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
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!
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.
Your comments are welcomeWould you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenVBpRgZWEzPixjokmner@ChacKPhRARDHpeMQcSpuoCanyon.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:
- Poverty of Choice by Choice
- Sometimes our own desire not to have choices prevents us from finding creative solutions. Life
can be simpler (if less rich) when we have no choices to make. Why do we accept the same tired solutions,
and how can we tell when we're doing it?
- When we steer the discussion away from issues to attack the credibility, motives, or character of our
debate partners, we often resort to a technique known as the ad hominem attack. It's unfair, it's unethical,
and it leads to bad, expensive decisions that we'll probably regret.
- Hill Climbing and Its Limitations
- Finding a better solution by making small adjustments to your current solution is usually a good idea.
The key word is "usually."
- The Artful Shirker
- Most people who shirk work are fairly obvious about it, but some are so artful that the people around
them don't realize what's happening. Here are a few of the more sophisticated shirking techniques.
- Paradoxical Policies: II
- Because projects are inherently unique, constructing general organizational policies affecting projects
is difficult. The urge to treat projects as if they were operations compounds the difficulty. Here's
a collection of policies for projects that would be funny if they weren't real.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming May 29: Newtonian Blind Alleys: II
- Some of our decisions don't turn out well. The nature of our errors does vary, but a common class of errors is due to applying concepts from physics originated by Isaac Newton. One of these is the concept of spectrum. Available here and by RSS on May 29.
- And on June 5: I Could Be Wrong About That
- Before we make joint decisions at work, we usually debate the options. We come together to share views, and then a debate ensues. Some of these debates turn out well, but too many do not. Allowing for the fact that "I could be wrong" improves outcomes. Available here and by RSS on June 5.
I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrentHtfeKBwBTAWROlQner@ChacUGLnnpjPozdvYkvroCanyon.com or (650) 787-6475, 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
- 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.