“If the recognition program you’re putting together doesn’t reward people with money, Scott, it’s worthless.”
“You’re wrong about that, Bill. Making money isn’t the only reason people work.”
“I can’t believe how naïve you are, Scott. You do-gooders are all alike. None of you understand business.”
Could you imagine hearing a similar exchange where you work? Hearing two people get wrapped up in their views and be openly scornful of each other’s opinions? Happens a lot, doesn’t it? And, sadly, not only at work.
Leadership practices that favor control breathe life into this line of limiting thinking. Back in 1905, Max Weber, a sociologist and political economist, introduced the theory of bureaucratic management. Weber believed this style of management—with its impersonal rules, rigid requirements, command-and-control hierarchy, and machine-like focus on efficiency—was the most effective way to run an organization.
Some leaders today agree with Weber, thinking the bureaucratic style is the best and only way to manage. Convinced of the truth and rightness of their beliefs, those who support the bureaucratic style often act like Scott and Bill—self-righteous and dogmatic about their preference and dismissive of other points of view.
Dogmatism has been unflatteringly described as the arrogant assertion of opinions as truths or as a rigid state of mind in which it’s believed that things don’t change. The dictionary definition of dogma is a principle or set of principles that are laid down by an authority as being incontrovertibly true.
Saying something is incontrovertibly true is rigid. It means the position is undeniable, beyond question, irrefutable. That’s black-and-white, right-and-wrong absolute. Not pretty.
Having principles and believing in them, living them, is good. That goodness starts to become bad, however, around the word incontrovertible. When people take the position that their view is incontestable, that’s a problem.
Because passion becomes prejudice. Intolerance is tolerated. Polarization prevails. Listening lessens. Voices are silenced. Hearts and minds close. Curiosity ceases. Flexibility vanishes. Learning stops.
There’s no room for differences.
No one says I’m going to take this job and become dogmatic, but sometimes people do just that.
Even worse, they’re unaware of having done it. Rigidity of thought and practice are like thieves that come furtively in the night and steal flexibility, growth, and change. The opportunity for inclusion, too.
When someone gets caught up in dogmatism, they can find themselves suddenly arguing with everyone, amazed at how stupid people have become. They sneer at other’s inability to see the wisdom of their ways. They’re constantly defending their turf, incensed about what their colleagues do or don’t do.
Could that be you?
Are you so sure you’re dogmatic about it?
Are you that person who’s arguing with everyone? Feeling some concern that your certainty may have quietly hardened into dogma?
If you are, do a self-audit.
Ask yourself these seven questions to determine if your sureness about a topic, person, belief, etc., has become inflexible and dogmatic.
1) Has my communication style become abrupt and dismissive?
Hardcore dogmatists believe that it isn’t worth their time to converse with nonbelievers because they have nothing of value to offer. A dogmatist will change the topic, give short answers, or ignore what’s said. They may lob insults—how dumb is that—trivialize, or harshly criticize. They look away, smirk, roll their eyes, sigh, or interrupt. They’ll use disdainful hand gestures, maybe even walk away.
2) Do I feel more anger and despair about differences than I used to?
Because they know they’re right, dogmatists look to impose their beliefs on others. When that proves impossible, feelings of anger and despair follow. They’re frustrated in dealing with people who refuse to see how misinformed and mistaken they are. Dogmatists are fond of phrases like should be, always are, and never, and use them frequently. When their expectations are unmet, the dogmatist feels anger, frustration, and contempt for fools.
3) Do I look for ways to prove that I’m never wrong?
Dogmatists pull themselves up by beating others down. They don’t make mistakes or have errors of judgments. Only the “others” who are wrong do that. A dogmatist knows the truth, so they don’t have to agonize over it. Nor will they compromise or move toward moderation.
4) Have I changed my circle of friends and only associate with those who share my beliefs?
Dogmatic individuals are confident about their beliefs. They hold on to them even when evidence contradicts them, so associating with people who think similarly is comforting as well as affirming.
