Decision Making

The Power of Intuition at Work

Young asian woman holding a tablet and looking out of the window at working, thinking deeply -- using her intuition

The workplace, we’re told, is unemotional. Facts reign supreme. Feelings have little role to play. In such a logic-based world, intuition can often be deemed unreliable.

After all, gut instinct can easily be misinterpreted. Is that deep rumbling in your belly a signal of ominous things to come? Or just a bad chicken sandwich?

Believe it or not, intuition can be a valuable tool in the workplace—when heeded properly. That doesn’t mean you should rely solely on your sixth sense; however, don’t totally discount its importance either.

Also read: 4 Keys to Making Smart Decisions

Intuition Can Provide Important Information  

In his book, “How We Decide,” Jonah Lehrer explains that sometimes, your brain is able to connect the dots of the information it receives in a way that is so subtle it’s actually not even understandable by the conscious brain. It sees patterns we aren’t even aware of. Often, this information is translated into a “feeling.”

Imagine you’re in the process of planning a business event and reviewing possible venues. When you visit one location, you have an indistinct gut feeling that it’s just not right. However, when you set aside the emotion and just look at the facts, you see no reason to pass on this. After all, it’s a good location, reasonable price and the staff seems friendly. And yet, something feels off.

That feeling could be your body’s way of telling you there’s a problem. Perhaps your subconscious brain has picked up on signals you missed. Maybe it sensed patterns that matched dissatisfying venue experiences in the past. Maybe you read a poor review about this venue months ago and just consciously forgot it. Maybe the parking lot was awfully small and, though you didn’t really think about it, you know how inconvenient it would be. All kinds of things could be happening in your brain that you’re unaware of.

On paper, everything might look perfect. But, just because you can’t see it or explain it, doesn’t mean your brain isn’t picking up on real evidence that this is the wrong fit.

Also read: The Most Powerful (and Surprising) Decision-Making Tool

Use Intuition to Inspire Deeper Investigation

 Feelings can be red flags telling you to sit up and pay attention. Don’t discredit them just because they aren’t immediately supported by the kind of “logic” you’re familiar with. The brain is a powerful and mysterious thing, and feelings ultimately come from the brain.

However, be cautious about intuition as the sole factor in business decision-making. Remember that, should a decision go awry, you need a reasonable defense for why you did what you did. “It just felt right,” usually isn’t the best justification.

Instead, use your feelings to inspire deeper investigation about a situation. When your gut is telling you something, pause and listen. Look around with a fresh perspective and try to find what you’re not consciously seeing.

Often it helps to get another person’s perspective. You may have past experiences that are subconsciously tainting your view one way or another. An outside assessment can often help you put your feelings into real terms.

As any experienced professional will tell you, intuition is an incredible asset. Once you’ve been around for a while, you tend to develop a deep well of inner wisdom, unlike anything you can learn from books or in a classroom. But it can quickly become a liability. Instinct only goes so far. Use it to enhance your logical, rational decision-making processes—not as a replacement. You may have a hunch about something, but no amount of experience can turn you into a psychic.

About the Author

Chrissy Scivicque is a career coach, corporate trainer and public speaker who believes work can be a nourishing part of the life experience. Her website, Eat Your Career, is devoted to this mission. Chrissy is currently a contributing career expert for U.S. News & World Report and the author of the book, The Proactive Professional: How to Stop Playing Catch Up and Start Getting Ahead at Work (and in Life!), available on Amazon.