Monday, August 6, 2007

Always Needing to Be Right

When you went to school, did anyone ever tell you to be sure and choose the “wrong” answer on a test?

At work, does your boss regularly tell you to make the “wrong” decisions?

Probably not. From the time we are children, we are counseled to make the “right” choices, and how to look “right” and how to do the “right” thing. That often continues in the workplace, that need to be ”right.”

And, the more “right” we are, the more likely we are to become rigid in our way of thinking. But here’s something to think about: By denying there is anything left to learn, we undermine ourselves and our companies. Failing to acknowledge that other people may have the right answer can really affect an individual’s and organization’s success. The most successful people, after all, often challenge others to come up with a better idea and then learn from that input.

Of course, letting go of being “right” all the time takes courage. It means that you first have to admit that you’ve gone too far and you need to improve. But once you’ve done that, you should:

• Define what winning looks like to you. Think about what you really want, how you feel about certain issues in your life and at work, and how your life experiences have impacted how you regard those things.
• Look at how often your need to be right really interferes with what you want. If you shut people down by interrupting them with your “right” solution, or they turn away because you have proven them “wrong,” note this interaction in a journal. Keep track of what happened, your reaction, and what the price was, such as a less creative answer or hurting a relationship with a co-worker.
• Ask questions. Instead of jumping in with the answer all the time, become more curious. Ask others what they think, and give them a chance to respond. Only then should you offer your opinion.
• See the world in shades of gray. Consider how often your thinking is automatically “right versus wrong.” Try to look at all sides of the issue before making a decision.


Anonymous said...

Great post. I found myself on several occasions recently saying literally "I told you!" to a co-worker. I didn't even realize I did that until she told me one day. I was doing it to emphasize my excitement about how a project is boing, but why was I phrasing it in a - see, it's all about me - way? Well, probably because I wanted to be right. But being right isn't the most important thing, even when you are! Good message!

Anita said...

"All about me" is a great way of putting it. I think that we're all guilty of that in one form or another, and we probably need more people willing to point that out to us. And, I think just as important is our ability to say "I was wrong" and not consider ourselves losers.

Anonymous said...

I think most people at some point are guilty of always needing to be right. It's only human. As a younger worker, however, I urge any managers reading this post to try and catch yourselves from doing this. So many times, managers will use the "I told you so" which greatly undermines any sense of acheivement an employee might have when they do succeed at something on their own. That stifles employee morale and advancement and pretty soon, people will get lethargic on the job.

It also comes across as being insecure. The worst is people who cannot handle anyone else being right but them. I had a boss once that even if you were in agreement, she would find some way to twist the concept into her own and announce it to everyone(she thought of it first, she had an interesting spin, etc.)

Anita said...

I, too, have worked for a boss like that. The thing that struck me was that this boss was really just insecure, but he always came off as sounding like such a blowhard. I found that we just "humored" him, then went about doing what we wanted. That really wasn't an effective way to do business since companies rely on everyone working together towards a common goal. It makes you realize what that "needing to be right all the time" thing costs all of us.