Posted on February 22, 2012 by TNS Consulting Team (via Scott Spayd)
Think of a time that you had bad news to share with someone. Before sharing bad news, most of us try to think of ways to frame the situation to lessen the negativity. For example, “I failed my exam, but there are four more so I have plenty of chances to bring up my grade.” To just say that I failed an exam implies a great deal of failure, but in saying that there are more chances to bring the grade up, I diffuse the negativity.
Another way to look at how we frame different situations is to look at the loss or the gain that will result in a decision. An example of how framing types influence our decision making can be examined in the following:
Imagine that the United States is preparing for the outbreak of an unusual Asian disease that is
expected to kill 600 people. Two alternative programs to combat the disease have been
proposed. Assume that the exact scientific estimates of the consequences of the program are as
Program A: If Program A is adopted, 200 people will be saved.
Program B: If Program B is adopted, there is a one-third probability that 600 people will be
saved and a two-thirds probability that no people will be saved.
Which of the two programs would you favor?
Most people will choose Program A. Why? Think about both solutions in terms of what will be lost or gained. Program A uses a gain-frame to persuade people by indicating that lives will be saved rather than lost. Program B, however, provides a high probability that no one will be saved. This choice presents a solution in a loss-frame by indicating what will be lost should we select this option.
Why does framing matter? In the organizational context, the answer is, “It matters a lot.” Most organizations work to provide positive resources and programs for employees. Wellness programs in particular attempt to improve employees’ health and well-being. The difficult part of the programs is convincing employees that there is value in participating in such programs and working to improve his or her health. Framing persuasion using either loss-frame or gain-frame can have a significant impact in the decisions that employees will ultimately make.
If your organization is trying to convince employees to stop smoking, it is important to ask yourself who your target audience is. What currently drives these employees to smoke? Stress? Depending on the answers to these questions, it may be wise to either use loss or gain framing to persuade individuals not to smoke. In terms of health issues, using the loss-frame method is most effective when dealing with detection such as self-breast exams. If you are trying to convince employees to exercise more regularly, the gain-frame method is most effective. For example, presenting employees with all the gains that can be a result of exercising such as losing weight, improving energy level, increasing mood, and decreasing risks of health related problems is extremely effective.
Framing can also be used during hiring processes in an organization. Your organization may want to hire and individual, but fear that the candidate will not accept the available compensation for the job. Therefore, if an organization really wants a candidate, it is useful to use framing to persuade a candidate. For instance, if salary is a concern, an organization could use gain-frame by stating, “Although we cannot offer you that particular salary, we have great incentives for being part of our organization such as our workout facility, our stock options, etc.” If a candidate is presented with incentives that may supplement for the lower salary, the candidate may still decide to take the job.
While framing is a great way to persuade other in decision-making, one must take caution. The tactic is not be used to deceive an individual into thinking an outcome will occur if it will truly not. Framing should be used with honest and factual statements. An organization or individual can lose all their credibility should an individual discover they have been deceived in any way.
Do you think organizations should use framing to persuade others? Is it ethical?