I can’t think of a job I’ve held in my life where I did not work with at least one ignorant person. By ignorant I mean someone that is either unaware of or unconcerned with the negative effect their behavior has on the work environment. For whatever reason, these people ignore the feedback and other cues from the environment that testify to the fact that the things they say and do are counterproductive.
Ignorance is not the same as stupidity. The stupid person lacks the intellectual capacity to evaluate his or her behavior; the ignorant person simply chooses to disregard opportunities to learn and improve. Although they often believe otherwise, smart folks are not immune to ignorance.
We are all vulnerable to displays of episodic ignorance. The route to wisdom is more a winding road than a well-marked superhighway. Henry Cloud asserts that if you confront a wise person with the fact that they are currently meandering on the path of ignorance, they will ask for you for a map back to the right road and sincerely thank you for correcting them.
It’s the chronically ignorant folks at work that concern me, especially the intelligent fools. We know that their choices are not our responsibility, but their choices consistently affect our ability to perform the responsibilities we’ve been trusted with.
Ignoring the ignorant person avoids a confrontation, but it is also a subtle form of collusion with the very behavior we abhor. Benevolent confrontation is the right answer to ignorance, but it does not always work and sometimes blows up in your face. I’m sorry to say that I don’t have some cheesy five-point list to offer as a guaranteed prescription for curing the chronically ignorant. I’m still trying to figure it out myself.
How do you confront chronic ignorance in your workplace? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!