Is Your Performance In The Meeting Room Subpar?

“More money will make top-performing people perform even better!” - not really.

Read on to find out why huge bonuses might hurt your performance inside and outside of the meeting room. Or, if you’re on your break and feel like watching something, scroll to the bottom of this page and watch the embedded video. Oh, and do check out our comprehensive Negotiation guide: Negotiate your way to a better Deal

What Puts The Stakes In Mistakes?

Picture this scenario - you’re hosting a meeting. The room’s booked, coffee’s fresh, water’s cold and everyone has their papers at the ready. You’re supposed to conduct the meeting and sketch the main discussion points. You’ve worked two weeks on this. Five minutes into the presentation, two men start talking to each other, ignoring you. Others follow suit. You go on, trying to recapture their interest… only to make a spelling mistake. Everyone pauses. You feel judged. Add to this kind of pressure the fact that, if you fail this negotiation, your promised bonus is history. And you’ve already made plans about how you’d spend it. In less than it takes to brew a cup of java, your world has been reduced to rubble. You can’t go on, excuse yourself and ask someone to take over for you. Or you do go on, but play it safe and strike a slightly better deal than no deal at all.

Either way, your bonus and self-respect are Missing In Action.

Let’s take a step back and see what happened.

Worrying never helps

According to the American Psychological Association, anxiety is “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.”.

The key words here are “worry” and “tension” - both causing changes in behaviour that might be unwanted in the meeting room. Namely, they encourage conflict avoidance and the search for an easy way out. It dampens negotiating power by slashing a person’s willingness to haggle, argue and push through objections. Even worse, it increases aversion to risk, which further deteriorates one’s creative thinking abilities.

High bonuses can worsen the problem. But, before we talk about that, let’s delve a bit deeper into what workplace anxiety looks like.

Feeling Like A Fraud

A common trait of all who get high-bonuses is their IQ level and personality. Intelligent, driven individuals are usually those who get the merits and the credits - however, if they undervalue themselves, their self-image contrasts with that conveyed by others, and that leads to what is called the “Impostor Syndrome”. Briefly put, people suffering from this condition start second-guessing their own decisions, their work and the results they have. They panic. Afraid of “being found out”, of looking like the failures they believe to be, they go on the way of a self-fulfilling prophecy - that is, burn out and fail.

Increasing Performance In The Meeting Room

According to a study from 2005, large financial incentives decrease performance in tasks that require brainpower. Big money makes stupid, so to speak. Further more , social and financial pressure combined lead to higher chances of choking or underperforming.

The participants in one of the experiments were asked to solve some anagram puzzles. For each anagram solved, they would receive an amount of cash. Some of them solved their puzzles alone, others in front of a crowd. The latter group, unsurprisingly, did worse than the former - around 50% worse!

This alone can’t change anything - bonuses in high-risk, high-paying jobs will still be viewed as mandatory. After all, if one company doesn’t do it, there are plenty more that do. So an employer cannot do without them, due to market pressure. But anxiety can be diminished - by shifting focus away from the big bonus. Rehearse presentations within your company before a public performance. Go to lunch before a meeting, talk about the finer points and discuss what happens in a worst-case scenario. Preparing for the less wanted outcomes often reveals ways of overcoming issues. Mistakes can be good, as long as they happen in controlled environments.

So make sure you’ve already failed a couple of times before booking the meeting room.

Here’s the promised video:

Dan Ariely: Irrational Economics from PopTech on Vimeo.

Have feedback? Email me at [email protected] . Or follow us on twitter and let’s take the conversation there.

Adrian, MO, YArooms

Written on Monday, 19 Jan 2015



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