in My Ancestor Was an Ancient Astronaut, “Overconfidence precedes carelessness,” so be careful not to let your overzealous ego throw caution to the wind and cause you to make bad decisions.

Remember, you’re only human and you’re not expected to be perfect. However, making bad decisions over and over again is a problem, so hopefully having a better understanding of why you make poor choices will help prevent you from making them in the future.

Tell Us What You Think What advice do you have for better decision-making? Share your thoughts with our community on Twitter or in the comments below.

Leah Arnold-Smeets
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