Why Do So Many Leaders Screw Up the Return to the Office? (Video and Podcast)

8 min read

In planning the return to the office, leaders can fall prey to dangerous judgment errors which can cause them to wrongly assess their employees’ needs. That’s the key take-away message of this episode of the Wise Decision Maker Show, which describes why so many leaders screw up the return to the office. 


Video: “Why Do So Many Leaders Screw Up Returning to the Office?”



Podcast: “Why Do So Many Leaders Screw Up the Return to the Office?”



Links Mentioned in Videocast and Podcast


Hello, everyone, and welcome to another episode of the wise decision maker show where we help you make the wisest and most profitable decisions. And today we’ll talk about the wisest and most profitable decisions on returning to the office. Specifically, why do so many loop leaders screw up March, make serious mistakes in returning to the office? Why do they do this? How do we prevent it? That’s the topic and we’ll focus specifically on the dangerous judgment errors that caused leaders to make bad bad mistakes in returning to the office. Now, as the basis of this conversation, we need to know what employees actually want. In returning to the workplace and permanent boss pandemic work arrangements. We see that overwhelmingly employees one substantial remote work, over 75%, in lots of surveys, eight major surveys done by organizations like the Harvard Business Schools done by the Society for human resources, management, done by Microsoft, done by Slack, many other companies, organizations show that over 75%, depending on a survey, 75 to 85%, want work from home at least half the time, and 25 to 35% want full time, work from home. So that’s what employees want. And importantly, minority workers wanted even more. So we see that this is a major issue, there was a survey compared white knowledge workers and black knowledge workers and about 20% of white knowledge workers wanted to go back to the office Monday through Friday, nine to five, only 3% of black knowledge workers wanted the same thing, because they faced in office discrimination. Now, the surveys also showed that across the whole population, 40 to 55% indicated that they are willing to leave the companies if they’re not given their preferred work arrangements. So this is definitely a serious issue, especially in the context of the great resignation, where we’re seeing so many employees leave their companies, this is a big, big problem for these companies. And the major companies we’ve already seen making some big, big mistakes on returning to the office, companies that are the largest companies in the world, like Google and Amazon, they tried to force all their employees back to the office. Kind of that was their plan, go back to the office. And they had serious opposition from their employees and many employees resigned. And so Google on May 5, said that, okay, we’re realized we screwed up, we need to change our plans. And we’re going to now allow many of our employees to work full time remotely. Amazon also changed its plans and announced a change in plans on June 10. So this is the clear example where so many employees left. They have faced so much resistance and so much overhead to their morale, engagement and productivity, that they decided to change their plans. And of course, it costs many millions of dollars to make the initial wrong plans and then try to fix them. This is something that you don’t want to face in your own company and don’t want to follow their bad examples. This is not something to want. So this is a crucial area to remember that not only surveys show but real life examples of trillion dollar companies show that not listening to employees leads to really bad outcomes. Why then, are leaders of Google or Amazon and many, many other companies not listening to their employees on how much their employees like and appreciate remote work? What’s going on? It has to do with what leaders are comfortable with, with their gut reactions and their intuitions. They tend to trust their heart, follow their gut, and go with what their intuition says, right. And they had a successful career for 3040 years in the office in office environments. They can have accountability, they can have oversight, they can come and they can see their employees working, they can connect to their employees, leaders tend to be gregarious, and they want to feel connected to their employees, they want to have that social environment. I helped 14 companies transition back to the office strategically figure out what their transition back to the office in their permanent post pandemic work arrangements. And I’ve seen many leaders speak to many leaders who say that they’re really comfortable surrounded by employees in the office, it really feels good to them. So this is a personal comfort concern. leaders want to return to that normal life prior to the pandemic January 2020. They want to turn back the clock they’re very comfortable with this in office work. And they also have some organizational concerns. So kind of want one side is personal, what they feel comfortable with what they feel is, quote unquote, right. And then there are organizational concerns that are concerned with company culture becoming worse if they have substantial amounts. If workers work remotely or hybrid schedule a substantial amount of the time or working full time remotely. They’re concerned about burnout from work from home. And they’re concerned about problems with virtual communication and collaboration. And there’s a lack of accountability and oversight that they’re concerned about. So those are all concerns that leaders face and that they voiced to me. And so I had conversations with 61 leaders at these companies that I help transition back to the office. I need conversations, which is the basis for this podcast episode. And so they told me that these are their concerns. Unfortunately, they’re falling into a series of dangerous judgment errors called cognitive biases, by going with a gut by trusting their heart following their intuition. We’re taught that leaders are taught that they should go with their gut, follow their heart and trust their intuition. But this research actually shows that this is a bad approach to decision making, because our gut intuitions very often cause us to make bad decisions in new situations, especially but also known situations. And trust me, returning to the office permanent post pandemic work arrangements as a new situation, as a result of the major disruption of the pandemic, you should not not not use the same tools, methods mentality that you had, prior to the pandemic to this new situation. So they are returning to the office and permanent post pandemic work arrangements. Leaders are making bad decisions as well as other leadership decisions. In this context of recovering from the pandemic. This is a serious major problem. So let’s go through these cognitive biases. And there are five cognitive biases that I want to tell you about, that are really a big problem. One is called the status quo bias, the status quo bias. Leaders are very comfortable. We all are very comfortable. This applies to all of us. But we’re all focusing on leaders, we’re very comfortable with what feels right and what feels the case. And that’s the status quo what we’re used to. So status quo bias speaks to our desire to maintain the status quo or get back to the status quo, even if doing so harms our interests, harms our goals undermines whether our personal career, whether our organization, our ability to accomplish our leadership goals, we have a desire to use the same tactics we did before we have a desire for the same systems and processes, even if they have been bad consequences, as a result of us being blind to the major disruptions coming from the pandemic and how people really are different in their preferences, and in what they will accept and many people are leaving, because the leaders are trying to get back to the status quo, as we saw from Google, Amazon and many other companies. That’s the status quo bias. The second cognitive bias I want to share with you is called the anchoring bias, the anchoring bias, we are anchored to our initial experience, store initial information, leaders who succeeded in their career for 3040 years, they came to the workplace, and