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Rigidity ( Latin rigiditas "rigidity, hardness") describes a character structure that shows rigidity in attitude, goal setting or opinion, immobility and a reluctance to change as behavioral tendencies.

These behavioral tendencies are v. a. seen as core symptoms of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (ICD-10 F60.5). Evidence can also be obtained with the help of some psychological tests that contain special rigidity scales.

Rigidity also describes the stiffness of a tissue in medicine , especially used in relation to muscles (syn. Rigor ). For example, the administration of the opioid fentanyl can lead to thoracic muscle rigidity (hardening of the muscles of the chest ), which can make ventilation under anesthesia more difficult. The term is also used in phallography for cavernous bodies such as the penis .

Rigidity as a human behavioral tendency

Decision psychology shows that rigid behavioral and decision-making tendencies can often be observed in people, which as a consequence often leads to wrong decisions. For example, a study by Paul C. Nutt on management decisions revealed the following:

The researcher examined 400 decisions as examples; the size of the company was irrelevant. Therefore

  • the bosses decided 130 times in an almost dictatorial way by ignoring the opinion of their teams; 42 times they changed their minds themselves and dropped the project after considerable costs had been incurred;
  • Two thirds of all CEOs did not change the goals they had set themselves, even if they turned out to be absolutely unrealistic in the market environment;
  • 81% of the managers decided because they were convinced of their own infallibility, whereupon 53% of such projects turned into an economic fiasco;
  • only 7% of all managers surveyed stated that they had taken long-term aspects into account and had sufficient information with the specialist departments.

Rigidity in the professional world and in companies

Rigidity is the downfall of a social system that is dependent on change and is therefore directly relevant for companies. Companies that look back on past successes and stick to their success strategy are particularly at risk. Of course, an organization cannot be called rigid, it is the people who lead the organization. The endangerment of executives comes from the downside of their strengths: focus on what is important, independence from employees and the usually strong sense of success. In addition, there is time pressure and pressure to perform, which induce narrowing of perception and superficial actionism through the stress reaction.

Characteristics of rigid structures are refinement, rituals with which one is celebrated, and the avoidance of inadmissible, critical questioning. The effects are rapid stalemate, a defensive stance on the market and a mostly unstoppable decline in results. Until recently, self-deception dominates, the hope of a change in circumstances, for example, or the breakthrough success of a new miracle drug, be it the new major customer or the new product. But when the delayed change is then finally imposed from the outside, the loss of substance is usually too great for a successful renovation.

At the company level, preventive measures lie in the basic orientation towards change, uncertainty, criticism and errors. Anyone who wants to change has to take away the fear of mistakes, has to value uncertainty positively as a sign of progress and, above all, has to make a critical-controversial dialogue a prerequisite for every decision-making process. Managers must not forget to see emotions and to take them into account for motivation, and that means in particular to understand and process goals as “future, planned success stories”.

Rigidity is the self-deception of security. It works by mentally closing one's eyes to reality. In the short term, this creates a good feeling, which is however illusory and calms you down. A really good feeling, however, can only be achieved by achieving goals that go beyond what already exists and thus receive your own fingerprint.

See also


  • Max H. Bazerman , Don A. Moore: Judgment in Managerial Decision Making. 7th edition. Wiley, Hoboken NJ 2009, ISBN 978-0-470-04945-7 .
  • Günter Krampen: TBR questionnaire on behavioral rigidity. German translation, reliability, validity, revised version (= Trier Psychological Reports. Vol. 4, Issue 9, ISSN  1619-3970 ). University, Trier 1977.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Paul C. Nutt: Why Decisions Fail. Avoiding the Blunders and Traps That Lead to Debacles. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, San Francisco CA 2002, ISBN 1-576-75150-3 .
  2. Jim Collins : The Path to the Best, Campus-Verlag 2011.
  3. Heiner Reinke-Dieker: Caution! Rigidity. literatur-vsm, Vienna autumn 2014, ISBN 978-3-902155-19-1 .