Did you ever experience that instinctive reaction about a colleague or boss that either creates an instant bond or makes you consider running for the hills within mere minutes of meeting?
On a normal everyday basis, we have control over who we see and spend time with, and so naturally edit our associations to make sure we are spending time with friends who energize us. We gravitate towards those approved by our gut feeling and intuition, and our circles of friends are therefore created over time with a heavy influence from our subconscious gut feelings.
At work, however, we have far less freedom about who we work with, and for. So, how important is gut feeling at work?
See also: How to Handle a Bad Boss
How Does Your Gut Feeling Work
It can be easy to dismiss gut feeling as something fleeting, almost superstitious, and certainly not worth giving weight to. However, our instinctive reaction can often be a lot more revealing than you might think.
This is because the human brain can process far more information on a subconscious level than we can consciously. The subconscious brain therefore notices things that you don’t explicitly see or remember which are then expressed as a gut feeling. So, if you get a funny feeling walking into an interview, for example, don’t discount it. It might just be that your subconscious mind has noticed details such as unhappy looking employees or a tense working environment that your conscious mind – preoccupied with the imminent interview – missed.
When You Should Listen to Your Gut
So, your gut feeling or intuition can be a powerful asset. But it also sometimes needs to be tempered by a more logical and reasoned thought process.
One of the reasons for this is the ’halo and horns’ problem. Fundamentally, our subconscious gut reaction isn’t always all that sophisticated, which can mean you get a really strong gut feeling from indicators that would barely move the dial on a logical list of pros and cons. This is why recruiting managers are trained to consciously avoid ascribing halos – or indeed horns – to candidates in interview. A candidate arriving in unpolished shoes, for example, might cause a hiring manager to mentally discount the candidate at a subconscious level – even if the role isn’t customer facing (and nobody will ever see the offending footwear).
The same can happen with your boss. Think about why you have a strong gut reaction to them – positive or negative. If it’s likely to be a result of the football team they follow or their taste in music, it’s best to discount this intuition.
Do listen, however, if you get a strong gut feeling, and especially in the sort of situation in which you’re forced to make a judgment based on limited input – like a recruitment situation. If you arrive for an interview but have an immediate and intuitive reaction to your prospective new boss, listen to it!
Otherwise, it’s sensible to talk your concerns through with others before leaping to a conclusion, just in case you’re adding a halo or horns to your boss unnecessarily.
How to Learn From Your Gut Feeling About Your Boss
Whether it’s all good or a situation you’re anxious to change, you can probably learn something from your gut reaction to your boss.
Firstly, take the opportunity to hold the mirror up. Is there something in yourself you see reflected in your boss, and is this causing your gut reaction? Do you see things your manager does or says which could be influencing your reaction either because they align perfectly with your personal style or because they oppose your views and outlook? Can the experience help you to learn more about yourself?
Learning more about how your gut feeling – about your boss and anyone else for that matter – is formed can be a great insight into your own subconscious mind.
Taking time to examine your gut feelings about your manager could be surprisingly fruitful, providing much more than just some raw material for a pub-based moan about your odd bod boss. Understand more about what your gut is telling you and why, and you might avoid some difficult situations and learn more about yourself along the way!