Month: October 2013

Handling a very talented but argumentative employee

We’re sure you’ve seen this person at least once. Hopefully, you have a couple of them working for you. You’re lucky if you have found one of those very talented, smart, productive people. He may come with some issues:  he’s always right – at least in his own mind.

Sometimes, they cause big problems: it would be okay if this person thought you were wrong and still cooperated, but you’re either reminded often about how wrong your decision was, or you hear about how wrong this person is reporting you were from a number of other people. This can become a significant problem, especially if it starts to undermine your position with other employees.

This kind of person is often one you want to have around, if perhaps a little quieter at times. Good at solving problems – and cares about the job. Although when you make get the feeling this person is a saboteur, things need to change.

Of course each situation is different, and you need to roll with it, but here are a few of the many suggestions we might make while reviewing your situation.

Appreciate these people! The source of some of the argumentative nature is that they passionately want the best decision to be made. They really care about doing their job and your company, or they wouldn’t argue. People who passionately advocate for something they think is better for you are on your side.

Make it a habit to listen. Seek their input often. You may find some keen insights here. You may learn things you didn’t know, or gain other useful insight into the problems you face. Those are positive outcomes.

Make it clear that the decisions you make aren’t necessarily going to be ultimately the best ones, but they are what you, as the manager in charge of the implementation can work with at the time. A decision isn’t a conclusion – it’s not the end of thinking, it’s what you’re going to do right now.

Develop a record of admitting when you are wrong. It’s difficult sometime, but if you can look at your employees when they give you good suggestions and say: “Let’s do that, that’s better than the idea I had.” Your employees will recognize that if they had convinced you that their idea was better you would have agreed. They know that you can’t always explain everything.

If you’re up against a deadline, or feel other time pressure you need people to act on your decision. If the argument is still happening, get this employee to write his argument down.  Suggest that when things slow down a bit, that they can write their recommendation down clearly and concisely. Very often, the act of writing itself creates more clarity. Details that were not apparent before become clear. If you ask for this, you must take the time to read it. Not doing so would cause some hard feelings, and you may learn something from it.

 

You, the manager, should work with the best solution you have at hand – and part of that solution’s quality of being “best” is how well you understand it.  Make this fact clear to all of your employees.

People want to be heard and appreciated for their contributions. If it’s perceived that you reject suggestions out of hand, you will attract employees who are drones, and who want to do only what they’re told to. As much trouble as the argumentative and brilliant employee can be, they’re the ones that will help you improve and grow your business the most.

Learn some specific argumentative techniques. There are methods that can be used to maximize the positive output of arguments while reducing the blood pressure increase.

If the situation is complex, or the problem is large and the employee very valuable, you may wish to hire a mediator, what you spend on this service you will get back in peace of mind, peace, and hopefully you will learn to harness this talent and make it work better for you.

“Multiple Choice Thinking” may be messing with your head

“Multiple Choice Thinking”

The most common way students have had their learning assessed for the last 30+ years is by the multiple choice test. Teachers like the multiple choice test for a number of reasons. It’s easy to administer – they pass out a list of questions and a computer form. It provides cloak of objectivity -if the student colors in the correct circle, a point is given, if not, the point is missed.  It’s a lot easier than having a list of complex outcomes that you’re measuring in a stack of essays, and easier than trying to explain to a lot of different students why they got the grade they did. Multiple choice tests can be graded in mere minutes instead of hours too – in fact, now with computer and internet based tests, the teacher is not required to intervene at all in testing. The student takes the test, and the results can be directly transported to the students’ records.

This method of assessment has resulted in a lot of what educators call “incidental” learning. We learn a lot of behaviors from the way we’re being taught that have nothing to do with the subject at hand. What we learn from multiple choice testing has a significant effect on how confident we are in our knowledge, how we think and how we make decisions.

Conditions in a multiple choice test.

It’s important to reacquaint yourself with the conditions to understand the impact it has on your thinking and decision making. First, there are a very limited number of possible choices- almost always three to five choices. If more than one of the possibilities is correct you are alerted to that. Almost always there is a “trick” answer – something designed to look correct that isn’t correct. The correct answer is always present.

There is another very important thing about these tests: selecting the correct answer out of those present gets you a point, selecting the wrong one loses you a point. You may not delay the test because you need to learn more. Deciding that there isn’t any good option or that all the options are reasonable isn’t possible.

Points are important – how much people who judge you think you know about a subject depends entirely on how many points you get.

So, how can this play out in your day to day life or at your business? You’ve been taught some things that you’re not aware of, and that learning has had an effect on your behavior whether you realize it or not. Here are few ways that it can make life difficult for you:

1)      You may have more confidence than you should in some of your decisions. Having done well in all the tests you’ve taken – in courses that are supposed to apply to the real world, by choosing the best option among those that are readily available, you are occasionally blindsided by having the best choice turn out very badly.

2)      You may have difficulty making a decision when you have a set of options that are all reasonable. Think if you have a few different subcontractors to choose from, or if you are trying to choose a school for your child. There will be some decisions that are obviously suitable, and some that aren’t, but it may be very difficult to choose among the suitable choices because you are looking for THE right answer, or you are expecting one of those suitable choices to be a trick.

It’s easy to handle these habits when you are aware you have them, it can cause you a great deal of frustration if you are not aware that you have them. Knowing that this kind of testing may be affecting your thinking and decision making can help you make better and decisions and save you time and frustration.