Article: Our abilities are grossly overrated!

Life @ Work

Our abilities are grossly overrated!

The claims of people at the workplace who profess to be proficient in self-awareness, objectivity, listening, and that they can change easily is grossly overrated. A deeper look at the phenomena!
Our abilities are grossly overrated!

Workplaces can be funny. If one has a sharp sense of it, then humor will keep calling. Many professions have a heightened sense of self-view, which, after a while, becomes amusing. Look at for example the profession of politicians. The sense of self-worth that they move about with can easily mislead someone to believe that perhaps the earth will stop moving around the sun if they would not do what they do. The observers of this profession, however, have a wide range of opinions about them — from disdain to disbelief, from irritation to repulsion, and finally from laughter to sarcasm. However, the politician is so engrossed in his sense of self-worth and so convinced about his role in moving the earth that the reaction depicted above does not even touch him. He is oblivious to his insignificance even when he is screaming to claim his significance. This soap opera as I said above is either tragic or comic depending upon the mood and day of the observer. Workplaces are also susceptible to this, particularly, if we do not guard ourselves. 

I am increasingly coming to the conclusion that at the workplace and particularly in people who profess to be proficient in the following abilities is grossly overrated. (The pronoun ‘They” is used because the constant use of ‘he/she’ was becoming cumbersome. The thoughts apply across genders!)

Self-awareness: ‘I know what I am doing’ — In their own eyes, everyone knows what they are doing and more importantly why they are doing it. They know their motives very well, their reasons are clear and they are in full control of their actions and behavior. They are confident that there is nothing about them that we do not know, that all that is worth knowing about them is already known and that all areas that others do not like about them or they constantly receive feedback about is because ‘they chose to be so’. Their anger, irritation, decisions, choices, patterns, preferences are all deliberate, towards a purpose and that they are in absolute awareness and hence absolute control of it. I think this heightened sense of self-awareness is Grossly overrated!

Feedback: ‘Active seeking and Active working on feedback’ — In their own eyes, most believe that they are so interested in self-improvement that they know all ways of bringing about that improvement. What is still not captured through their sharp self-awareness (as mentioned above) is feedback. Such is the obsession towards self-improvement that they leave no stone unturned to collect feedback widely and deeply.  They are diligent enough to seek feedback from seniors, humble enough to seek feedback from team members, and large-hearted enough to actively seek feedback from peers. They are also secular in the way they act on feedback. In the eyes of most beholders, they do not distinguish who has given the feedback before deciding whether to take it seriously and act on it or not — isn’t it? They also believe that they work religiously and diligently on all feedback till the time those blemishes and creases are cleaned and ironed out. They leave no stone unturned to work on themselves. I think this heightened view about the ability to take feedback is Grossly overrated!

Objective: ‘Free from biases’ — In their own eyes, most believe that they are objective. They are convinced that their opinions and decisions are based on hard facts and facts only; that the way they reach their conclusions is tested on the touchstone of factual veracity, free from the interferences of preconceived notions, unfettered by the debilitating influences of personal biases of all kinds. They are resolute in their confidence about their decisions and more importantly the process with which those decisions have been arrived at. They are absolutely convinced that their own motives or preferences or influences of any other kind, obvious or subtle, have not colored their opinions. I think this grandiose claim of being objective is Grossly overrated!

Listen: ‘Understand completely’ — In their own eyes, everyone is a great listener. We all give enough time to hear other people out, figure out what are others really saying, go deep below the words, between the lines, and make complete sense from the conversation. Most believe that they are unencumbered from interferences of any kind, that their own noises do not impact their ability to understand what really the point being made is, that their minds do not wander and that they do not judge. Most also believe they can sift through a person’s minds within a few minutes and within a few lines. Most believe that they can simultaneously be thinking of other things, be doing other things and yet be able to do justice to what is being said to them. Inattentiveness, lack of focus, inability to understand the real meaning etc. are issues that others face – not them. I think these heroic listening skill claims are Grossly Overrated!

Change: ‘Change easily and at will’ — In their own eyes, most believe that they are flexible and change without much fuss. This is my personal favorite in this list. Most of the people who I meet, including myself, believe that we change our stance, opinions, habits, preferences, thinking, and methods — as and when it is required.

Most believe that inflexibility is a scourge that afflicts others and that they have been particularly blessed with suppleness of thought. This one is an epidemic these days particularly because the subject of change itself gets discussed like never before, almost ad nauseam.

No one wants to be an atheist in the temple town. Hence everyone wears the ‘ability to change’ on their sleeves. Most around us are supremely confident that as the context, environment, strategy, business model et al change, and as the demand from individual also changes as a result, they are amongst the first to change as a suitable and appropriate response to those changes. Everyone else takes time. In case one is charged otherwise, the intellectual defense comes camouflaged as decisiveness and firmness of decision-making.

There is no other way to say it but this — our ability to change is grossly overrated! 

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