In benefits, as in life, more is not always better. Photo: Getty Images

In “The Paradox of Choice — Why More Is Less,” psychologist Barry Schwartz wrote, “The fact that some choice is good doesn’t necessarily mean that more choice is better.” The influential book argues that rather than increasing happiness and well-being, an abundance of choice can contribute to feelings of anxiety, depression and wasted time.

“Part of the downside of abundant choice,” he explains, “is that each new option adds to the list of trade-offs, and trade-offs have psychological consequences. The necessity of making trade-offs … affects the level of satisfaction we experience from the decisions we ultimately make.”

Anyone who has stood in the grocery store aisle, overwhelmed by the sea of colorful packaging, or spent hours scrolling through their Netflix queue looking for the perfect show or movie instead of actually watching something can probably relate.

As Maria Konnikova wrote in a New Yorker piece on the subject, “Perhaps what we’re really seeing is how the old fear of missing out plays out in the brain. We’re surrounded by great choices to make … and that’s wonderful. But when we’re made to commit to one, just think of everything that gets away … We know that someone else is eating that delicious ice cream that we passed up, or filling that job that we turned down.” Yes, FOMO was a thing long before it had a hashtag stuck to it.

While attending industry conferences and making my way across crowded show floors, I often wonder, “How can a broker or HR manager make heads or tails of all the options out there?”

There’s a constantly changing sea of new faces offering the latest, greatest tech tools or the revolutionary compliance gadget that will solve all your problems. But when I put myself in a broker’s shoes and imagine making choices that could have a significant impact on my clients’ bottom lines, the anxiety and depression Schwartz mentioned sound just about right.

In this month’s cover story, Sam Salbi offers five questions brokers can use to help rate vendor performance. “It’s ultimately the broker who needs to be responsible for the vendors he or she recommends, as well as their impact on plan design and the company’s bottom line,” he writes. The first step, he says, is to “establish meaningful evaluation criteria that can be applied to all vendors, holding them to a single universal standard.”

I hope you find something useful to keep in mind at the next trade show. And who knows, maybe it will make your next movie night a little easier, too.