What Is Motivated Reasoning

“What is Motivated Reasoning, and What Are Its implication for Managing People? ” Motivated reasoning is a stubborn and highly subjective means of defending ones judgment. I would say this behaviour could potentially produce both positive and negative results in managing people, depending on the situation. For instance, in the Billy Bonzai case that we’ve recently tackled, this is a perfect example of how motivated reasoning could result to both positive and negative outcome.

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Apparently, Billy knows how to get the amour of his supervisors leading to his supervisors to ignore the fact that his frequent absences have been significantly affecting the company’s performance in its customer service. Had the supervisors been highly objective in dealing with their subordinates, they could have been extremely disappointed with Billy’s attitude and have instantly fired him. However, people are not robots; they have emotions which affect their decisions and actions. How can they fire a charming guy such as Billy, who has made a good impression to them?

They have this personal impression towards Billy as a nice and charming fellow and this is not bound to change anytime soon. Because of this conception, they tend to ignore his shortcomings. And even when it’s already very obvious, they still tend to defend their judgment and stubbornly focus on his positive attributes. And even if the other subordinates think otherwise, they couldn’t do much about it, because the boss likes Billy. Additionally, despite his lack of focus in his work, option of promoting him is even a viable option.

A less emotional and more objective person might ask, how can an uncommitted employee be rewarded despite such untoward behaviour? The answer is simple, because he knows how to take advantage of his boss’ emotions, which are driving their motivated reasoning to remain fond of him. Another example to this would be the tendency of bosses to be extraordinarily defensive about their decisions, such as hiring a staff. Hiring someone would mean that you believe in that person’s competencies and capabilities. It would also mean that you have justified your decision to the management exhaustively.

As such, you are bound to do everything you could to prove everyone that you’ve made the right decision. In effect, you tend to baby them and treat them with extra care, making sure that you don’t give them heavy responsibilities right away to lessen chances of them making wrong moves. However, supposing that despite all your efforts, his performance still fell short of the management’s expectations, you still tend to defend him with your motivated reasoning. You would save his ass no matter what happens, because he was your choice.

His failure is your failure. That’s why no matter how obvious his poor performance may be, you would downplay his shortcomings and make a big deal out of his little achievements. This behaviour is yet again demonstrating motivated reasoning driven by passion to prove your decision correct no matter what happens. Again, two things could result from this behaviour, either your new hire would react positively and be inspired to do well in order to save you from humiliation or your stubbornness to accept your defeat could lead both of you to be put in a bad light.

To wrap it up, motivated reasoning is not necessarily a good or bad thing. It all depends on its effect and resulting outcome. Sometimes, if we are not getting a good validation out of our beliefs, it is best to rethink and reconsider our philosophy. There’s always an extent to our stubbornness about our beliefs and if we are not getting the result that we are expecting, then changing your belief and having an open mind is not a bad idea. It is good to stick to your beliefs and have conviction over it, but it’s also wise to keep an open mind and look at the bigger picture.

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