Pure avoidance isn’t always possible, and that’s why people sometimes opt to do the task , but only partway . For example , instead of going to a business dinner to meet key potential clients, you post details of your business on social media . Rather than giving a motivational speech to employees , you decide to send an inspirational message via Facebook . Or instead of meeting new people at a networking event, you sit at the bat with the people you came with, or you spend lots of time in the drink line or in the bathroom-anything to kill time and avoid the possibility of having to talk with a stranger.
When you go back to the office you can ‘check the box’ that says you attended a networking event, but you didn’t speak to a single person you didn’t know.
Someone I spoke with who engaged in this avoidance tactic was Dan Gold, a car wash entrepreneur whose real claim to fame was a unique system of software he had developed to run car washes more efficiently . Dan loved developing the software and didn’t avoid that at all. But when it came down to sales – actually asking a potential customer to purchase the product-his real avoidance behaviour kicked in.
Dan truly believed in the product-and from running it in his own car wash, he knew it worked. But he hated to impose. He dreaded the idea of actually looking someone in the eye and asking them for thousands of dollars.
Logically , he knew the software was perfectly sensible and legitimate> his system would save the client thousands of dollars in the first year, essentially paying for itself. But the client didn’t know that, and every time he started to ask for a purchase, he clammed up and avoided the situation. It was a lot like seeing a pretty woman, chatting with her , getting the sense she might actually be attracted to you as well, and then just saying nothing. And to top it off, when clients came to him, essentially begging him to sell them the products, Dan would sell it to them at a discount- afraid again of imposing on them, even though they were the ones coming to him.
In the end, Dan did get his software business off the ground, but much slower than he had hoped to. And it was all due to the fears he experienced stepping outside his comfort zone and the avoidance behaviour that ensued.
In the work on necessary evils, I have seen many cases of people performing challenging tasks only par-way. A particularly memorable, example comes from research by Larry Stybel and his colleagues on executive dismissals .
In their example , a president of a company tried to cushion the blow when firing a sales executive at his firm, saying that the employee , was too high powered for the job , and telling him , ‘We’ ve got to look into getting you a better match between your high abilities and reasonable job’ without actually saying that he was being let go.
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