Merge's Blog

Get people to follow through on their commitments

When you get agreement from an employee on a particular course of action, increase the likelihood that the employee will follow through on the commitment by asking him or her to summarize the decision in an email and send it to you.  This seemingly small action is very powerful because research has shown that people are much more likely to follow through on commitments that they have made when it is in writing.  This concept was first demonstrated in an experiment conducted by Delia Cioffi and Randy Garner and published in the February 1996 issue of the Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin.  A group of undergraduates was asked to volunteer for a AIDS education project by filling out a printed form and affirming their choice.  A second group volunteered for the same projects but this time by leaving blank a form stating that they didn’t wish to participate.  So the first group volunteered by saying yes (active choice) and the second group volunteered by not saying no (passive choice).  Later, when the volunteers reported for duty, approximately three-quarters of those who showed up were the students who made an active choice to participate.  Since this original experiment, subsequent research has continued to demonstrate that people are much more likely to live up to what they have written down.  Worth keeping in mind if you have a situation where you want to ensure follow-through.

What do you think?  Have you seen this phenomenon to be true in your workplace? Share your experiences by clicking on the Comment link below.

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