2 simple steps to handle stupidity
Thursday, October 19, 2017
Sometimes it is difficult to escape stupidity at work. Whether it is an irritating co-worker, a micromanaging boss or just a case of the Mondays, foolishness can be lurking in the next meeting. While a sarcastic response, screaming in the supply closet or telling someone to shut up might seem like great solutions in the moment, they are more likely to land you a one-on-one conversation with HR than any lasting relief.
Instead of seeking revenge, harboring bad feelings or letting an otherwise benign but annoying behavior derail a good day, handle stupidity with these two simple steps.
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The best first step in conquering most problems is to clearly define the issue. Is it really the boss’ aggressive supervision? Or is it that her supervision seems to imply that we don't know what we’re doing?
Just like any project at work, it is best if we spend the time and effort up front to understand what the real challenge is as the process will ultimately be more efficient and productive. As noted in this research published in the Harvard Business Review, framing the problem accurately will also provide more opportunity for better solutions.
Thus, the next time stupidity strikes, take the time to figure out whether the stupidity is a systemic problem, a relationship dynamic or just the result of a bad day. By doing so, we will be better prepared to handle it.
While defining the true source of our frustration will go far in helping us address it, it is not enough to just know what it is. We must do something about it. In fact, the clearer we are on the issue, often the more compelled we become to solve it.
At this point, it is handy to remember two things. First, not everyone has the same logic about doing things as we do. That may seem obvious, but it is easy to forget when we are armed with such clarity of thought and purpose.
It may be clear that the boss is dealing with her own frustrations of being micromanaged by the board, but she may not realize that quite yet. We should consider this and her perspective when crafting our approach.
Second, positivity and negativity are contagious. And according to Shawn Achor, a leading researcher in the field of positive psychology, happiness fuels success. So, once we have defined the source of the stupidity and given a bit of thought to the perpetrator’s perspective, we will be better poised for success if we figure out a way to approach the issue positively.
For example, if the boss tends to micromanage more right after a board meeting, then we could offer to help her prepare for the next board meeting, let her vent about her challenges, or ask her if there is some way we can help support her better.
The bottom line is that the people with whom we work can be a frustrating lot. Regardless of where we are in our careers, it is worth it to take the time to develop tools to deal with stupidity as we face it. We may not be able to fix stupid, but we can find ways to successfully handle it.
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