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When Should You Go With Your Gut in Association Professional Relationships

by Glen Tsipursky, author, speaker

Let’s say you’re interviewing a new applicant for a job in your association and you feel something is off. She says all the right things, her resume is great, she’d be a perfect hire for this job — except your gut tells you otherwise.

Should you go with your gut?

In such situations, your default reaction should be to be suspicious of your gut. Research shows that job candidate interviews are actually poor indicators of future job performance.

Unfortunately, most employers tend to trust their guts over their heads and give jobs to people they like and perceive as part of their in-group, rather than simply the most qualified applicant.

The reactions of our gut are rooted in the more primitive, emotional and intuitive part of our brains that ensured survival in our ancestral environment. Tribal loyalty and immediate recognition of friend or foe were especially useful for thriving in that environment.

In modern society, however, our survival is much less at risk, and our gut is more likely to compel us to focus on the wrong information to make workplace and other decisions.

For example, is the job candidate mentioned above similar to you in race, gender, socioeconomic background? Even seemingly minor things like clothing choices, speaking style and gesturing can make a big difference in determining how you evaluate another person.

According to research on nonverbal communication, we like people who mimic our tone, body movements and word choices. Our guts automatically identify those people as belonging to our tribe and being friendly to us, raising their status in our eyes. The research is clear that our intuitions frequently don’t serve us well in making wise decisions.

Despite the numerous studies showing that structured interventions are needed to overcome bias in hiring, unfortunately association professionals tend to over-rely on unstructured interviews and other intuitive decision-making practices. A good fix is to override your tribal sensibilities to make a more rational, less biased choice that will more likely result in the best hire. You could note ways in which the applicant is different from you — and give them “positive points” for it — or create structured interviews with a set of standardized questions asked in the same order to every applicant.

Let’s take a different situation. Say you’ve known someone in your work for many years, collaborated with her on a wide variety of projects and have an established relationship. You already have certain stable feelings about that person, so you have a good baseline.

Imagine yourself having a conversation with her about a potential collaboration. For some reason, you feel less comfortable than usual. What’s going on?

Most likely, your intuitions are picking up subtle cues about something being off. Our guts are good at picking up such signals, as they are fine-tuned to pick up signs of being excluded from the tribe. Overall, this is a good time to take your gut reaction into account and be more suspicious than usual.

About the author:
Dr. Gleb Tsipursky empowered thousands of professionals and organizations to avoid business disasters as the chief executive officer of Disaster Avoidance Experts. DAE improves dramatically the bottom line for clients by addressing potential threats, maximizing unexpected opportunities and synergizing employee goals with organizational priorities through a proprietary methodology based on cutting-edge behavioral economics research combined with best practices from pioneering organizations. Tsipursky's expertise in these areas comes from more than 20 years of consulting and coaching for businesses and nonprofits. He also has a strong research background with more than 15 years in academia. Leaders have benefited greatly from his writings on avoiding business disasters, most notably from his national bestseller The Truth Seeker’s Handbook: A Science-Based Guide. He has published more than 400 articles and has been featured in more than 350 interviews. A leading expert on avoiding professional disasters, Tsipursky has more than two decades of professional speaking experience across three continents for associations and companies, with enthusiastic client testimonials and references. Tsipursky's website is; his email is

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