Rejecting advice from an expert in the domain in question can be tricky, especially if it was solicited. Tricky it may be, but human beings are oh so inventive. Here's a short catalog of techniques advice rejectors use to save themselves from victory and insert themselves between the jaws of defeat.
- Assert that the problem at hand is unique
- Assertions of uniqueness help rejectors by narrowing the field of qualified experts, potentially to zero. But even if all experts can't be eliminated, and advice cannot be avoided, asserting that the problem is unique can justify rejecting the advice.
- Uniqueness claims can center on almost anything. Examples include technology, unusual group dynamics, physical or financial scale, legal or international political issues, cultural clashes, and complexity.
- Sow suspicion of the motives of experts
- This tactic is most useful with respect to a specific expert, because research about the character and past activities of the expert can reveal material that can discredit or disqualify him or her. It almost always works, because everyone has a past, and the past can be "spun."
- Ruling out experts who have worked for competitors is a favored approach, because most have done so. Experts who have taken public positions on issues, and then changed those positions as they gained more experience, or as conditions evolved, might be doubted for having changed. Paradoxically, it is the expert who has never changed a public position who is the least likely to be able to adapt to changing conditions.
- Attack the characters of the experts
- Once the list of potential Rejecting advice from an expert
in the domain in question
can be tricky, especially if
it was solicitedexperts emerges, rejectors can begin to question the character and/or the expertise of the experts. Their goal is to disqualify any expert who might effectively threaten the rejectors' agenda.
- Experts can be faulted for youth and lack of experience; for age and outmoded expertise; for excessive fame, fees, and caseload; for inadequate fame and inexperience; or for past forensic activity. Almost any charge is possible.
- Seduce with simplicity
- By claiming that the problem confronting the group is actually very simple, and susceptible to "common-sense approaches," the rejector attempts to seduce the group into believing that the expert's advice is at least unnecessary and possibly irrelevant.
- Claims of simplicity often include ridicule of those who advocate more nuanced views of the problem. If solving the problem is actually beyond the group's abilities, claims of simplicity, asserted confidently enough, can be very effective because of the Dunning-Kruger Effect.
Ironically, groups tend to be more susceptible to these tactics in the context of more difficult problems. The greater their dread of the problem, the more welcome is the rejector's message that experts are unnecessary, or that they have little to contribute. Rejection of advice is most likely when advice is needed most. First in this series Top Next Issue
For more about the Dunning-Kruger Effect, see "The Paradox of Confidence," Point Lookout for January 7, 2009; "Devious Political Tactics: More from the Field Manual," Point Lookout for August 29, 2012; "Overconfidence at Work," Point Lookout for April 15, 2015; "Wishful Thinking and Perception: II," Point Lookout for November 4, 2015; "Wishful Significance: II," Point Lookout for December 23, 2015; "Cognitive Biases and Influence: I," Point Lookout for July 6, 2016; and "The Paradox of Carefully Chosen Words," Point Lookout for November 16, 2016.
Are your projects always (or almost always) late and over budget? Are your project teams plagued by turnover, burnout, and high defect rates? Turn your culture around. Read 52 Tips for Leaders of Project-Oriented Organizations, filled with tips and techniques for organizational leaders. Order Now!
Your comments are welcomeWould you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenEQPIdOWsRUOXUuEpner@ChacKmYlbgzbKshKYHMroCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.
About Point Lookout
Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.
Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.
Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.
More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
- If Only I Had Known: II
- Ever had one of those forehead-slapping moments when someone explained something, or you suddenly realized
something? They usually involve some idea or insight that would have saved you much pain, trouble, and
heartache, if only you had known.
- Working Journals
- Keeping a journal about your work can change how you work. You can record why you did what you did,
and why you didn't do what you didn't. You can record what you saw and what you only thought you saw.
And when you read the older entries, you can see patterns you might never have noticed any other way.
- Making Meaning
- When we see or hear the goings-on around us, we interpret them to make meaning and significance. Some
interpretations are thoughtful, but most are almost instantaneous. Since the instantaneous ones are
sometimes goofy or dangerous, here's a look at how we make interpretations.
- Why Do Business Fads Form?
- The rise of a business fad is due to the actions of both its advocates and adopters. Understanding the
interplay between them is essential for successful resistance.
- Speak for Influence
- Among the factors that determine the influence of contributions in meetings are the content of the contribution
and how it fits into the conversation. Most of the time, we focus too much on content and not enough on fit.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming October 25: Workplace Memes
- Some patterns of workplace society reduce organizational effectiveness in ways that often escape our notice. Here are five examples. Available here and by RSS on October 25.
- And on November 1: Risk Creep: I
- Risk creep is a term that describes the insidious and unrecognized increase in risk that occurs despite our every effort to mitigate risk or avoid it altogether. What are the dominant sources of risk creep? Available here and by RSS on November 1.
I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenCyoLBNlKkUwJvRRyner@ChacPTTtlYvUBhYGcajmoCanyon.com or (617) 491-6289, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.
Get the ebook!
Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:
- Get 2001-2 in Geese Don't Land on Twigs (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2003-4 in Why Dogs Wag (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2005-6 in Loopy Things We Do (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2007-8 in Things We Believe That Maybe Aren't So True (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2009-10 in The Questions Not Asked (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get all of the first twelve years (2001-2012) in The Collected Issues of Point Lookout (PDF, USD 28.99)
Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info
- Ten Project Management Fallacies: The Power of Avoiding Hazards
- Most of what we know about managing projects is useful and effective, but some of what we know "just ain't so." Identifying the fallacies of project management reduces risk and enhances your ability to complete projects successfully. Even more important, avoiding these traps can demonstrate the value and power of the project management profession in general, and your personal capabilities in particular. In this program we describe ten of these beliefs. There are almost certainly many more, but these ten are a good start. We'll explore the situations where these fallacies are most likely to expose projects to risk, and suggest techniques for avoiding them. Read more about this program. Here's a date for this program:
- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
- Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.