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The Idiocy Of Ideologues

by Miki Saxon

Last week I had a call from a “Rick,” marketing manager, with what he thought was a unique problem—sadly it’s not as uncommon as you might think.

Short version. “Chris” is one of his top producing marketing people and extremely valuable to the team and the company. Recently, the team had a vehement disagreement on a marketing plan, but finally decided to go with an approach different from the one that Chris had championed.

Since then, Chris has made a number of comments and suggestions that undermine the current effort and has privately said that she hopes it fails because the other approach was better.

The team was starting to notice and some were losing confidence—a sure way to guarantee failure.

Rick said he had talked a bit with Chris; she denied that she was sabotaging the campaign and if it failed it would be because the wrong choice was made.

When I asked if Chris was always such an ideologue Rick was startled. He hadn’t thought of her actions in those terms, but after thinking it over he decided that she was a bit, although normally not to this extent.

Rick went on to say that it was ironic, because during the election Chris had been adamant that the “hide-bound ideology on both sides was creating problems for the country” and that she thought Obama was less locked into a specific, narrow ideology than most politicians.

More recently, she had been furious with Rush Limbaugh’s comment “I hope Obama fails,” seeing it as destructive and unpatriotic.

And therein, as I told Rick, lay his solution. Here is what I suggested.

  • Arrange a conversation without interruptions, such as an off-site lunch.
  • Make a production of turning off your cell phone (if Rick isn’t answering his, Chris is unlikely to interrupt to answer hers).
  • Keep the tone conversational; avoid anything that sounds like an accusation or makes the lunch feel like a confrontation.
  • Remind Chris’ about her previous thoughts regarding ideologues.
  • Once she confirms her thoughts gently draw the parallel between her attitudes and an ideologue.
  • Use her own words and feelings to refute whatever defense she raises (again, without attacking her).
  • Keep it conversational and take your time leading her to the recognition that her actions are the same as those she dislikes, just in a different arena.

Rick called today to say they’d had lunch that day and the conversation went exactly as predicted. It wasn’t perfectly smooth and there were some dicey moments, but when that happened he backed away and tried another route. He said that it would have been impossible to do in the office with interruptions and turning off their cells created a whole different mood.

He said that when Chris realized that she was doing a highly watered down version of Limbaugh she was openly shocked and very apologetic.

Instead of leaving it there, Rick took extra time to walk through the competing plans and why the team had chosen the one and not the other. He explained that it wasn’t that Chris was wrong, she just held a different opinion and that was OK, but it wasn’t OK do anything to undermine the program—even unconsciously.

With a more open mind Chris grudgingly agreed to the reasoning. She said that in spite of still feeling the other plan was better she would do everything in her power to make the project work. She said that the success of the project was more important than being “right.”

Rick was lucky because a critical member of his team was also a rational thinking person who could see a parallel when it was pointed out and not enough of a hypocrite to claim “that’s different…”

Chris was lucky because she worked for a manager who valued her and was willing to take the time to help her change and grow.

How do you control your inner ideologue?


Last week I wrote Time To Get Off Your Ass And Lead (Yourself) and Ravi Tangri added some very intelligent thoughts in his comment. I hope you’ll take a moment to click over, read it and add your own thoughts to the conversation. It’s an important one for all of us.

Your comments—priceless

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Image credit: Gurdonark on flickr

4 Responses to “The Idiocy Of Ideologues”
  1. cynicalrealistNo Gravatar Says:

    “Chris was lucky because she worked for a manager who valued her and was willing to take the time to help her change and grow.”

    Though saved for the end, this is HUGE! Most managers would have ignored her, written a crappy review and relegated Chris to the dog pound – especially in our current ‘buyer’s market’ when it’s so easy to replace than it is to work with people.

  2. Miki SaxonNo Gravatar Says:

    Managers who believe that it’s easy to replace people in any market are idiots, too.

    If they bothered sitting down and actually tallied the full cost of replacement, including recruiting, time, training, familiarization, morale, etc., they would think more than twice. The replacement attitude is based in ideology and practiced by ideologues.

    Or perhaps we should call them idiotlogues.

  3. gurdonarkNo Gravatar Says:

    A good post. If people were as committed to their interpersonal relationships as they sometimes become to one way of doing things among several reasonable choices,then the unemployment rate, the divorce rate, and the
    e-mail traffic rate would drop overnight :).

    I’ve seen similar situations to the one you describe, in which people become far too wed to one way of doing things–even to the extreme
    of “rooting against the home team” you describe.

    The manager you describe came up with a good solution.

    Thanks for using my image here. I love it when my images get a use such as this.

    I do suggest that your attribution might be made as follows:

    Gurdonark, Flickr (using the link as you have), and that you might add the tag for the name or “handle” of the photographer (here, of course, “gurdonark”). This lets the photographer track things a bit more easily on search engines, but it also aids the viral spread of the post itself–as people who use a search engine to seek out things by me (I am a musician, among other things), then they might come upon this post.

    Thanks again for your use of my image to advance this worth-while idea.

    best, robert

  4. Miki SaxonNo Gravatar Says:

    Thanks, Robert, you are the first person whose image I used that ever contacted me. I’m glad you found value in the post.

    Also, I changed the attribution as suggested and added a tag. Hopefully it’s correct now.

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