“(Hu)Man naturally desires, not only to be loved, but to be lovely” – Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments
The above insight was offered by Adam Smith in his quest for understanding human nature. It is fundamentally true; there are individuals, though, who prioritize this aspect so blindly that all their activities and communications are centered on this thought. The priority to be “liked” and being “socially desirable”, over time, takes precedence than being objective in a given situation. Unfortunately, it has adverse effect on building an effective team at the workplace.
Certain scenarios, in which, the “social desirability” need is quite evident:
- Extreme Eager Beavers: Sometimes, there are individuals who readily take variety of work and end up being the ones who work the most. “Enjoying” your work is a fair reason but doing this so earnestly that you end up doing other’s work is really not good for building trust among team members.
- Under Estimators: In a team setting, specifically among individuals responsible for project implementation and coordination, required efforts get underestimated to decide on a conclusion date for a speedy project completion. This happens most often when the individual is making an implicit effort to “appear” capable in achieving the deadline – no matter how unreasonable it is.
- Reluctant Yays/Nays: Interaction between team members and managers often results into managers reluctantly agreeing with the team members; willy-nilly as per the immediate circumstances. This is specifically true for “new” managers since they are most concerned with how they are perceived than how they actually are.
These are but few instances where biases for “social desirability” emerges – mainly done either for portraying oneself in a certain way (Impression Management) or convincing self about not having certain limitations (Self-Deception).
The effects of such biases are pronounced in the overall team management and composition within an organization. Quite often, due to such biases, project delivery could fall short of expectations; work distribution gets skewed towards “Eager” people leading to inequality in maturity of employees, and non-transparent communications among colleagues.