they became successful in it. Now starting in the 1990s, maybe before the digitalization of the workplace, so they’re really comfortable and familiar with office environments that are not mediated by digital communication. And they’re perceived that as the right way to be as the right approach. And there, of course, the digital revolution has come since then, but they’re really seeing it through the lens of their initial in office experiences. Whereas younger employees had a lot of virtual experience as they grew up in a more digital environment, you know, people who began their careers in the arts, you know, in the new millennium, they had much more of a digital environment as they were growing up. So they’re much more comfortable, familiar, and involved in digital activities. And so that explains why the leaders are anchored to their office environment and their employees are not, they would like to do much more remote work. So they’re anchored to how work should be done. And that is a big, big problem. The third cognitive bias you need to know about is called the confirmation bias. The confirmation bias. If you’ve heard about any biases, this is one you’ve probably heard about. It relates to how we look for information that confirms our beliefs. And then we ignore information that doesn’t confirm our beliefs. For example, when I’ve been observing companies and might come into companies to help them figure out what’s going on, I find that a number of them have not really done surveys of their employees on what they decide. And when I heard from other folks about what kind of what happens in their companies, is that the Tapley or CEO talks to her or his direct subordinates with other chief officers, and then their C suite talks to their senior VPS. And that’s all and remember, the list are all people in their leadership position. So when they saw your text about the C suite disease, we talked to the senior VPS about what they wanted and returned to the office burn boss pandemic. work arrangements, they all give pretty similar answers about, you know, we want back to office culture, that’s kind of what we succeed in. And they don’t think about, well, how do we figure out what is actually desired of the rest of the population in our company. And then what would be the consequences if we try to impose our perspective on them. So they, I’ve done a survey, for example, I’ve done the survey for major PR executives, I’ve done work with a major PR executive group that has many, many 1000s of employees, of leaders, CEOs, in peer executive groups across the world, especially in the United States. And the survey that they did of the leadership showed that their executives and this is middle market companies ranging from 50 to 2000. People, over 50% of the leaders did not do of these companies did not do surveys of their employees 100 returning to the workplace, and that is a big problem. So they don’t have the hard data, they don’t look for it. And they deliberately ignore it. If it appears on major damage from forced office work, such as those in the village, they didn’t do their own surveys, such as these major external surveys. So that’s a big, big problem. A related problem is called the false consensus effect, the false consensus effect. Leaders tend to believe that others in their companies and their tribes and their groups, that they share their preferences, they share their predispositions, they share their desires. And, you know, the CEO might think that well, even employees of my company say that they want to stay home full time or you know, not come in more than one or two days a week. In reality, it’s not a strong desire, they’ll accept that if I tell them that you must go back to the office. And you know what, that is how Google and Amazon and many other companies that are now reversing their course, lost many millions of dollars. I mean, trust me, what is Google comm? It’s a trillion dollar company. They lost many millions of dollars in top talent. Same thing for Amazon, top talent leaving hits morale and then having to change their plans, you don’t want to be in that position. So coming into the office, there were strong beliefs about what their teams wanted that were not realized. And that’s a big problem. Now, the fifth bias that you really want to know about is called functional fixedness, functional fixedness. That has to do with how we perceive the changing of what we’re doing in regard to a certain situation. So when we have a certain way of functioning, we perceive it as the only right way to function. It’s also expressed in a popular Macau saying about the hammer and the nail, when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. So when you have a certain way of doing office work, everything looks like you should do it that way. And that especially applies to remote work, because in March 2020, lockdown companies abruptly transitioned to remote work, and they transpose their in office culture on remote work. And that led to a number of problems where their work, remote work was not very effective, was not very efficient. They had a lot of problems, hiccups, that they shouldn’t have had things like zoom happy hours, that’s really not a good way of moving people together. And many, many other problems. They didn’t train their people for effective virtual communication, virtual collaboration. That’s why you’re saying things like the poor virtual communication, collaboration being complaints, or work from home burnout, they didn’t train their people on how to stay within appropriate hours and guidelines. That’s a big problem. So you can solve these problems by adapting to the right way to work in hybrid cultures or in full time remote work. But companies did not do so because they perceive that there is only one right way of working remotely. So transposing office culture and remote work is a bad idea. And failing to adapt strategically to remote work is also bad. So these are the five cognitive biases that cause serious problems for leaders. Now, what leaders need to do, and what you need to do to help leaders if you’re not a leader, yourself, so kind of lead the leaders lead from below as the phrase goes to thrive in the post pandemic workplace, you need to make the best decisions on returning to the office to address these cognitive biases as you’re doing. So, you need to overcome these gut reactions, these intuitions and need to go against what’s comfortable and help your leaders go against what’s comfortable for them. make them aware of these cognitive biases, the status quo bias, anchoring bias, false consensus effect, confirmation bias, functional fixedness they need to be aware of and address these problems. And that is what will help you focus on what you really need to do, not doing what feels right or what intuitively seems to be the case. But you really need to look at what the hard data says about how you will actually act. optimize for what’s critical for an organizational function, retention of your talent, recruitment of top talent, which so many companies are as they’re recovering economically from the pandemic, morale of your team members, engagement of your team members productivity that we know from extensive research that people on average are more productive when they work remotely, especially in their individual tasks. And then, of course, the company’s bottom line based on all that retention, recruitment, morale, engagement, productivity, that all feeds into the company’s bottom line. And that is what you need to do to seize competitive advantage in the post pandemic reality. All right, everyone, I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode of the wisest session maker show, please click like and please make sure to subscribe if you did like it. And please make sure to subscribe to this podcast and iTunes, on YouTube. Wherever you check it out. We have both a videocast and a podcast you can check out both in the show notes. And I would like you to hear your thoughts on what you’ve enjoyed in this podcast. Please email me at Gleb at disaster avoidance experts.com so again, email me at Gleb disaster avoidance experts that come with your thoughts on this episode. Alright everyone, I hope again, I hope this episode helps you make the wisest and most profitable decisions. And I hope to see you next time, my friends.


