Regardless of the area in which you work, you have to keep an eye on how you are progressing. Ideally, you should exactly track your activities to find out what consumes most of the time and how likely you are to continue moving ahead.
The Ostrich Problem is exactly the opposite. It’s a tendency to ignore information on current performance. In other words, while performing tasks, people have a general feeling of moving forward but are not checking their progress in detail.
Psychologists at the University of Sheffield found out that usually it is people who really need to check their results thoroughly that avoid doing it. For example, an employee sensing they are already behind their schedule don't want to check it all he same.
Why Are People Avoiding Feedback?
The basic reason for the Ostrich Problem is fear – of moving in the wrong direction, of not being able to catch up with plans, of not performing the task properly, etc. Briefly speaking, it’s fear that things aren’t going the way they’ve been planned. It also brings forth self-deception and complacency – the person thinks “Well I’m attending the new accountancy course twice a week, so I’m definitely progressing, right?”
Extensive evidence in areas of education and medicine confirms that students are more likely to achieve better results and patients are more likely to recover if they keep tracking their progress regularly (e.g., daily measuring of blood pressure or glucose).
The feedback on performance might be very disappointing and result in decreased motivation. But the thing is the sooner one figures out their mistakes the better. Which is worse: to see interim results not meeting the standards or have the whole project failed?
Such problem occurs when a person wants to maintain appearances, to prolong the feeling all is going exactly as they expect it to go. It conflicts with one’s desire to protect oneself and to keep seeing oneself as being able to do things properly in the first place.
The Ostrich Problem at the Workplace
Employees usually ignore tracking their progress when feeling that things are slipping out of control and they don’t have a clear idea how to set up everything. Needless to say, it can be disastrous for common projects and achievement of organizational goals. It’s up to project managers then to keep an eye on whether the employee receives precise and timely feedback, seeing their results immediately and not when it’s too late.
Research also shows that employees with low self-esteem as well as low expectations are most likely to experience the Ostrich Problem.
Overcoming the Ostrich Problem
Fortunately, it is not something you cannot get rid of. It’s merely a bad habit which can be fought quite quickly.
Your basic actions in this direction might be:
- trying not to feel extremely alarmed by making mistakes as they are the inevitable part of work;
- cooperating with colleagues in order to receive an outside look at how your work is being done (or use automatic solutions if possible);
- trying to analyze feedback objectively and fairly.
As with every bad habit, it actually depends largely on your willpower –- whether you’re really willing to get rid of it or not. After all, one cannot ignore reality forever.