Why Multitasking Destroys Staffing Effectiveness

Research has demonstrated the inefficiency of multitasking. Gorillas drive home the point.

Okay, not real gorillas. Just the one in the suit featured by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons in their book, The Invisible Gorilla. The authors explain inattentional blindness—why people don’t notice the unexpected.

In a series of examples (including the story of a research video with a fake gorilla), Chabris and Simons share why we miss important information. These perceptual blindspots happen for all types of people, including staffing and recruiting professionals.

Inattentional blindness is one of the reasons why details are overlooked in interviews and client sales meetings. Add to this the added distractions of multitasking, and it’s no surprise that quality suffers.

By promoting multitasking as a desirable work trait, companies have infected their cultures with the workplace equivalent of ADHD—Corporate ADD (Attention Divided Dilemma). Inattentional blindness and Corporate ADD are a volatile combination, compromising people’s ability to do work that is accurate and effective.

There is no medication for this version of ADD, nor is one required. Leaders simply need to promote a healthier culture of work, including:

  1. Single-tasking, a dedicated focus to the task at hand.
  2. Maintaining boundaries to minimize distractions.
  3. Avoiding being the distraction, as many leaders can be when they constantly interrupt the flow of work.

Effective leadership requires being honest about what works, and what does not. Anything that truly matters deserves undivided attention.

Given our fallibility, including inattentional blindness, staffing organizations need strong leadership that counters human nature.


BTW…if you’d like to read more on the research I mentioned above, here’s the study:

J. S. Rubinstein, D. E. Meyer, and J. E. Evans, “Executive Control of Cognitive Processes in Task Switching,” Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance 27 (2001): 763–797.

Views: 143

Comment by Katrina Kibben on October 13, 2015 at 11:45am

So how would you recommend a manager teach this lesson? There are 2 big challenges, as far as I see it. 

1) Generationally, multi-tasking is the method of the millennial. How do you coach them to have a one-track mind if they've learned something else?

2) How does a leader avoid becoming more of a distraction? 


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