The Dangers of Always Trying To Be Right At Work

In a previous post, I shared how the joy of being right can often be wrong.  Trying to be right at all costs comes at a surprisingly high price.

  • We waste time and energy.
  • We damage relationships.
  • We refuse to listen to the other side.
  • We cause others to stop sharing freely.
  • We stop listening as we develop arguments.



For all of those reasons and more, being right is not always worth the cost.

When you are right, what happens?  Others applaud your brilliance!  They nod to you as you pass them in the hall.  A gleaming trophy arrives for your new corner office, allowing everyone to know that you are “RIGHT.”

Ah, no. Not exactly.  Pretty much none of that happens.

It’s far better to allow others to be right.  Let little offenses pass.  Save the disagreements for the big things.



That’s my advice for individuals.  It happens in organizations, too.  When an entire organizational culture is centered on being “right,” what happens then?

You will find a culture:

With more meetings. Instead of having a conversation about an issue, everyone works hard to be correct.  That means that there are meetings to prepare for meetings to prepare for meetings.

With longer meetings.  Everyone needs time to share the “right” point of view.  Everyone needs the microphone to prove her point or to highlight his knowledge.  And we need time to point out the flaws in everyone else.

With ineffective meetings.  Because we are laser focused on correcting, we don’t actually get much accomplished.  We are not focused on the purpose of the meeting.

That is backward-looking.  Organizations with a strong desire to be right are focused on the past, not the future.  A minute spent correcting the past is a minute not spent on creating the future.

Filled with insecure employees.  When someone is constantly looking over your shoulder ready to correct the slightest mistake, you will feel insecure.  That turns into an unhealthy fear.



Changing an organizational culture is not easy.  It isn’t done with a three point plan.  It isn’t a top down mandate.  It requires everyone to work at it.

Label it.

It all starts with the realization that this is happening.  Point out what happened, and gently suggest a positive way forward.  Point out that if we edit less, we can create more.

Use the 3P’s.

This will create more effective meetings.  If you consistently focus on the purpose, you will move forward.

Stay in the present.

When you catch yourself or your team digging into ancient history with little bearing on the outcome of a decision, redirect the conversation to the present.

Resist the defensive.

If someone attacks your position, it is natural to move to the defensive.  Try this instead.  Say, “I appreciate you raising that and would prefer not to go back into the history.  I see where you are going and you make a valid point.  To be productive, I would like to hear more about how we move this forward.  How do you suggest we do that?”

Encourage others.

Don’t acknowledge the correcting behavior.  Acknowledge when someone moves the agenda forward.


Celebrating accomplishments changes a culture.  Time spent socializing or having fun builds the team.  When you accomplish something great, take the time to enjoy it.



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