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COGNITIVE DISTORSIONS @ WORK and their impact on your performance.

Lorenzo Delpani 2018

COGNITIVE DISTORSIONS @ WORK and their impact on your


With this post I intend to start a series of provocative posts that examine the common cognitive distortions that affect working professionals. Communicating and reasoning with people is very difficult because all people (including me !!!) have some cognitive distortions that affect their perceptions of reality, problems and solutions.

Cognitive distorsions are irrational thoughts and beliefs that affect the way we perceive reality. I believe that cognitive distortions are inversely proportional to intelligence, knowledge and experience . But they do affect also very smart individual that have psicho-cognitive disorders due to stress or burnout. They vary in degree of intensity and in extreme cases can make a person totally ineffective in dealing with problems or other people.

Most cognitive distorsions affect your mood and psychological wellbeing and create frustrations, anger, stress, anxiety and burnout. Ultimately they may affect your health.

Cognitive distorsions typically affects who has them but unfortunately also the people around them. If you have a lot of people in your team with cognitive distortions you will invariably suffer and the team will be less effective. I have spent considerable time studying them and observing them at work and in team dynamics as, for me, working with people has been at times very frustrating.

If you have a significant intelligence, knowledge or experience gap versus the people you work with, you have to slow down, and with patience start to explain, translate, simplify, clarify, describe, convince, assure, persuade, influence, educate, teach, train, demonstrate, prove, evangelize, mentor, etc. etc. and this process is incredibly time and energy consuming, especially when you deal with people without self awareness that do not know that they have gaps and think that they are smart and experienced.

You do not always have the time and luxury to do all of the above and sometimes you resort to give orders and specific instructions. They unfortunately, do not know what they do not know and often are not self aware. I had people reporting to me that said I am extremely inspiring, motivating and great at delegating (see recommendation on my linked page as evidence of that) and others that complained about me for being too demanding, a micromanager and even a tyrant. I am the same person just experiencing very different type of people. In one case effective and reliable professional in the other dysfunctional ones with significant intelligence and/or knowledge and/or experience gaps.

In my opinion, when people are really dysfunctional you are better off letting them go and change the people. You cannot waste your time and energy trying to change the unchangeable. And that solutions has unfortunately its risks too, as most of the people that you fire hardly understand and agree with the reasons you fired them and often they blame you. They do not understand that it is business and not personal.

Many pseudo HR gurus, consultants or “pps” (people persons, that may have not managed a lot of people at all, will tell you that that is the manager job to deal with all people including the difficult ones with lots of cognitive distorsions. I do not agree. Many people have incredible and amazing talent, skills, ideas and innovation capabilities that can be employed to generate huge value for the business. Forcing them to deal with dysfunctional people (whether they are business owners, bosses, colleagues or subordinates) can waste huge amount of their time, energy and focus and ultimately affect their performance and the business results.

In my career, I worked in seven countries and five global companies with very different working standard and cultures. When my colleagues or subordinates where of high quality and reasonably functional, I have produced GREAT results with very little effort. When I worked in environments with dysfunctional, irrational and entitled stakeholders and employees, I had to spend 10x the amount of energy to achieve less results and got burnout in the process.

In conclusion, recognizing and dealing effectively with cognitive distortions is key for personal and team effectiveness.

Typical cognitive distorsions at work are: Over Generalizations, Minimizations, Magnifications, Conservatism Bias, Denial, Radical thinking (Black and white), Emotional reasoning, Experience trap, Exaggerated Expectations (and entitlements), Causality versus Correlation bias, Forecasting bias, Superficial extrapolations, Negativity bias, Positivity bias, Overconfidence, Selective Perception, Stereotyping, Dunning-Kruger effect, Filtering, Jumping to conclusions, Wrong conclusions, Mind reading, Personalisation, etc. etc. As you can see working with people is not easy… many of the factors above are at work.

Please comment on this post and help me gauge the interest you have on this topic. Feel free to suggest some COGNITIVE DISTORSIONS that I have not listed and please call out the one you want me to elaborate on. Thanks.

Lorenzo Delpani