This is one of the most interesting pieces of advice I ever received from a manager of mine, who was one of my first mentors who tought me about the mysteries of life and HR. He was not a specialist with studies in human resources and psychology, he had not read books or studies, but he knew human nature as his own pocket and he was able to correctly asses a person character after just five minutes of conversation. Obviously, he was my first guinea pig in applying this theory and I will share below what I have learned on this occasion.
There are times when – for whatever reason – an idea, despite the fact that is a good and productive one, is not knocking on the right door, no matter how well reasoned it is. There are times when such an idea is the right solution for an important issue and yet the organization is not open to implement it. It is the key moment of choosing whether you want to apply or not the above advice.
Managers are people and they have their own blockages, most of the time without being aware of them. I’m sure that each one of you reading these lines may find moments in their coordinators experience when they were obtuse to a good idea and now they regret the decision. Also, many of those who reach positions of leadership have a long line of good decisions in their personal portfolio that make them trust they reason very much; therefore they tend to consider first their own perspective and only afterwards analyzing another. From my point of view is a normal and natural tendency and especially hard to overcome because you have to fight with yourself, and that’s a hard to win battle.
What happens when you choose to quit arguing and do exactly what the manager asks you to do even if you have another opinion?
First thing that happens is that his/her defensive attitude vanishes, and also the tendency to over-argue against your proposal or for his own perspective. The atmosphere gets relaxed and leads to more openness towards new ideas and suggestions from both sides.
Secondly his ego rests and he/she does not feel anymore the need to prove to you he/she is the smartest in the room and who is the boss. If you are patient enough you can come back after a while with the same proposal – presented in a different shape and with other arguments.
Finally, if things don’t go well, the manager will be the only one responsible for the final outcome and he will deal with the consequences. The only thing you can hope for is that he/she learned his/her lesson and he/she will listen to you in the future.
You can accomplish all above without arguments, tensions, or never ending discussions.
I want to highlight the fact that this piece of advice or strategy should not be interpreted as an encouragement to become insubordinate or to stop being proactive. It is a suggestion designed for dead-end situations when you are 100% convinced we are right and you cannot find additional arguments to sustain your point of view.
Remember that this is a lesson not only for the managers, but also for the ones who are applying it: many times they will learn that their managers are often right by pushing back their pressure to implement a certain suggestion and that their higher experiences is a base of many good decisions.
So, this piece of advice is to be used in desperate situations, but a much more useful and constructive approach is an open and calm discussion and the ideal situation is when a decision is reached through communication, not by undermining strategies.