If given the choice, would you shop at a store where all sales are final or one with a liberal return policy?
The ability to change our minds can be anxiety-reducing for humans because it means if we make a mistake, it can be undone (e.g., “That sequined bolero looked WAY better in the store!“). Reversible decisions are inherently less risky, so therefore, easier to justify.
Interestingly, many shoppers have “return-anxiety” and avoid returning unwanted items due to embarrassment or awkwardness, but knowing you can change your mind makes it easier to say “yes,” which is why retailers engage this strategy.
You can use this psychology tactic to your advantage in the workplace. Next time you ask for something, just incorporate the word “experiment.”
For example,“Working from home one day each week would not impact my productivity, but would significantly boost my work satisfaction. Can we experiment with this arrangement for 3 months and re-evaluate at that time?”
By adding the word “experiment” to your request, you’ve made it a reversible decision, and in turn, much less risky for your boss.
- “Can we experiment with moving Lily into the lead role for the project and re-evaluate at the end of Phase 1?”
- “Is it possible to experiment with working four, 10-hour days and having Fridays off for the summer?”
- “What if I experiment with managing the team for 6 months and if I’m performing well, we can re-visit the promotion discussion?”
There are a few key aspects to make this work:
- Put a reasonable time commitment on the “experiment” to ensure there’s enough time to properly test the new situation.
- Define measurable criteria so there’s agreement on what to assess at the end of the experiment (e.g., Have customer evaluation scores remained the same or improved? Is your level of output consistent or higher?).
- Set a date to evaluate the experiment.
In most cases, the situation ends up being a win-win for both parties. But the beauty of a reversible decision is that YOU may find the new situation isn’t as great as you imagined (e.g., four, 10-hour days means missing dinner with your family or a horrendous commute). This means, you can revert to the original plan while saving face, by simply saying, “Thank you for allowing me to experiment with the four-day workweek. It helped me to appreciate that I’m more satisfied with the regular schedule.”