"Poor" Decisions

It’s hard watching the riots in London and seeing those young people burn and loot their own neighborhoods without wondering what they are thinking. When two girls boasted to the BBC that they were “showing the rich that we do what we want” it may have provided an answer. Just not the one you think.

There are all kinds of socio-economic reasons that the uprisings in London, as well as many other parts of the world, have occurred in recent months. But the irrationality of destroying the very neighborhood you live in might be the result of scarcity. Being poor doesn’t just impact your wealth. It effects your decision-making.

Many studies have been done on the psychological condition of scarcity showing that when we are “poor” - lacking money, time, resources, even emotional connections - it skews our judgement and causes us to make bad decisions. Think about the mistakes you make when you are rushed for time, or the interest rates you're willing to pay on credit cards when you don’t have enough money. And who hasn’t witnessed the behavior of people who were emotionally needy. Not having enough creates an enormous stress in our brains and causes us to do very strange, and sometimes destructive, things.

There is an obvious lesson there for all you employers and managers: Be aware of the scarcities that exist in the people you depend upon. Decide whether not paying them more or providing them certain benefits is worth the stress-filled decisions they are likely to make when doing their job. Decide whether those tight schedules and accelerated deadlines are worth the errors or defects that will probably show up at some later date. And decide whether withholding those emotional connections, such as trust, recognition, insight, and inclusion is worth having your most important relationships walk out the door and never come back.

James Kane