Missing the Point

by Emily Jasper on July 6, 2010

There are some people who like to argue for the sake of arguing. I’m not one of those people. I’ll share an opinion, and yes, if there are counter opinions, I will listen. But a full blown argument with heated voices? I really don’t like it. It’s why I never took a religion course in college.

For me, it’s because I don’t see an argument as being productive. Since I don’t seek out disagreements, most of my experience with arguments comes from fighting with my brothers when we were kids. It’s juvenile. When I get suckered into an argument, I feel like I’m four again, and my brother pinched me and ran away.

So when someone loves to argue because it brings “energy” and “passion” to the workplace, I think of the pinching little boy.

The pinching little boy is likely not offering anything productive, only acknowledges himself as a trouble-maker when he gets caught, and misses the point of what he should be doing. Unfortunately, we know plenty of grown-ups just like this. And the problem can be on a larger scale than we think.

Imagine my surprise when I heard a story from a priest about a church so busy arguing about whether or not the Episcopalian Church should be ordaining gay priests and bishops that the church itself had done little-to-no outreach to the community for years. The entire purpose for the church was negated because the congregation spent energy arguing.

We see this in business all the time. A company in survival mode after the first hit from the recession had employees all working with their heads down, trying to bring in enough money just to keep the lights on. Leaders who did not understand the intricate operational processes thought “it was too quiet.” All of a sudden, fires were started to make it look like people were doing something. Instead of letting projects run smoothly, leaders were inserting themselves into projects, messing with the status quo, and making an already difficult situation even harder for a dwindling group of resources.

This behavior means more people lose jobs. Clients walk away. And the lights go out.

This business scenario is repeated all over the world. You don’t even need to be in hard times for it to happen because the pinching little boy will always find a way to pick an argument, insert himself where he doesn’t belong, and just plain drive people crazy.

If you end up the victim of the pinching, find a way to get out. If it’s arguments, avoid getting heated. You can turn an argument into a discussion, taking the emotion out of the situation. If there are fires or obstacles that appear for no reason at all, navigate around them. Identify who’s putting them in your way, and work with others to set up your own safe-guards.

Remember, you can always ask, “What’s the point?” If arguments and obstacles do not directly impact the purpose for your organization’s existence, then it should be easy to remove them.

If you are the pinching boy, then realize it. Know we all think that you’re sitting in a dirty diaper because after everyone’s given up on changing you, you still couldn’t find a way to change yourself.

Hat tip to the Rev. Dr. Roy Moore for inspiring this post. Photo credit.