Be your own toughest critic

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REY ELBO

REY ELBO

Why you should not be a dead wood in meetings; or even act like a wallflower, if you’re part of the gentle sex. But that’s subject to certain conditions and also assuming that you are working in a volunteer organization where you can avoid attending time-consuming meetings discussing at great length the same issue over and over again.

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In real life, you cannot always avoid such situations if your toxic boss demands your physical presence in every meeting that is often characterized by what is called groupthink. So, what kind of buzzword is groupthink? It’s part of social psychology where commonsense, logic, or rationality in any team, group, or unit can be ignored. Members would simply keep silent on a given topic even if they don’t agree with the idea.

It is to preserve harmony with everyone, withholding objections which, in the end, resulting in the failure of a project. Sometimes, some people are not sure of themselves that they would rather not talk about their ideas. If you cannot convince them, at least confuse them with the sound of your silence.

Groupthink is a phenomenon that makes a leader or a senior member of the group come up with a decision for the group, which usually turns out to be immoral, unethical, illegal or fattening.

Therefore, what would you do if you were working with a boss like that who likes groupthink and refuses to recognize industrial democracy? I think you know the answer already. Nevertheless, let me say it. The best approach is to predicate your answer with words like this: “Sir, I’m sure you don’t want any ‘yes’ men in your universe. Before making that decision, may I enumerate the following why and how your decision can be wrong? All I’m asking is for you to give me the chance to ventilate my ideas, which you may accept or reject.”

Now, how many corporate slaving rats can do that? Not so many. It depends on your relationship with the boss.

The most popular study on groupthink was done by Irving Janis, a research psychologist from Yale University. In doing the study, Janis used the failed invasion of Cuba in 1961 and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 as examples.

You may be skeptical about it. After all, why be convinced by two historical cases? Not exactly, you try groupthink in every situation. Think of all projects and situations that went down the drain simply because there was no active, healthy debate done to test the propositions?

Just because an idea or decision came from the boss or a senior leader of a group would not mean it is actually good. You don’t have to take my word for it. Go back to your failed experiments and count the ways.

On the other hand, groupthink can be defeated by people who, in their eagerness to give their two cents’ worth, would say anything as they please even if it means they are going already outside the agenda of the meeting. If that happens, an alert leader or any member should put a brake on it by saying something like: “That’s interesting; but due to limited time, may I suggest that we discuss it offline and focus on what’s on the agenda?”

Not too long ago, I was chatting with a retired topnotch corporate executive, the kind of person you won’t often see these days. He’s an engineer and a respected professional of yesteryears. He’s the type of person who will tell you that meetings are where minutes are kept while hours are lost.

He knows where the problem lies, but he’s very diplomatic to everyone that you’re not even sure if he’s angry or not. If he’s not pleased, you will hear from him only these words: It’s somewhat weird. He will not elaborate on it, even in the face of a clear irregularity.

In conclusion, nothing is more convincing than your own belief and value system. Critical thinking unearths genuine, intelligent decision for any group. Unfortunately, it often tends to create animosity. The best remedy I can think of is to be critical of yourself and your ideas before you open your mouth. There’s no other way but to become your own toughest critic.

Rey Elbo is a business consultant specializing in human resources and total quality management as a fused interest. Send feedback to elbonomics@gmail.com or follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter for his random management thoughts

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