In graduate school, I did a series of research studies on surveys. More specifically, I studied how to improve the self-report methodology so that one can get more “accurate” data from questionnaires. Yes, I know. Ho hum. Considering, however, that Americans are the most surveyed group in the world and readily give opinions on everything and anything, I felt it important to better understand how to get at “truthiness” especially when it comes to getting sexual risk behaviors data.
At that time, I came across the term “satisficing” and it opened up my world to a better understanding of many people around me then and now.
When someone completes a survey but is not really invested in the process or the accuracy of the data and just want to complete it- they are a satisficer. When you do the bare minimum in order to get something done so that you can say you got something done, you are a satisficer. At times it appears that satisficing is intricately tied to a sense of maintaining work/life balance. I am not passing judgment necessarily on those that wholeheartedly maintain an all-consuming desire for work/life balance. I just attended the funeral of a colleague who did not maintain (anywhere) near such a balance and it drove home the point that work cannot be all-consuming. However, it cannot be that if someone comes to you at 3pm and says “hey we just got these edits in, can you help finish them up so that the person traveling tomorrow has the latest data for their presentation” that you do no not say ”well, I was planning on leaving at 5pm so that I can go home and watch tv.”. I would say that is not a balance but a scale tipped in favor of watching television and doing the bare minimum at work.
There are people who will clock in and do enough to get a few things done and appear busy. Yet, they never push themselves nor their colleagues to do better or slightly more. You know the type. A new project gets announced in a team meeting and they immediately start calculating how to do it in the most minimal way. Not necessarily the most efficient way.
I have never satisficed. I don’t have it in my DNA. I don’t understand giving everything my all. I take great pride in what I do and feel this intrinsic push to try as hard as I can. Don’t get me wrong, however. If there is an easy way to do something that will get me the same results I need not suffer pain needlessly. I am not a masochist. I am just driven to the best I can that can be for the good the team, the project and the future. I will add a caveat. There are times, when people push one so far in terms of demoralization, that you reach a point where perhaps you can no longer push to give it your all. That feeling of not pushing myself because I am tired of the behind-the scenes machinations is truly demoralizing and burdensome. I never want to be made to feel that I shouldn’t’ give something my all. A colleague once told me that he would do the last-minute project our boss gave us but that he would not put 100% into. He was afraid that if he did a good job then he would end up being the go-to person for this type of project thereafter and it wasn’t something that he likes or wanted to do forever more. Now that type of balance (a need for intellectual curiosity and work completion) I get.
If I can make a request as a researcher, next time you get a survey to complete please don’t just check all the “completely agrees” all the way down. First off, we often change up the direction of the scale or question just for that very “satisficing” reason. Second, we truly would like to know what you think, feel and do.
Anyway, it is labor day weekend. Go and treat yourself to some rest and relaxation. Here comes the fall and tons of new projects and adventures to take on.
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