Abilene Paradox

Abilene Paradox is a management phenomenon from Jerry B. Harvey’s 1974 article ‘The Abilene Paradox: The Management of Agreement. 

It is a situation where a group makes a collective decision even if it does not meet the thoughts and perspectives of individuals in the group. It happens because no one contradicts thinking their private point of view is in deep contrast in front of the huge opinion of the group. Thus, even if some people privately disagree with something they agree with everyone in the group. 

The paradox is comparable to group mentality, but unlike them, the Abilene Paradox usually results in each particular group member feeling that the organization’s corporate judgment was a poor one. In order to maximise group processes, successful teams must endeavour to combat both group thinking and the Abilene Paradox.

Why does Abilene Paradox occur?

Abilene Paradox occurs because humans have a tendency to think against the group since they want to follow their social acquaintances. As per Jerry B. Harvey, If nobody objects to a teammate’s proposed treatment, the group “goes to Abilene.” Despite the fact that some colleagues may disagree with the plan’s logic, they refrain from speaking up because of their concern for the plan’s future, an instinct to preserve group cohesion or both.

How Can the Abilene Paradox Be Avoided?

In order to prevent your office’s teams from falling prey to this comparison, you as the HR manager must watch out. You might take the necessary actions to stay out of this predicament:

  • Motivate each individual to participate. Allocate a free-speech period to each participant. If the managers are arrogant and fail to recognise the issues at the ground level, none of them will be inspired to speak.
  • Everyone has the right to have their own views. Remember to ask them what they think.
  • Encourage discussion and engagement amongst the members of the group and the superiors as well. Otherwise, despite possible in-person discussions about the issues, there is a miscommunication that prevents them from being brought up at the management level.
  • If certain staff members are still hesitant to give their point of view in front of others, try requesting detailed feedback. They may believe as though their opinion is being acknowledged in this manner. For people who really are reluctant to speak up in front, this could be helpful.
  • Obtain feedback from the staff following the implementation of any action that was decided on. This will make it easier to spot any faux agreement among the group.
  • Allow them time to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of a scenario. Encourage “reasoning skills,” and keep them from making a snap judgement.

The conclusion we may make from this is to stay away from visiting Abilene and succumb to this paradoxical circumstance. Say “NO” more often. Effective teamwork does not require you to entirely suppress or tone down your independent perspective. Important to be aware of the opinions of your group members if you are the team manager.

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