We tend to believe sometimes that we know some things better than the rest. Sometimes we are right, most times we are not. There are though people that firmly believe they know everything (better). Those know-it-all personas have a tendency to drive the rest of us crazy. If they are our friends we just accept them as they are and smile every time they try to convince us with an argument. If they are family members be it fathers, mother-in-laws or husbands – your love for them usually makes up for any extremely annoying persistent strong view (how to tackle this should be subject of a separate blog-post).
Worse than family are colleagues and superiors. Some are truly in the champions league of know-it-alls. Beyond personal differences and relational hiccups in the workplace – it is even more frustrating if the working culture is narrow in terms of its thinking. A lack of responsiveness to different ideas and approaches is a true killer for our enthusiasm. In some professional environments the thinking is so narrow that the line to take can seem like intellectual fascism.
Harnessing only a specific type of thinking does not only lead to personal frustration. It is also a very bad way of doing business or managing tasks in most areas. In western civilisation we are usually spared from severe forms of dictated thinking. This doesn’t mean that people from time to time do not abuse their powers to convince others of their world views.
Being at work takes a lot of our time. It pays for bread and butter – so on one level the paycheck already makes work meaningful. But for a lot of people – including us – this is not enough. We think our tasks and our energy spent in the professional setting should make use of our existing knowledge (…and wisdom), objective evidence-base and allow us to acquire new skills (and more wisdom).
So – how to diplomatically manage and stay calm in a narrow-minded working culture where not evidence-based facts – but opinions based on populistic mass media coverage or personal hang-ups are a reality? How to handle situations where ‘intellectual fascism’ rules? If this is an issue that permeates the workplace it might be a difficult thing to raise as a problem. It might even be hard to define exactly what the problem consists of or where it originates.
Because a lot of the time things are more muddled than organised. Meetings sometime resemble episodes of ‘The Office’ and are far from being productive. What if you’re stuck with the short end of the stick? Is there a way to open people’s minds for more calibrated and well-substantiated arguments – to allow for truly participatory*, holistic* and inclusive* discussions?
At the heart of this lies some expectations. The workplace, colleagues and the hierarchy, is one of our fundamental “eco-systems” and we would like it to work with us – not against us.
There is a ton of research literature about work and group dynamics, leadership and working environments. At the end of the day the working culture is made up by the people who come there every day.
How can one move forward with things if tunnel-vision is the only thing on the menu? As narrow minded people seem seldom to reflect upon themselves and their preconfigured world view it is difficult to approach them with some helpful wisdom. A slap to the face or any hard punch is also out of question (as violence is not known to help against narrow mindedness).
So what to do next time you come across any form of small-mindedness? Just face it with the most subliminal sarcastic smile you have in store and give an imaginary slap to the face and move on. And before doing that, make sure that you really listened, and don’t dismiss it just because you disagree.
* these are all concepts that everyone loves, but few think about what they really mean..