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Jovialis
04-12-17, 20:59
It’s the season for holiday parties at the office. They’re great for building workplacecamaraderie and team spirit, but when was the last time a colleague — perhaps fueled by too much alcohol — said something so ridiculous that it made your jaw drop? Perhaps they went into something political, claiming that George Bush is behind 9/11, or that Barack Obama is a Kenyan Muslim? Perhaps they voiced science denialism, saying that the Earth is flat or that the Apollo moon landing was faked?

On the other hand, maybe they brought up something related to business that made you realize they are looking at the world through rose-colored glasses. It happens more often than you might think, not only at the lower levels of organizations, but also at the very top.

A four-year study by LeadershipIQ.com, a leading organization in providing online leadership seminars, interviewed 1,087 board members from 286 organizations of all sorts that forced out their Chief Executive Officers. It found that 23 percent of CEOs got fired for denying reality, meaning refusing to recognize negative facts about the organization’s performance. Other research strongly suggests that the behaviors expressed by CEOs “are felt throughout the organization by impacting the norms that sanction or discourage member behavior and decision making, and the patterns of behavior and interaction among members.” Together, these findings suggest that organizations where CEOs deny negative facts will have a culture of denying reality throughout the hierarchy.

Of course, people may hold false beliefs even in organizations where CEOs do not suffer from reality denial. Professionals at all levels suffer from the tendency to deny uncomfortable facts in business settings. Scholars term this thinking error the ostrich effect, named after the (mythical) notion that ostriches stick their heads into the sand when they see threats.
How do you deal with people suffering from the ostrich effect? Dealing with truth denialism — in business, politics, and other life areas — is one of my areas of research. I regularly give keynotes and trainings, as well as do consulting, on this topic, and have recently published The Truth-Seeker’s Handbook: A Science-Based Guide to provide guidance on how to address truth denialism in all life areas, including business activities, both within ourselves and in other people. This article provides a research-based process you can take to address professional colleagues who deny the facts based on a just-publishedpeer-reviewed academic piece.

Do Not Lead With Facts, Logic, or Reason

Our intuition is to confront our colleagues with the facts, but research — and common sense, if the colleague is your supervisor — suggests that’s usually exactly the wrong thing to do. When we see someone believing in something we are confident is false, we need to suspect some emotional block is at play. Unfortunately, despite the extensive research about the importance of emotional intelligence in professional settings, too many organizations still fail to provide training in emotional intelligence, including in how to deal with colleagues whose emotions lead them to deny reality.

A number of factors explain why people in business settings hold false beliefs. For example, research on the confirmation bias shows that we tend to look for and interpret information in ways that conforms to our beliefs. So even if sales are far below expectations, CEOs might reject that information in projecting good financial forecasts if they believe their actions should lead the company to do well. In another example, I consulted for a company where a manager who made a hire refused to acknowledge the new employee’s bad fit, despite everyone else in the department telling me that the employee was holding back the team. The manager’s behavior likely resulted from what scholars term the sunk cost fallacy, our tendency to double down on our past decisions even when an objective assessment shows the decision to be problematic.

In both of these cases, facing the facts would cause the CEO or the manager to feel bad about themselves. Unfortunately, we often prefer to stick our hands into the sand rather than acknowledge our fault because of our reluctance to experience negative emotions. Research on a phenomenon called the backfire effect shows when we are presented with facts that cause us to feel bad about our identity, self-worth, worldview, or group belonging, we tend to dig in our heels and refuse to accept the facts. In some cases, presenting the facts actually backfires, causing people to develop a stronger attachmentto their incorrect belief, as scholarship shows. Moreover, we express anger at the person bringing us the message, a phenomenon researchers term “shoot the messenger,” in similarity to the colloquial use of the term. There are many other mental errors that inhibit business professionals from seeing reality clearly and making good decisions.

Do Model Their Goals, Values, and Emotions

Some might ask: If emotions are the problem, what’s the solution? Let me be clear that emotions are not a problem. They are fundamentally important to the human experience, and we need both reason and emotions to make good decisions, according to the scholarship.

Instead, your goal should be to show emotional leadership and try to figure out what are the emotional blocks inhibiting your colleagues from seeing reality clearly. To do so, use curiosity and subtle questioning to figure out their values and goals, and how these tie to their perception of self-identity.

