Do you need a 3rd reaction?


8/16/20231 min read

Years ago, there was a Dilbert strip where Dilbert tells the boss that 40% of sick days are on Mondays and Fridays. The pointy haired boss is appalled by this and insists that there be an investigation. I will confess that I initially fell for Dilbert's little trick and that my first reaction was that's a potential problem. Unlike the PHB, I quickly realized that 40% was exactly two days out of five days and nothing was amiss. That was my second reaction. I suspect most people left it at that and read the next strip in their newspaper. (remember those things?)

Something in me wanted to go a little deeper, the third reaction. I realized a large percentage of holidays are on either Monday or Friday. Also, many people occasionally take a Monday or Friday to give themselves a three-day weekend. Therefore, Mondays and Fridays represent less than 40% of work-days so Dilbert's statistic might actually be a sign of sick time abuse.

In fact, we humans are surprisingly good at initial reactions. Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink gives lots of evidence of that. But we are not perfect. You might recognize your gut reaction was wrong and think deeper but that might not be enough either. From experience, it is easy to identify your problem, find the solution, and move on. Also from experience, that is not always the right thing to do. Sometimes there is another problem that the first problem caused you to miss. Other times the solution causes another problem. Knowing how closely to examine and investigate something is not easy, but it is probably wise to at least take a quick look at what your third reaction might be.