Transcribed by https://otter.ai 


Bio: Dr. Gleb Tsipursky is an internationally-renowned thought leader in future-proofing and cognitive bias risk management. He serves as the CEO of the boutique future-proofing consultancy Disaster Avoidance Experts, which specializes in helping forward-looking leaders avoid dangerous threats and missed opportunities. A best-selling author, he wrote Never Go With Your Gut: How Pioneering Leaders Make the Best Decisions and Avoid Business Disasters (Career Press, 2019), The Blindspots Between Us: How to Overcome Unconscious Cognitive Bias and Build Better Relationships (New Harbinger, 2020), and Returning to the Office and Leading Hybrid and Remote Teams: A Manual on Benchmarking to Best Practices for Competitive Advantage (Intentional Insights, 2021). His writing was translated into Chinese, Korean, German, Russian, Polish, and other languages. He was featured in over 550 articles and 450 interviews in prominent venues. These include Fortune, USA Today, Inc. Magazine, CBS News, Business Insider, Government Executive, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Time, Fast Company, and elsewhere. His expertise comes from over 20 years of consulting, coaching, and speaking and training for mid-size and large organizations ranging from Aflac to Xerox. It also comes from over 15 years in academia as a behavioral scientist, including 7 as a professor at Ohio State University. You can contact him at Gleb[at]DisasterAvoidanceExperts[dot]com, LinkedIn, Twitter @gleb_tsipursky, Instagram @dr_gleb_tsipursky, Medium @dr_gleb_tsipursky, and gain free access to his “Assessment on Dangerous Judgment Errors in the Workplace” and his “Wise Decision Maker Course” with 8 video-based modules.