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How questioning seniors is taken negatively

Updated: Mar 26, 2021

Right from childhood, Indians have been traditionally taught not to backtalk or question elders. It is so deep-rooted that sometimes asking your doubts is also considered to be wrong, in fact, this gesture is insulting elders. The matter becomes worse when the elders are actually wrong and you are trying to correct it or asking for a justification in order to understand their perspective better. Do you think this behavior is affecting the corporate culture?

The answer is Yes.

The corporate scenario is very similar to what we experience in our personal lives. Even though the corporate and the bosses always boast about being open to discussions, taking feedback, and accepting criticism; the reality is nowhere near this.

A typical conversation starts with a point by the junior, who wants to discuss his point of view and want to provide suggestions to improve the strategies. However, it is not always taken that way. The boss could take it as a point targeting him. Moreover, if the suggestions are given in front of a boss’s boss, the situation might intensify.

There are many reasons why your suggestions or inquiries can be taken as offensive:-

A) Many people feel that a suggestion questions their experience

B) A suggestion in strategy indicates a lack of complete knowledge of the project or the requirements of a client

C) Frequent Suggestions may indicate a lack of subject knowledge

D) Discussions in front of the boss’ boss can bring a feeling of insecurity about the boss’s relevance and position in the team

Whatever the reasons are, the more a senior thinks negatively about the suggestions, the more closed the juniors will be. Even though one is liberal, this perception itself keeps juniors away from giving suggestions, follow your instructions thereby reducing the cope for executing projects in a better way. So, the senior definitely has to take steps to improve the situation.

Let’s see how a senior can keep his mind open to handle a junior's suggestion:

  • First and foremost, make sure you completely listen to your junior's suggestion and then respond.

  • Appreciate the initiative taken in giving suggestion

  • Discuss how you can incorporate the suggestions, partially or completely; if you are not convinced, discuss clearly how your strategies outweighed and which one is better after all the discussion. If it is still not conclusive, give the junior the leverage to work on his points and see what works better, especially when there is some leisure.

  • Some times, give them the much-needed credit in front of others, even though they partially overlap with your points. This motivates the employee and at the same time encourages others to come up with the points.

Above all, a good senior does not have to prove his capabilities. A qualified senior must have already proven his capabilities and so any doubts created intermittently will be cleared in the long run. Once he is clear that no one can be omniscient and be confident about his acts, juniors respect him even more.

In the end, if the juniors are actually too much intruding and not working in a good spirit, it is important for the senior to correct this behavior too.

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