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Mental Models – How we view employees and perspective employees.

Mental models play a huge part in our thinking and are based around the way we perceive or frame something in our mind – also known as our perspective. Mental models are our self-generating beliefs that arise from previous experiences and observations. In employment, the formation of mental models (that often happen without us realising) can set about to create attitudes within us which we may not naturally have.

Often when we are recruiting for new staff we hold onto or “learn” from our experiences with previous staff. So, if we had a bad experience it becomes easy to have an inherent view that all staff are bad. This is where we commonly hear comments like, “Oh John down the road had a young guy work for him and he was terrible, I don’t want that, so I’m not considering young guys”. Or my personal favourite – “We need someone who has a partner or a wife because they will need someone at home to cook for them and be there for them”. Essentially Mental Models lead us to biases or discrimination's that we often don’t even realize we are making and most importantly…. they limit us! They are the stories we tell ourselves to get to an answer that we believe to be true. They limit us as Employers, from the opportunity to work with that amazing single employee or an equally talented young person. It’s this thinking than dulls opportunity and the ability to think big!

What if we changed our outlook? Imagine if we viewed employees as a crucial and valuable component to our business, and for that reason, we cared for them as an asset, nurturing and feeding them, just as we do with our cows. If they were sick – we would make them better, if they needed guidance, we would guide them, if they needed to be taught how to do things, to learn, we would teach. Because, just as a cow is required to convert grass into considerable amounts of milk, so is human intervention.

If we believe something enough – eventually it comes true. So, if all employees are bad – guess what – they are! We are all guilty of hearing only the bits that fit our frame and ignoring those that don’t.

We can create new mental models through linking imagination with action – i.e. Ask yourself, if we viewed employees more positively, how would we behave? And then do that! Being aware of shifting mental models is by no way an easy task and takes a lot of commitment from our brain to stay on path. Self-questioning is some of the best ways to do this.

- Why am I thinking like this?

- What would happen if I did... (do what your mind is opposed to ie. Employing a single person)?

So equipped with this new insight into mental models and how they can divert you from possible positive outcomes practice challenging your mental models or perspectives on a range of daily activities – see if it opens your mind, perhaps you will find new ways of doing things, you may even start to feel positive about employing staff again and so with this new found positive view you will be half way to creating and experiencing a positive employment relationship…. because nobody wants to work for a grumpy prick with a chip on their shoulder!!

Racquel Cleaver is the Managing Director of Agri People Solutions Limited based in the North Island

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