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Critical Thinking Styles and Forces of Influence
Any choice or decision that a manager makes influences the organization's performance. It is one of an employee's job responsibilities to make decisions that are in favor of the organization. If the decision taken serves any personal interest of one person or a few people then it is bound to prove harmful for the organization. Therefore such decisions can bring devastating results for the entire company. However it cannot be ignored that any decision made by an employee is influenced by a number of factors since decisions are not made in a vacuum. These factors include the different thinking patterns that are employed by a person in making a choice and the various forces of influences that act upon him and determine the choice he is going to make.
Critical Thinking Patterns
One of the most important factor that determines the choice or a decision that an employee makes is the cognitive process that he is involved in. this is the first step that is taken in the process of making a decision (McCall and Kaplan, 1990). This cognitive process includes four different critical thinking patterns that an employee or a manager employs in reaching a decision. These patterns are logical, scientific, persuasive and creative. Employees or managers are expected to solve problems or handle situations using the logical scientific approach. Under the logico-scientific mode of decision making, all the required information is collected so that the employee becomes well acquainted with the situation and makes a logical and definitive decision. It is important to understand that under this type of critical thinking pattern, decisions cannot be based on one's opinion or even the opinion of the team; it must be based on hard evidence (McAulay, Russell and Sims, 1997). When decisions are based on personal perspectives or opinions without taking in consideration, the interest of the firm than the results usually turn out to be harmful for the organization.
Under the persuasive thinking pattern, managers tend to collect all data that supports their opinion or perspective with which they view the situation and take the decision based on it. Under the creative thinking pattern, managers make a decision that is very unusual and does not appear to be the solution to the situation. However such a decision is based upon creative thinking which has elicited such a result. One other factor that is definitely an influence and a thinking pattern, which can effect a decision-making process, is the manager's personality. Different personality types have been related to different thinking patterns (Waldersee and Sheather, 1996). They found that characteristics such as problem solving style, locus of control, the need for achievement, risk aversion and the degree of tolerance the manager has for ambiguity are all directly related to the patterns that go into the formation of a decision. Personality characteristics then incite the implementation of whatever decision has been made. For example, in firms, an internal locus of control is directly linked to innovations within the company as well as to a greater effectiveness in managing. In other firms, a willingness to accept risk and a high degree of tolerance for ambiguity are considered in being effective in building the company but not in maintaining it at any given level. However personality characteristics are not the only factors that determine the process of decision-making; there are also the factors of experience and the inter-relationship of personality within the specific context of the situation. Furthermore, the head of the department or the leader of the team of which the manager is a member plays a significant part in influencing the decisions made by the manager or the employee.
Forces of Influence
The foremost force of influence is the information available to a manager. This is because managers are basically "information workers" (McCall & Kaplan, 1990). They spend the majority of their time absorbing information and trying to process all the information in order to reach a decision of some sort or another. Secondly, managers are also influenced by the associates that surround him or her. The colleagues not only provide a manager with the information that is needed to complete a particular scenario, they also determine the decision that a manager will finally make. Thirdly, a manager's choice is also determined by the environment at work or the guiding values and beliefs within the organization.
Apart from the influences that present themselves at work, there are other factors, outside of work that a manager brings with himself which also play a role in determining the kind of decision that a manager would make. These determinants include gender, culture, ethnicity, birth order, religion, race, economic status and ethics. Gender is the sex that the manager belongs to. It influences how a manager would behave in a given setting. For example, as seen generally, employees from the female gender are more of conformists as compared to the male gender. Such an attitude can determine the choice of decision. Culture is another determinant. For example, employees coming from conformist cultures are more likely to stick to the rules of the organizations and following the leader of the pack rather than taking risks and initiatives. Religion that a manager or an employee belongs to, also influences the kind of decisions made by him. For example, some religions have tenets that can clash with managerial practices of an organization. For example, Islam forbids charging interest in any form. Now an employee who practices Islam would find it very difficult to adjust in a bank environment where the entire business is conducted around interest charges and payments. Similarly an employee's personal code of ethics can clash with that of the organization or even if it does not, it still influences an employee's choices and decisions. If the employee has relaxed work ethics, he will not take too much care in handling work-related problems. On the other hand, an employee with a strict sense of duty will put his best efforts to get the work done. Moreover such an employee's decisions would be taken in the interest of the organization. Hence these are some of the forces of influences that determine an employee's or a manager's decisions.
SITUATION: AN ILLUSTRATION
When faced by a workplace problem, the choices or decisions that an employee or a group of employees make, are influenced by the factors described above. Different critical thinking patterns and forces of influence go into the process of decision making. Recently, we identified a problem where an employee invoiced product through the wrong account and earned additional income. Management may have influenced the decision in order for their numbers for the month to look better. The policy is clear that orders over $10,000 need to be processed in a specific manner. This group seems to think they have not broken the rule because each order was under the threshold. My opinion is invoices 20 days in a row for this product (each under the threshold) appears to be bending the rules. The entire bill, over 3 weeks, equals over $52,000. This shows that there are two frames with the situation can be viewed. One view is that of the employees who took the decision to invoice the product their way. The other view is that of an outsider who has identified the decision to be faulty.
The employees believe that since the invoices were below the amount that requires different processing, it is not against the rules to bill the amounts the way they have billed. There are number of forces of influence that have gone into the process of making such a decision.
The foremost force of influence here seems to be the values passed down by the upper management. Information indicates that it is the upper management that has allowed the employee to take this decision. Therefore it is not the employee's personal viewpoint but the management who has asked the employee to do so. Furthermore, it is the management's values and ethics that have shaped the employee's decision and as a result, is the most important influential factor. The other forces of influence may include the people around the employee who have not only provided various pieces of information but may have also encouraged such an approach to invoicing. Lastly, it is perhaps also the employee's own direct experience with prior invoicing that shows him it does not matter how he bills and manages to earn additional income so that he is encouraged to repeat the same decision.
Apart from the work-related forces of influence, there are others that an employee brings with him to a workplace. These forces may include the employee's religion, his own values, gender and economic status. Among these forces if influence, the most important determinant appears to be the employee's economic status. The employee might be in need of additional income and hence feels pressured to bill the amounts in such a way so that he is able to earn something extra…[continue]
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