Field Report: how false memory & confirmation bias can hurt employee wellbeing.

VP of IT uses to correct a false impression and an episode of confirmation bias re: the risk of isolation for a team member.

In psychology a memory bias is a cognitive bias that either enhances or impairs the recall of a memory or that alters the content of a reported memory.

How MyMeeting info was used:
During a first review of data visualisations (in which we also calibrate our algorithm to match company norms re: meetings frequency) we flagged that the VP of IT had one team member (John*) at risk of isolation (defined as not having met with any peers or supervisors for 7 days straight).

The VP challenged the data and said he distinctly remembers John being on the virtual company happy hour 3 weeks ago.

The calendar of the event supported this notion, because it showed John had accepted the happy hour invite.

However after checking the meeting dashboard for the past 3 weeks (inc. a deep dive in meeting attendance data for that event) the VP could see that John had not joined.

How this awareness drove behaviour change:
It seems this might have been a case of an initial false memory (I remember seeing John) further being supported by a confirmation bias (See, John accepted the invite) that John wasn’t at risk being isolated from contact.

Firstly, the VP immediately pinged John’s team manager, to set up a 1:1 that day and see why John has been out of touch for 3 weeks.

Secondly, HR requested we give them with a company-wide alert that notifies HR if a person misses 2 scheduled and accepted meetings in a row.

HR can now alert all team managers to investigate this issue within 24hrs.

Meetings are scheduled, accepted, cancelled and rescheduled all the time. This can lead us to lose track if we actually met with a specific person or not (in particular if these are large group meetings).

Just because we recall something with a lot of confidence, detail and emotion, doesn’t mean it actually happened that way. Especially when dealing with the well-being of our team members.

Being able to align calendars, logged meeting data and personal assumptions increases our effectiveness as team leaders, because we have a more complete picture of what is and how to act on that reality.

*The names have been changed to protect the privacy of the people involved

Being late for meetings reveals more than we think

One of the metrics that tracks is attendance quality. How many people are late for meetings and how many leave early.

In this blog post we want to dive deeper into this metric, because there’s more to unpack around unpunctuality, from the point of employee wellbeing, besides our annoyance with it.

Several studies around lateness have been done over the years. And they reveal a more complex picture that managers might not be aware off.

Digging into the psychology of lateness reveals interesting possibilities about why people are late. It can indicate poor self-control, procrastination or the failure to set realistic goals. It can also be a sign of lack of focus or deeper-seated problems such as stress and anxiety.

Diana DeLonzer, the author of Never Be Late, conducted a study at San Francisco State University involving chronic lateness and found that of the two-hundred and twenty-five people in the study, 17% were chronically late.

The 17% chronically late, had trouble with self-control (were more prone to habits like overeating, drinking too much, gambling and impulse shopping), showed an affinity for thrill-seeking and displayed ADD-like symptoms like restlessness, trouble focusing and attention issues.

Secondly Pauline Wallin a psychologist in Camp Hill, PA, has found that people who are chronically late often wrestle with anxiety, distraction, ambivalence, or other internal psychological states.

Habitual lateness may be part of that very hard to deal with phenomenon of passive aggression where someone is resistant, often in a way that is hard to put your finger on, that undermines progress and makes people feel uncomfortable because the aggression is there but unspoken.

While sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, as a manager who cares about team wellbeing (especially during forced work from home situations), keeping track of attendance is less about being a headmaster, and more about spotting potential deeper issues based on a behavioural signal.