Blinded by Belief

Denialists can have a devastating effect on office politics and productivity; how do you convince someone they are making decisions based on misguided logic?

When Steve’s boss Tom wrongly fired the head of IT, it had a devastating effect. Some of the firm’s most capable IT people walked out leaving the department in chaos and forcing a temporary lockdown of the company’s key operations. Despite the upheaval, Tom denied he had made a mistake. There had been some problems in the IT department but everyone familiar with the situation knew the responsibility lay not with the handling of the department but one of the company’s sub-contractors – a consulting firm hired by Tom.

Steve’s plea not to let the IT head go fell on deaf ears. Tom refused to listen and in spite of all the information to the contrary, he insisted that his decision was the right one. He rebutted everything Steve had to say and even accused him of being responsible for the mess in the first place by having introduced him.

On reflection, Steve realised there was a pattern to Tom’s behavior. There had been many other decisions where he had been clearly wrong but, when faced with the facts, would deny this was the case. On one occasion Steve had suggested it was time to transform one of the firm’s plants that was producing methane, ammonia and others poisonous substances. In spite of his arguments for change, Tom refused to listen insisting the case for the damaging effects of greenhouse gasses was far from proven.

Read more: Blinded by Belief | INSEAD Knowledge

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