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The Ikea Effect in the Workplace: Building Ownership and Overcoming Challenges

In 2012, the Journal of Consumer Psychology published an article titled "The IKEA Effect: When Labor Leads to Love" by Michael Norton, Daniel Mochon, and Dan Ariely. The study conducted by Norton, Mochon, and Ariely explored the phenomenon where consumers who assembled furniture themselves felt a heightened sense of self-validation and attachment to the finished product. This phenomenon is commonly known as the "Ikea Effect." In this blog post, we'll discuss how the Ikea Effect relates to the workplace and its implications for employee engagement and organizational change management.


The Personal Connection

As someone who has spent a career in the nonprofit and education sectors, the Ikea Effect theory has always resonated with me. In both of these fields, I've often had to create remarkable outcomes with limited resources and little guidance. I've invested my time and energy into crafting programs, events, and initiatives that needed to make a significant impact on our stakeholders. This personal investment led to a strong emotional connection and sense of ownership.


The Ikea Effect is essentially about how, when you create something yourself, you come to love it more. It becomes a part of you, and any feedback, even constructive criticism, can be hard to accept. This attachment is a testament to the effort and sacrifices put into the project. For me, it meant time away from family, friends, hobbies, and even my pups. It's no surprise that feedback, especially negative feedback, felt like a knife stabbing me, as if all my sacrifices were for nothing.


The Widespread Phenomenon

I'm certainly not the only one who experiences the Ikea Effect in the workplace. Many individuals in various industries and roles encounter this phenomenon. It can manifest in employee engagement, retention and even organizational change management.


Leveraging the Ikea Effect for Change

The Ikea Effect can be an invaluable tool during organizational change management. For successful change, employees need to be genuinely invested in the process. How can this be achieved? By giving them ownership of a part of it. If an organization has a clear vision for change but needs ideas and execution, involving employees can be a game-changer. Brain science supports the idea that those who participate in the change will be more committed to it. This approach can also bring in fresh ideas from employees who are often closest to the areas that need improvement. It's crucial for management to balance ownership discussions to avoid over attachment and ensure staff feel validated and appreciated.


The Pitfalls of the Ikea Effect

However, the Ikea Effect can also be a double-edged sword. Imagine you're the new hire brought in to bring fresh ideas and lead change, only to be met with resistance from your colleagues. They've invested their time and effort into existing processes, and they fear that your changes will undo their hard work. This resistance is another face of the Ikea Effect, where attachment to one's creations can hinder progress.


Conclusion

The Ikea Effect is a powerful psychological phenomenon that affects the workplace in various ways. When harnessed effectively, it can drive employee engagement and facilitate organizational change. However, it can also lead to resistance and challenges when trying to introduce new ideas or make changes in a deeply attached work environment. Understanding and managing the Ikea Effect is crucial for success in today's dynamic workplace. Remember, employee engagement is shaped by the behaviors, values and beliefs of all employees not just management.




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