3 Reasons Why Being Right Is A Productivity Trap

by Jennifer Good | February 3rd, 2014 1:49 AM | No Comments

wrong right

Problems happen all the time. Nothing is perfect, but we often expect everything to happen around us as if it was. When problems arise, it’s easy to start playing the blame game. I mean, someone had to be at fault right? While identifying the cause of the issue is crucial to solving the problem, the way you go about it could be more damaging than the initial problem.

I’ve been on both sides of the fence, and in both cases spending too much energy on determining blame has been critically harmful to the relationship and the overall project. People are human, and as such they are going to make mistakes. Being human also means we are emotional beings. We run off of emotions. Therefore, if you still want to work with the person you are having the issue with (or at the very least have them provide you with their best work for the rest of the project), the way you go about solving a problem, dispute or other issue is critical to your future relationship.

You may be in the right, but there’s definitely a wrong way to go about handling problems. Here are three reasons why being right can be a huge productivity trap, and what to do about it:

1. If you’re right – someone has to be wrong.
When you approach disagreements with the viewpoint of “I’m right,” you may not realize that what you are actually telling the other person is that they are wrong. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like being wrong. It happens, but I definitely don’t like it. Even worse is having someone telling me I’m wrong – especially when it’s not true. The key with this point is that once you realize that you are creating an atmosphere that automatically puts the other person in defensive mode, you can work on changing your approach.

When an issue arises with someone, make sure you have a clear resolution or idea for fixing the problem in mind before addressing them. Then when you address them, identify the issue with them and then immediately start talking about solutions. This is much more productive and results-oriented than having to listen to someone vent about how you messed up without any purpose or resolution in sight.

2. If your focus is on who’s right – you’ve lost sight of the big picture.
Disputes and disagreements are going to pop up all the time in the workplace (and personal life). When I was younger, when a problem arose with a client or advertiser, I would start playing the blame game. I would counter everything that was said with a fact or justification that cleared my involvement with said problem. Over the years, though, I’ve learned that this isn’t a very productive or even effective way with dealing with issues.

I’ve found that the real secret to managing disagreements is learning that determining “who is right” or “justified” isn’t helping you in the long run. The minute your focus shifts to assigning blame, you lose sight of the big picture. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the right if making a big stink about something is going to distract not only you, but others around you from working on the big goal.

When something goes wrong, while it may be a natural response to figure out who or what caused the problem, making that the focus isn’t always the best way to move forward. Instead, focus on the ideal resolution and spend your energy on fixing the problem, not creating more new ones. Disagreements or issues are disrupting enough without adding extra emotional stress to them as well. Nowadays, when something pops up, I follow (mostly) these rules of thumb:

  • If possible, wait at least a few hours to respond. If an immediate response is required, I will respond with an acknowledgment of receipt, take care of anything urgent and then notify the parties involved that I will have a more in-depth response at a later date. This allows me to cool down if I’m upset by the communication and also to offer a more objective look at the situation.
  • I put my ego aside and don’t worry about proving my side of the matter. At the end of the day, no one is going to remember what was said, but they will remember how you made them feel. I try (it’s a work in progress) to focus on how the person will feel when they read or hear what I’m saying. If I feel the message will be misconstrued, I don’t say it. It’s not worth my ego to be right. I’m more concerned about producing value and good work.
  • If possible, I fix the issue that has arisen. The easiest way to handle an upset is to actually handle the problem. If there is anything I can do to fix the issue, I do it – as soon as possible.
  • After fixing the issue, I try to create a permanent solution to the problem. Often, I find there was some type of miscommunication or misunderstanding between the two parties that caused the initial issue. In these cases, I can create a system or better way of handling that particular issue that will handle the problem permanently. Then I email the person, apologizing for whatever part I took in the problem and letting them know the steps I’ve taken to ensure the issue won’t happen in the future.

These steps have been crucial to developing a good rapport with people that I work with. You can’t avoid making a mistake, but you can certainly do whatever it takes to create a resolution that leaves you both happy.

3. It’s a giant waste of time.
In my experience, whenever you start to assign blame, you end up in a needless cycle of going back and forth proving who was right and who was wrong. This is a giant waste of time. It doesn’t solve whatever problem is happening and it only creates discord between the two parties.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to spend my days worrying about who did what. I want to create my best work. To create my best work, I need my mind clear of stress and worry. I need to be in my “happy” place. I want to be focused on providing the best value to whoever I’m creating for. Arguing over something I won’t even remember in a few months isn’t worth my time or energy. It only distracts from the big picture. Any effort I put into the blame game is only to serve my ego, and let’s be honest, anything done with your ego in mind is hardly for your best benefit.

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