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January 08, 2015

Psychology and Facilities Management: how do you create more hospitality?

Psychology includes the science of studying behavior. Cognitive psychology focuses on processes enabling people to behave appropriately in their surroundings. Thinking and processing information are central to achieving this behavior, among other things.

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According to psychology, behavior is part of a chain. This chain begins with an event. The interpretation of this event—the thoughts—leads to particular feelings, which in turn determine behavior. Ultimately this has consequences for the situation in which someone finds himself at that point in time and how he or she behaves. In brief, this process can be summarized in five steps:

  1. Event
  2. Thought
  3. Feeling
  4. Behavior
  5. Consequence

An event often occurs unexpectedly. It rains, or there is suddenly a long line at the cash register. Generally unconsciously, every event leads to thoughts in our brain: I might get soaking wet, I am going to be late for my appointment. Thoughts then trigger a feeling such as discomfort, irritation, stress, or resignation. That feeling ultimately determines our behavior: we shelter, wait until the shower has passed, jump the line, or ask that an extra cash register be opened, for instance. And finally, this behavior leads to a consequence: our clothes remain dry; we have a fight at the cash register or are still on time for the planned appointment.

Psychology suggests that feelings and behavior are determined by thinking. Here a distinction is drawn between positive and negative thoughts, such as black-and-white thinking (getting soaked), wrong conclusions (will you really arrive too late?), or taking things personally.

Thoughts also play a significant role in Facilities Management, in feelings, behavior, perception, and consequences. An example: in good time you booked a meeting room for an important external presentation, with a projector and catering. You guide your guests to the meeting room and discover that it is already occupied (= event). What now? What will the client think? You have to get yourself out of this irritating situation (= thought). You become tense and nervous (= feeling) and give the service desk an irate call to express your displeasure in no uncertain terms (= behavior). The service desk assistant gets a fright and cannot say straight away whether another room is available. Frustrated, you go looking for an alternative free room yourself and move in there (= consequence), unaware that it has actually been booked by another colleague... And the process repeats itself.

As a Facility Manager you would really like to prevent this type of problem and behavior. Hospitality for customers and employees is paramount. Yet facility management is often characterized by a large number of (unexpected) events such as failures, complaints, unforeseen situations and other problems. This creates an important duty for the Facility Manager: how do you ensure that these events happen less often? How do you avoid the consequences of negative behavior?

Process-oriented automation contributes to avoiding this type of negative event. Certain incidents, like double-booking, can be prevented. And if an undesirable event does indeed happen, practically-oriented IT and smart software applications can often help to find a good solution quickly. This helps to instill positive thoughts in the client: the process is again under control and I am being assisted adequately.

By being aware of this process and capitalizing on it, problems can often already be resolved before the final phase of the process (consequence) is reached. This lets you create a positive consequence rather than a negative one – so that as Facility Manager you create (even) more hospitality for your clients and employees.

Jos Knops
Director Global Product Marketing