Leaders Know Logical Fallacies Can Hurt Team Decisions (Part 1)

A client, Ajit, turned me on to a great resource for understanding logical fallacies.

I had been talking about biases and fallacies recently, an area that has interested me ever since my friend Nick loaned me the most accessible book I’ve seen on the subject, You are not so Smart by David McRaney.

In my work with teams who make decisions about tactics, strategy, and personnel, logical fallacies and cognitive biases show up, so I’m going to write a few posts about some of the most common.

Fallacy: The Slippery Slope

Definition: Asserting that when X happens, Y will definitely follow.

Simple Example: If I allow Haley to be late, pretty soon no one will show up on time. Therefore, every time someone shows up late, I will come down hard on them.

What it looks like: Haley is late to the meeting. Jake calls her out for it.

Jake:

“Hey, nice of you to show up finally.”

Haley:

“There was worse traffic than usual, and I even left a couple of minutes early.”

Jake:

“Next time, plan on a traffic jam. We can’t start these meetings late.”

Later, when Jake is called on his harsh tone, he defends himself:

“Well, I can’t let it pass. If I let it pass once, then it looks like I don’t care about punctuality. Then, pretty soon, everyone will think it’s okay to be late, and we’ll never start on time.”

Jake might even be convincing here, leading to more Slippery Slope fallacies down the road.

So, what do you do?

When you find yourself denying grace because you’re afraid of the slippery slope, name that fear while upholding the standard and showing grace:

“I’m tempted to say something like, ‘plan for a traffic jam next time’ because I’m afraid to see the punctuality standard relaxed.”

Or wait until the SECOND time someone is late; one occasion isn’t a pattern.

The second time someone is late, say something like:

“I’m worried that because Haley was late this week and Harvey was late this week, we’re going to start down a slippery slope of softening the start time. Please know it’s really important to start on time, and that’s not going to change. It seems like unique circumstances in both cases, so let’s not do any blaming here. Just know we all like to start on time.”

Do you have any good examples?

Thanks for reading,

Alan Feirer

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