Examples of Using Critical Thinking to Make Decisions in the Workplace
Critical thinking is essential in the workplace, particularly for employees in management roles. Their decisions can affect an individual employee, a department or the entire workforce. Therefore, critical thinking skills are sought-after professional characteristics for employees with high-level responsibilities and authority. Regardless of the individual’s position, rank or status, examples of the use of critical thinking skills to make workplace decisions are evident everywhere.
The Critical Thinking Community attributes to Linda Elder a definition of critical thinking proposed in 2007. Elder states that critical thinking is “self-guided, self-disciplined thinking which attempts to reason at the highest level of quality in a fair-minded way. People who think critically consistently attempt to live rationally, reasonably, empathically.” Fair-mindedness, complemented by rational decision-making in a reasonable manner that emulates empathy, is a characteristic any employer would be lucky to have in all of its employees.
Below are 3 scenarios in which critical thinking plays a distinct part in the decision making process. Read all three, then select one that offers you a challenge if you were the manager in the situation. What would you do if you were either in Human Resources, Marketing, or Customer Service, and were faced with a like scenario.
An example of critical thinking within the context of human resources involves an employee relations specialist responsible for conducting workplace investigations. The decision whether to suspend or terminate an employee alleged to have engaged in sexual harassment must be based on critical thinking. How will you determine if the accusations are true? If you determine they are true and you then decide to suspend the employee, what effect will a suspension have on the employee and his performance, as well as the employees s/he works with?
Using Elder’s definition of critical thinking, public relations, sales and marketing employees utilize their critical thinking skills in making decisions related to the public perception of the company and the company’s products and services. For example, packaging a product that appeals to certain population groups based on stereotypical assumptions isn’t generally a good marketing tactic. However, using marketing techniques that create widespread appeal, regardless of the target market’s ethnicity, gender or other characteristics, can prove to be beneficial for the company and may result in the product being accessible to a broad range of customers. For example, a car advertisement that appeals predominantly to women buyers may need to avoid any stereotypical images to enable the product to appeal to a broader consumer base. Thus, marketing professionals must use critical thinking skills to examine their branding concept from a perspective that eliminates gender in advertising the car’s features. For example, if the car is eco-friendly, that feature could serve as the advertisement’s focus rather than gender. Select another product that falls into this category and identify how the marketing might be improved. And improvement might even be a MORE focused approach. You tell us how.
Employees who have regular contact with business customers, be they other businesses or individuals, use critical thinking skills every time they engage in conflict resolution. Product knowledge and understanding the customer’s needs are part of conflict resolution. Using that knowledge to achieve a satisfactory resolution is part of the process of using critical thinking in the workplace. An example is a utility company’s customer service agent who uses independent judgment and critical thinking in the decision to extend the due date of a delinquent electrical bill during the summer months for a customer with a previously spotless payment record. His critical thinking skills are in use when he considers what the best and most rational solution is. Reviewing the customer’s pay history through a self-guided process results in a decision based, in part, on empathy for customers suffering from unbearable heat. Talk about a past experience you’ve had with “Customer Service” where you feel you were slighted. How would have handled it differently, from your point of view as the consumer? NOW, how would you have handles it if you were the service provider. And be honest! Look at all the factors, from time of day, to day of the week, to your attitude, etc.