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The Curse Of Intelligence: Or Why Workplace Conflicts Happen

The Curse Of Intelligence: Or Why Workplace Conflicts Happen

There are three reasons for workplace conflict.

Misalignment Of Incentives

Happens in 20% of the cases.

The conflicting parties are not aligned towards the same goals. One has been told to increase sales at all costs. One has been told to reduce costs whatever it takes.

Managers are almost always to be blamed. Leadership is the root cause here. Rather, poor communication architecture within the leadership.

Doesn’t Care About Alignment

Happens in 5% of the cases.

This guy is someone you should fire. They are optimising for their life. Their goals. They don’t care about anything else. You know such people, don’t you? We met one in The Dark Knight as well.

People Come Up With Solutions, Not Problems

Happens 75% of the time.

I call it “The Curse of Intelligence.”

Intelligent people have been trained to solve. To fix things. And to not stop until fixed.

So the moment they encounter a problem, they begin to think of solutions. Mostly half-baked, I would argue. Considering it is coming from an individual without any collective discussion or reasoning.

And it’s the solution that’s proposed. Not the problem to be fixed.

Suddenly, the discussion is focussing itself on the solution. And whether the solution should be implemented. And arguments are ensuing on the worthiness of the solution. No one is asking “what is it that we are trying to solve here?”

The problem is not the focus. It’s the solution

A classic case of outcome vs output.

“Let’s put banners all across the site because.” – Solution

“I want new merchants to get visibility so that they have a shot at selling.” – Problem

“We need more money for marketing.” – Solution

We are not retaining enough customers we are acquiring” – Problem

“I need a raise” – Solution

“I am getting married and my expenses are set to increase” – Problem

“I want to quit” – Solution

“I am not challenged by my work” – Problem

Do yourself a favour the next time.

  • Walk in with the problem.
  • Make the effort to describe it well.
  • Make the effort to identify the grief it is causing.
  • Make the effort to pick the metric to track.
  • And let the solution be discussed. Not proposed.

Fall in love with the problem. Not the solution.

[This post by Ankur Warikoo first appeared on LinkedIn and has been reproduced with permission.]

Note: The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views held by Inc42, its creators or employees. Inc42 is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by guest bloggers.


Ankur Warikoo


Ankur Warikoo is Cofounder & CEO of nearbuy – online marketplace for discovering and buying offline services. Prior to nearbuy, Warikoo was Head of Groupon’s India, Indonesia, Thailand, and Philippines business. He holds a management degree from the Indian School of Business (Class of 2006) where he was awarded the Young Leader Award and a Masters degree in Physics from Michigan State University and holds a bachelor’s degree from Hindu College, Delhi University.
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