An inherent puzzle in worklife is the process through which groups get stuck in bad relationships. People are motivated to thrive. Work creates opportunities to further one’s career, to have an impact, and develop capabilities. Most of the time, they manage things in this way. But people too often get stuck.
A longer time frame is an asset; a short time frame is a liability. Many dead-end processes start as a stop-gap measure. The address an immediate need but generate unanticipated consequences. At a team meeting, Bob feels irritated with Andy making a big deal of his participation in a regional meeting. Bob says, “Stop showing off, Andy. We’ve got business to do.” Bob intended to sound clever but came off sounding spiteful. Andy feels embarrassed and angry. His resentment can endure.
One element of a longer time frame is the capacity to delay gratification. Psychologist Walter Mischel conducted a long-term follow-up study of children who could delay gratification in order to gain a larger reward later. He found 20 years later that those who could delay gratification were more successful on many indicators.
A second element of a longer time frame is the capacity to more fully anticipate the consequences of an action. Insight into the broader impact of an action requires cognitive ability, life experience, and some emotional intelligence, because most of those consequences involve other people. It also requires some time. That is why chess clocks make the game more interesting: it is more challenging to sort through the downstream impact in a few seconds than in a few hours.
Impulsive action has an element of spontaneity but has the potential to harm. Worklife calls upon people to bring their longer term perspectives to bear. This perspective is not only relevant to business strategies but to relationship management as well.
When was the last time you wished you had reflected before acting?