5) Have I stopped listening to people who have opinions that differ from mine?
Dogmatists focus on their certainties. They’re interested in other people as long as they support their image of rightness. A dogmatist doesn’t see any way for someone who doesn’t share the same beliefs to make a good point, so they feel no need to listen to them.
6) Do I reach conclusions quickly based on how I see the world?
Dogmatists use an all-or-nothing, my-way-or-the-highway approach to life. That includes decision-making and problem-solving. If one solution to a problem clearly aligns with a dogmatist’s perspective, they select that option and view time spent seeking out alternative solutions a waste of time.
7) Do I see the world in terms of black or white?
To a dogmatist, the world is simple. People are either a good guy or a bad one. Someone is either a friend or foe. Someone’s position is either right or wrong. Dogmatists don’t see complexity or nuance. A problem with two answers that are both right yet contradictory doesn’t exist. There’s a single category or label for everything and everyone.
Recognize yourself in any of these questions?
If you do, reach out to a trusted friend or colleague. Ask for their help in finding less rigid and irrefutable territory. You, and those around you, will be happier.
P.S. Please indulge me…for purposes of illustration, I went to the off-the-charts extreme in defining a dogmatist.
Image credit before quote added: Pixabay
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I couldn’t believe it.
She unmade my side of the bed because I didn’t do it right.
My house guest was having problems with her shoulder. She said doing simple things like making up a bed aggravated her discomfort. I volunteered to help, and she agreed. Her ground rule for accepting help was that she would make up one side of the queen-sized bed and I’d do the other. Worked for me. We agreed she’d give me a shout-out the next morning when she was ready to make up her bed.
Puzzled, and feeling a little miffed, I walked over to the side she’d made up. Perhaps she had a different way of tucking in the top sheet. Nope, we’d both done hospital corners. Granted, her angle on the fold was a little crisper than mine. That was the only difference I could see.
What she saw was different.
My side wasn’t perfect like hers was, and she wasn’t going to settle for less than perfect even if it made her wince to first pull out and then redo my work.
Pain is too big a price to pay for perfection.
In the past, I’ve done my dances with perfection, and I refuse to dance with it anymore. Perfection is an unworthy goal. It’s over-rated, not worth the added time, stress, and frustration.
Perfection is overrated, boring. It’s the imperfections—the vulnerabilities, the weaknesses, the human elements—that make us who we are, that make us real, beautiful…necessary. ~Guy Harrison
Before you dance another dance with perfection, give the following items a good think and ask yourself if perfection is truly worth it.
9 ways perfection is overrated
- Most people don’t recognize perfection when they see it.
Why? Because people describe perfection differently. Perfection is an absence of flaws or defects. Perfection, like beauty, rests in the eye of the beholder. I didn’t see any flaws or defects in my side of the made-up bed. My friend did.
- Lost opportunity cost.
Rendering anything with flaw or defect takes time—the time to do and time to redo until perfection is achieved. Some perfectionists are chronic procrastinators. They put off starting something because they’re concerned about not being able to complete the task perfectly.
- Miss out on simple joys.
It’s hard to look perfect eating an ice cream cone outside on a hot, summer day. There’s a good chance ice cream will drip down the cone and your chin. It might drip on your shirt and your fingers. But, isn’t all that part of the glorious fun?
- Present as needy and narrow-minded.
Perfectionism is a prime breeding ground for my way or the highway thinking, which is a death knell for diversity of thought, opinion, and perspective.
- Perfectionism feeds sex and gender stereotypes.
The perfect woman is beautiful, thin, and flawlessly groomed all the time. The perfect man is strong, a protector and provider. Both thoughts are poppycock, full of stereotypical thinking that harms young girls and boys.
- Being perfect doesn’t automatically provide approval and affirmation.
Stop looking outside yourself for approval and affirmation. Give it to yourself, and good enough will do.
- Perfectionism will make you sick.
