The link between perception and individual decision making


Individuals in organizations make decisions. That is, they make choices from among two or more alternatives. Top managers, for instance, determine their organization’s goals, what products or services to offer, how best to finance operations, or where to locate a new manufacturing plant. Middle and lower-level managers determine production schedules, select new employees, and decide how pay raises are to be allocated. Of course, making decisions is not the sole province of managers. Non-managerial employees also make decisions that affect their jobs and the organizations for which they work. The more obvious of these decision might include whether or not to come to work on any given day, how much effort to put forth once at work, and whether or not to comply with a request made by the boss. In addition, an increasing number of organizations in recent years have been empowering their non managerial employees with job-related decision making authority that historically was reserved for managers. Individual decision making, therefore, is an important, part of organizational behavior. But how individuals in organizations make decisions and the quality of their final choices are largely influenced by their perceptions.

Decision making occurs as a reaction to a problem. That is, there is a discrepancy between some current state of affairs and some desired state, requiring the consideration of alternative courses of action. So if your car breaks down and you rely on it to get to work, you have a problem that requires a decision on our part. Unfortunately problems don’t come neatly packaged with a label “problem� clearly displayed on them. One person’s problem is another person’s satisfactory state of affairs. One manager may view her division’s two percent decline in quarterly sales to be a serious problem requiring immediate action on her part. In contrast, her counterpart in another division of the same company, who also had a two percent sales decrease, may consider that percentage quite acceptable. So the awareness that a problem exists and that a decision needs to be made is a perceptual issue.

Moreover, every decision requires the interpretation and evaluation of information. Data are typically received from multiple sources, and they need to be screened, processed, and interpreted. Which data, for instances, are relevant to the decision and which are not? The perceptions of decision maker will answer that question. Alternatives will be developed, and the strengths and weakness of each will need to be evaluated. Again, because alternatives don’t come with “red flags� identifying them as such or with their strengths and weakness clearly marked, the individual decision maker’s perceptual process will have a large bearing on the final outcome. Finally, throughout the entire decision process, perceptual distortions often surface that have the potential to bias analysis and conclusions.