Groupthink – The Fastest Route To Nowhere Special

You’ve been there, sitting in a meeting while your boss is explaining a new policy the team needs to follow because someone in the corporate headquarters who doesn’t do your job every day said so. Sitting there listening to the instructions, you look around the room and notice everyone nodding their head in agreement like the new directive is perfectly logical when in fact it makes absolutely no sense to you. A room full of bright individuals, who you believe to be coherent co-workers, being told to walk face first into a wall over and over again and to smile while doing so.

You didn’t say anything because you thought maybe you’d missed something, or didn’t want to rock the boat, or didn’t want to be viewed as “that” coworker. Whatever the reason, you stayed quiet. You said nothing in the moment, and for three weeks, you and everyone else in the office quietly pulled your hair out, following corporate’s instructions. Then you heard grumbling from a co-worker about how inefficient the new policy is and how much time she’s been wasting because of it. But more importantly, you heard her say, “I knew this directive would create more problems than solutions, and I was going to say something, but I thought I was the only one, so I didn’t.” If only she’d spoken up… you would have chimed in too. News flash: it wasn’t on her, at least not exclusively; it was on you!

Welcome to Groupthink. The industrialized mindset of civil obedience to do what you are told and to remain a cog in the machine. You know there is probably a better way. But eventually, you’ll move up the ranks and be able to challenge how things are done. Right? I disagree. We can influence smart change at all levels, not just when we have positional authority. We can’t change the past, but we can make a better future for ourselves and our teams by speaking up and asking the tough questions. Speak up at your next team meeting. Suggests ideas that will prevent yourself or your sourcing partners from drowning in administrative work because that’s how it has always been done. Even if you don’t have the answer, start a candid conversation. Talk about your workflow and brainstorm better ways to accomplish the same tasks, however it is that you and your team define “better.”

I think it can be especially uncomfortable to break the pattern of nodding heads and ask the “why” questions when the directive is coming from someone two, three, or more levels above you. But the truth is, that’s sometimes the best reason to ask questions because the directive is coming from someone two or three or more levels removed from your day-to-day work. You know your product and processes better than anyone else.

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I think breaking the groupthink pattern is especially important in our community. As sourcers, we are the front line. We are the first impression for every new or prospective employee. We are the depiction of what the interview process, onboarding, new hire, and career experience will be when someone decides to take our job. In a competitive marketplace, we have to be willing to challenge ourselves and our teams to make our product and/or our process the best version possible. If we willingly follow misguided or misaligned marching orders and wait for someone else to speak up, the responsibility of the poor result falls on our shoulders.

You have ideas and the community needs to hear them. If we all commit to taking the leap and speaking up when we have that one nagging question, the result might just be hours of time saved, a better work product, a more cohesive onboarding process, and so on. And, in the moments when you see someone else take the leap and speak up amidst a sea of silent, nodding heads, help amplify their message if you see their point. One voice can pretty easily create a pause, but two or more can start to shift momentum toward what many are thinking but simply not saying. We are here, and we are listening… so speak up!

Matthew Dickson is a Cleveland sports fanatic (#Believeland), board game enthusiast, dog lover, and story-teller at heart. He has ten years of recruitment industry experience across both agency and corporate. Currently, he works for Accenture Operations as a Sourcing Team Lead and manages a talented group of six, as a player and coach. He dreams of the day an ATS will be designed by recruiters for recruiters so we can all talk about something different. 

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