Monday, February 9, 2015

Fat Attitudes Add No Value


My friend and fellow Lean thinker Bob Emiliani coined the term “fat” behavior after those behaviors that aren't consistent with Lean thinking. Our behaviors lead us to create the systems we consciously or unconsciously use at work, and our systems help shape and reinforce the culture that is in place. Our culture is the foundation for our daily behaviors, and in turn, our daily results.

Attitude and behavior are closely related in some sense though they are two different concepts. One of the most important differences between behavior and attitude is that attitude is internal whereas behavior is external in sense. In other words it can be said that behavior can very well be seen by others as it is external whereas attitude is shelled within the mind of the individual and hence cannot be seen by others immediately.

I believe there are “fat” attitudes just like behaviors that are non-value added and wasteful to Lean thinking. It is these self-deflating attitudes that reinforce negative thinking and emotions. Here are some common “fat” attitudes that you may recognize in the workplace:

  1. Black and White Thinking
We tend to place people and situations in either/or categories. Either something or someone is all good or all bad. Shades of gray don’t exist, leading us to view ourselves and others as failures if we aren’t 100 percent perfect in every way.

  1. Blaming
As victims of blaming, we either constantly chastise ourselves for things that are not our fault, or we transfer all responsibility to other people without objectively considering our own role in the situation.

  1. Fairness Fallacy
We have an implicit belief that every situation must be fair and are constantly examining whether we are being dealt with in a just manner. Because other people won’t always agree with us about what is fair, and because sometimes the universe works in mysterious ways, we end up feeling cheated and resentful.

  1. Filtering
We take the negative details and magnify them while filtering out all positive aspects of a situation. For instance, a person may pick out a single, unpleasant detail and dwell on it exclusively so that their vision of reality becomes darkened or distorted.

  1. Jumping to Conclusions
Without individuals saying so, we know what they are feeling and why they act the way they do. In particular, we are able to determine how people are feeling toward us. For example a person may anticipate that things will turn out badly, and will feel convinced that their prediction is already an established fact.

  1. Overgeneralization
We come to a general conclusion based on a single incident or a single piece of evidence. If something bad happens only once, we expect it to happen over and over again. A person may see a single, unpleasant event as part of a never-ending pattern of defeat.

  1. Fallacy of Change
We expect that other people will change to suit us if we just pressure or cajole them enough. We need to change people because our hopes for happiness seem to depend entirely on them.

  1. Always Being Right
We are continually on trial to prove that our opinions and actions are correct. Being wrong is unthinkable and we will go to any length to demonstrate our rightness. For example, “I don’t care how badly arguing with me makes you feel, I’m going to win this argument no matter what because I’m right.” Being right often is more important than the feelings of others around us.


In order to have meaningful change we have to change both attitude and behavior together. Change in thinking will lead to behavioral change. Alternatively, change in actions will eventually lead to changes in attitude. This combined approach provides the most success by providing positive thinking with the right methodology to implement and sustain change.

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1 comment:

  1. Hi Tim

    I agree with most of the items though there is one that needs some additional consideration. Though with some people fairness can be taken to fallacy levels most people actually have a fairly good understanding of what is and is not considered fair by our society.

    Any organization that acts in a manner seen as unfair by our society in any situation, will damage their reputation in society (the marketplace). Thus it is often the case that organizations act within the law, but yet their actions are seen as unfair. If your employees feel they get treated unfairly, I can guarantee that most of your consumers feel the same way, and that lowers the value of your brand.

    A better term for what you mean is a persecution fallacy. As most people that are overly sensitive suffer from a persecution complex, fairness as little to do with it. In fact these people could get preferred treatment and still think they got a raw deal.

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