5 Steps to Dealing with Idiots at Work

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5 Steps to Dealing with Idiots at Work


It’s interesting how often we hear ourselves or others refer to a colleague as “stupid/short sighted/an idiot”.  

The comment is usually expressed with a heartfelt sense of exasperation and frustration. Can’t this misguided individual see that what they’re doing is not only unhelpful, it’s very distracting and more importantly preventing more important things getting done?

It can be so annoying, when you try to talk about what you firmly believe are the actions essential for success, all that happens is a sense of hostility starts to rise and positions become firmly entrenched.

Even worse, you end up feeling that you’re going backwards rather than moving forward.

But what if person you consider to be an ‘idiot’ just has a different way of thinking and working; that understanding their perspective could lead to a much richer working relationship as well as better results?

In this blog I’ll consider five straightforward steps you can take to not only diffuse the ‘idiot’ situation but benefit from it instead.  How much time and energy could you save if you found a better way of dealing with those that frustrate you?


#1 Take a Deep Breath


By far the easiest way to reduce the tension in a conflict is to take a deep breadth and ask the other person to explain their point of view.

Breathing deeply (aim to do this quietly though!) for a few breaths will start to quieten the fight/flight response that’s being triggered by the situation. The aim is to quieten the part of your brain that is dying to be right and jump in to ‘win’ the discussion.


#2 Ask Questions


It’s important to ask questions with a genuine sense of wanting to appreciate the other person’s perspective.

Your aim is to ask open ones such as “can you help me understand what about that solution/idea/etc makes it your preferred option?”. Need question mark image of some kind
See how many ‘layers’ you can uncover to this alternative view.


#3 Listen Without Judgment to the Answers


You’re probably familiar with the concept of active listening, repeating back in summary form to check that you’ve understood this alternative viewpoint is going to be very useful here.

Listening closely and thinking about what’s being said in order to respond with a summary is going to help you park judgment and better comprehend the other person’s views and ideas.


#4 Consider Whether You’ve Learnt Anything Helpful/Different


It’s quite possible at this point that you will have found out something new. For example, you might have picked up that your proposed ideas or changes are causing a sense of unease or fear.

You could have found that the other person has a very fixed view on the topic under discussion, in which case you’ve also probably heard why they believe they’re ‘right’.

All great input into how you can move forward from this conflict.


#5 If you Haven’t Come Up with a New Way Forward, Then Agree to Disagree


Many times, you will find that a deeper understanding of where the other person is coming from will allow you to ‘bridge’ their position to your position.

As I used to say to a colleague you can keep explaining how to get from A to B, but what if they’re not at A? If you have identified they’re at position C, there’s an opportunity to explain what a path from C to B looks like and diffuse the situation.

At the very least you can acknowledge that you understand their point of view but have to agree to disagree. Personally, I have found this approach to be incredibly useful in working together more productively even when I and a colleague haven’t seen eye to eye about something.


What has worked for you? Let me know in the comments section below!


(Photo by Hanna Postova on Unsplash)

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