For instance, say you’re on the Board of Directors of the company whose CEO you see as denying the facts: consider a conversation about what they perceive to be the traits of a strong leader. In the case of the manager, I asked about her long-term goal for the department, and how she plans to achieve it. During the ensuing discussion, focus on deploying the emotional intelligence skill of empathy, meaning understanding other people’s emotions, as a way to determine what emotional blocks might cause them to stick their heads into the sand of reality.
Put Yourself on the Same Side and Build Trust

Next, you’ll want to communicate to them that you have shared goals and values. Doing so is crucial, as scholarship shows, for effective knowledge sharing in professional environments. Practice mirroring, meaning rephrasing in your own words the points made by the other person, which helps build trust in business relationships. Using the empathetic listening you did previously, a vital skill in selling, to echo their emotions and show you understand how they feel.

As an example, with the CEO, you might talk about how both of you share a desire for the CEO to be a truly strong leader. Try to connect the traits and emotions identified by the CEO to specific examples of the CEO’s behavior. With the manager, I steered the conversation to how she saw her current and potential future employees playing a role in the long-term future of the department she ran. I echoed her anxiety about the company’s financial performance and concerns about getting funding for future hires, which gave me an additional clue into why she might be protecting the incompetent employee.
Lead Them Away From False Beliefs

After placing yourself on the same side, building up trust, and establishing an emotional connection, move on to the problem at hand — their emotional block. The key is to show them, without arousing a defensive or aggressive response, how their current truth denialism will lead to them undermining their own goals in the long term, a research-driven approach to addressing thinking errors.

In the case of the CEO, you as a Board of Directors member might discuss how strong leaders welcome learning negative information and updating their beliefs toward reality, so that they can fix the problem effectively; in turn, failing to identify negative facts is a sign of a weak CEO. Encourage the CEO to consider what aspects of the company’s performance might be problematic, and how the performance might be addressed. Direct the conversation toward underperforming sales and financial forecasts at that stage, and offer to collaborate together on addressing the problem both of sales and of revising the excessively optimistic financial forecasts. Emphasize how only weak leaders turn away from reality if the CEO proves stubborn, as the key to the CEO’s emotional block is a self-identity as a good leader: your goal is to help the CEO incorporate a new character traitinto their perception of what makes a good leader. Avoid mentioning the LeadershipIQ study unless you have to, saving it as a last resort.

For the manager, I asked her to identify which of her employees contributed most to her own goals for the department’s long-term performance, and which the least, and why. I also had her consider which contributed the most to the team spirit and unit cohesion in the department, and which dragged down morale and performance. As part of the conversation, I brought up research on why we sometimes make mistakes in evaluating professional colleagues, and how to avoid these mistakes. She acknowledged the employee in question as being a poor performer and a drag on the rest of the group. Together, we collaborated on a plan of proactive professional development for the employee for the next three months; if the employee did not meet agreed-upon benchmarks, he would be let go.

Conclusion

Conclude your conversations with positive reinforcement for professional colleagues accepting the facts, a research-based tactic of effective leadership. The more positive emotions the person associates with the ability to accept negative facts as an invaluable skill in business settings, the less likely you will need to have the same conversation with them. I hope these tactics help you assist your colleagues in getting their heads out of the sand.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/intentional-insights/201712/how-deal-colleagues-who-deny-reality

I think it’s important to understand that this is intend to be a way to communicate with colleagues. Meaning you’re on the same team working towards a similar goal. In the context of this forum it would mainly be learn and discuss population genetics in an objective manner, based on reputable sources. Therefore, I think it’s imperative to crush t-rolls with scientific facts, regardless of what ever “emotional block” they may have.

But in regards to colleagues, I think it is better to be upfront with them, and give them the hard facts in a respectful manner. Though I do see how this could cause some people to resist the facts, with their “emotional block”. But I look at it this way, people need to be mature, and accept reality. This over emphasis on emotional intelligence trend is infantilizing. But a lot it depends on the situation, I guess.

Angela
05-12-17, 00:36
I think it’s important to understand that this is intend to be a way to communicate with colleagues. Meaning you’re on the same team working towards a similar goal. In the context of this forum it would mainly be learn and discuss population genetics in an objective manner, based on reputable sources. Therefore, I think it’s imperative to crush t-rolls with scientific facts, regardless of what ever “emotional block” they may have.

But in regards to colleagues, I think it is better to be upfront with them, and give them the hard facts in a respectful manner. Though I do see how this could cause some people to resist the facts, with their “emotional block”. But I look at it this way, people need to be mature, and accept reality. This over emphasis on emotional intelligence trend is infantilizing. But a lot it depends on the situation, I guess.