Perfectionists have greater stress. They’re at greater risk for depression, high blood pressure, anxiety, and mental health problems.
- Fuel negative emotions.
Striving unsuccessfully for that elusive state where there are no flaws or defects makes people feel inferior, resentful, unappreciated, and unfulfilled. They’re full of self-doubt. Maybe anger, too. Perfectionism reduces people’s level of playfulness and willingness to take risks.
- Consumed and paralyzed by fear.
Perfectionism is a cesspool of fear. Perfectionists fear failure, not measuring up, making a mistake, not looking perfect, getting hurt, being exposed as a fraud, and being alone.
Perfectionists often feel that they must always be strong and in control of their emotions. A perfectionist may avoid talking about personal fears, inadequacies, insecurities, and disappointments with others, even with those with whom they are closest. ~Shauna H Springer Ph.D.
Wanting to be a good person who does things well is a worthy goal. Looking to do those things perfectly isn’t. Being perfect is an overrated experience that serves no one well.
Perfectionism is not about striving for excellence or healthy striving. It’s…a way of thinking and feeling that says this: ‘If I look perfect, do it perfect, work perfect and live perfect, I can avoid or minimize shame, blame and judgment.’ ~Brene Brown
Ready to give yourself permission to let go of overrated perfection and instead do your best and accept good enough?
Image credit before quote added: Pixabay
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Taylor sits in her 6 x 8 cubicle waiting for the next IT ticket to come her way and suddenly feels the walls closing in around her. She feels like she’s suffocating.
She’s only a few seconds away from a panic attack, her third this month.
In her mind, it’s all because of her job. That belief makes Taylor like many other people who don’t like their jobs either.
A survey of 8,000 workers across three continents—North America, Europe and Asia—found that 15 percent of Americans hate their jobs. That number was nearly 5 percent higher than the next closest nation of job haters.
Taylor won’t deny that she would be part of that 15 percent. Although she has taken a leave of absence because of the stress she feels from her job, she and admits that her job has caused problems in her personal life, she feels stuck in a job she doesn’t like, with little hope of leaving it in the near future.
While Taylor is quick to blame co-workers, her workload, or what she sees as poor management, the answer to her problems might actually be closer than she thinks.
Most people don’t want to acknowledge responsibility for their life, their story and what is not working in their life.
Look inward to find the answer
People who are stuck in situations they don’t like should take a step back and ask themselves, “how did I create that?”
For those who are unhappy with their job situation, there are some questions they need to start asking themselves:
- Do I hate my job, or do I hate my field?
Those who are frustrated with their job situation shouldn’t be so quick to look for a career change. Often jobseekers will take a position just to get their foot in the door of a certain industry or company. Perhaps it’s time for you to examine other positions that more closely resemble that ideal job or have a discussion with management to evaluate which position in the company is the best fit.
- What kind of work would I do for free?
Perhaps music producer Quincy Jones summed it up best when he said: “The people who make it to the top, whether they’re musicians, or great chefs, or corporate honchos, are addicted to their calling. They’re the ones who’d be doing whatever it is they love, even if they weren’t being paid.” People who are passionate about their work often feel as though they never worked a day in their life.
- Do I have the courage to act?
Plenty of people stuck in a job they don’t like know what they want but give up quickly after a few rejections. It takes courage to make a change, particularly when it comes to a career.
I encourage you to go beyond the boundaries of who you believe yourself to be. If you do, you’ll discover that you’re more than you think you are.
It is necessary…for a man to go away by himself, to sit on a rock and ask, ‘Who am I, where have I been, and where am I going?’ ~Carl Sandburg
Today’s LeadBIG contributor, Carol Talbot, is an author and keynote speaker who has delivered inspiring messages to corporations and conferences in more than 20 countries. She is a Certified Master Trainer of NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) and a Master Firewalk Instructor who fires up teams and gets them to walk across burning hot coals.
Image credit before quote added: Pixabay
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