You have things you want done… NEED done… and you need your employees’ help. So it makes sense to provide lots of choices to empower them, to make them feel part of the process, right?
Not so fast.
I just heard about a book, The Art of Choosing, by Sheena Iyengar. In it, she tells about an experiment in a supermarket where she set up two different booths offering shoppers the chance to sample various jams and jellies. One booth offered six, the other 24. You’d think that the booth with the most choices would sell the most product. But the opposite happened: People tried more samples and bought a lot more product at the booth with the fewer varieties. The shoppers didn’t complain about having too many choices, their behavior was just different.
This got me thinking about the choices companies give to employees, for example, selection of employee benefit plans such as retirement or health insurance options. They can end up feeling more stressed by so many choices that they end up not choosing anything…or making a hasty decision. Similarly, if we need to get a project done, we’ll often ask an associate to just get it done with little or no guidance about how to accomplish it. It’s probably better to provide at least some structure to help the person get going… and get the project done faster.