We all develop bad habits – and, when you’ve practised the bad habit often enough, it feels comfortable. When others see you practising this habit, they will often follow suit and acquire the same comfortable, bad habit.
When someone comes along who has been taught the right way to carry out that activity, it looks wrong. It’s not the way everyone else does it, so it can actually cause problems as they try to work around the people who have developed the wrong way of doing things.
Let’s look at an example that most of us are familiar with: If you are driving down 4 lane motorway it’s quite common for people to drive in lanes 3 and 4, even when lanes 1 and 2 are virtually empty. If a driver stays on the inside lane, they can end up undertaking – which puts them in the wrong. However, if they have to move out to from lane one or two, to lane four to overtake someone in lane two, it looks wrong.
What is right has become slightly outside the norm, so it looks wrong – and often results in other drivers muttering about ‘people who can’t drive’, even though it is the correct driving behaviour.
When something in the workplace looks wrong, it’s worth examining the purpose of the activity before simply dismissing it as ‘the wrong way of doing that’. It may be that work processes could be improved and risks reduced by identifying when bad habits have become the norm.