I was just thinking that! Do I really want to empathize with a racist t-roll or a neo-Nazi and try to get them to see the error of their ways? I tried it over and over again right on this very forum and it was useless. They're a lost cause.

When people have certain ingrained, emotionally tinged views of the world, they don't change very much or very often. They usually change only because they want to change, and only with great effort.

Business problems are a bit different. The situations he outlined have to do with ego. There are a lot of people who can't admit they've made a mistake, whether it's in hiring, or in strategy or projections. Yes, if you sweet talk them enough, and go at it indirectly it's sometimes possible to get them to see the light. However, how much time do you have to spend on things like this? I've always had to work under extreme time pressure. You can do it for a while, but after a certain point, if someone makes bad decision after bad decision, and neither sweet talk or blunt logic works, and if you have the authority, just fire them for God's sake, or demote them to a position where they can't create havoc. It's the hardest thing you have to do in a work setting, but sometimes there's no alternative.

This is also, imo, one of the things that's wrong with corporate America today. It's time to bring back actual capitalism instead of cronyism. If some executive is making hundreds and hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars, but he's being incompetent, or putting his emotions and ego ahead of the job, fire him or her for goodness sakes', and fire him for sexually inappropriate conduct while you're at it. No more huge contracts with golden parachutes either. Produce, keep your pants zipped, or you're out.

Jovialis
05-12-17, 15:50
I was just thinking that! Do I really want to empathize with a racist t-roll or a neo-Nazi and try to get them to see the error of their ways? I tried it over and over again right on this very forum and it was useless. They're a lost cause.
When people have certain ingrained, emotionally tinged views of the world, they don't change very much or very often. They usually change only because they want to change, and only with great effort.
Business problems are a bit different. The situations he outlined have to do with ego. There are a lot of people who can't admit they've made a mistake, whether it's in hiring, or in strategy or projections. Yes, if you sweet talk them enough, and go at it indirectly it's sometimes possible to get them to see the light. However, how much time do you have to spend on things like this? I've always had to work under extreme time pressure. You can do it for a while, but after a certain point, if someone makes bad decision after bad decision, and neither sweet talk or blunt logic works, and if you have the authority, just fire them for God's sake, or demote them to a position where they can't create havoc. It's the hardest thing you have to do in a work setting, but sometimes there's no alternative.
This is also, imo, one of the things that's wrong with corporate America today. It's time to bring back actual capitalism instead of cronyism. If some executive is making hundreds and hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars, but he's being incompetent, or putting his emotions and ego ahead of the job, fire him or her for goodness sakes', and fire him for sexually inappropriate conduct while you're at it. No more huge contracts with golden parachutes either. Produce, keep your pants zipped, or you're out.

Yea, it's useless to reason with t-rolls because their intention is disruption. More accurately, they are sadists, that want to mentally abuse people. For racists, like Neo-Nazis, I feel it has to do a lot with ego as well. They want to be great simply for being born. They have a set standard they seek to validate with science. They try to draw connections with 19th-century anthropology. But when science doesn't match with their beliefs; they fall back on 19th-century anthropology. This is part of their emotional block; going back to antiquated beliefs that gave them their false sense of identity to begin with. With racists of other types, like afro-centrists, their "emotional block", would be to disregard modern science as inherently racist; ironically pointing to the same 19th century anthropologists, as a precedent. These people will only change if they want to, I feel that no amount of reasoning that applies to normal individuals will work. Same thing applies to political ideologues and religious zealots. If someone's identity is threatened by facts, and they don't have the emotional maturity to accept reality; they'll double down on their beliefs. But the biggest problem with people like this this, is they want to impose their beliefs on others that do think logically; sometimes violently. We see it with post-modern liberals groups like Anti-fa, and #BLM. All of these aforementioned groups are basically a bunch of adult babies. Same thing with CEOs that don't want to be wrong.

davef
05-12-17, 16:37
Which is why you don't argue or even converse with political extremists. You can't say anything that goes against their rigid perspectives no matter how true it is so you either fake it and give an amen or shut your mouth

Bergin
05-12-17, 19:53
Funny topic.
In modern organization theory, the tendency is shifting from the highly piramidal structure (ceo on the top) to a cell like stucture.
It is not very well know how it happens, but a bunch of people create a substructure (the nucleus) and they coordinate most of the activities (these people dont even know it).
Big companies do hire anthropologists to study the company and are pretty much aware. The ceo is supposed to become part of the nucleus, if not he is completely useless.


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Bergin
05-12-17, 19:55
Anyway, this comes from just a course, and moreover, from 5 years ago. So maybe things have changed

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