Based in Washington, Ross is a general manager of a food safety company. His musings explore life, work and every moment in between.

Hedonic Bias

I am constantly listening to my words and rereading my emails on the lookout for things like exaggerations, speaking in absolutes and hedonic bias.

Exaggerations I attribute to trying to convey a feeling and getting lost in the details. It is a habit I hear myself and others fall into. “I’d kill for that,” or “Billions, it’ll cost billions.” These articulate a point but have limitations on what value they actually give that point. It’s like using a lot of words when you could use only a few.

Absolutes are like boomerangs. As soon as I say “I never,” or “I always,” I am bound to make an exception to the rule.

Hedonic bias is what I fear most. It is defined as when I attribute success to me and my actions and that of failure to external causes. In other words, hedonic bias is deflecting the accountability of a situation when it goes badly but gladly taking the responsibility when things go well. It is a trap that anyone of us can fall into and one that our colleagues and direct reports see clearly. Hedonic bias has a tendency to diminish our leadership ability and leaves us out of touch with our teams.

By looking out for these types of language cues, I find I am able to convey a more authentic person and leader to those with whom I interact with most.

The Apology