Critical Thinking and Decision-Making Essay

Pages: 5 (1667 words)  ·  Style: APA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Leadership

Critical Thinking and Decision Making

In today's world, being a critical thinker has become absolutely vital not only in society as a whole, but also specifically in the workplace. Racial and ethnic integration is at the order of the day as technology is advancing rapidly. Communication now occurs across both state and country borders, with people interacting within an increasingly diverse community. For this reason, a single-minded and uncritical mind-set that assumes only a single "correct" way of doing things is no longer valid. Instead, in order to function optimally within society and the workplace, it has become necessary to increase one's critical thinking skills. Books such as Becoming a Critical Thinker by S. Diestler (2009) are very helpful in this regard.

When considering critical thinking skills in the workplace, it is particularly important to relate these to leadership. Leaders in corporations tend to be respected for their position. However, when they prove themselves to function without the necessary critical thinking skills, their subordinates are likely to lose that respect and the functions within the workplace will likely disintegrate. When leaders do have the necessary skills to be critical thinkers in difficult situations, however, the challenge is to translate these skills to their subordinates for optimal workplace harmony and productivity.

Optimal critical thinking, according to Diestler (2009, p. 380), depends largely upon a concept the author terms "fair-mindedness." This means to maintain a stance of neutrality within a variety of difficult situations where self-deception is often the easiest road to take. Fair-mindedness within a multi-cultural context for example means to have respect for those with a variety of ethnicities and traditions. In conflict situations, it means being able to hear and understand other viewpoints without imposing judgment upon these. An further important point by Diestler is that fair-mindedness means that an individual can change his or her viewpoint when new information suggests that such change is necessary.

There are several pitfalls that challenge the leader's ability to remain fair-minded in the face of workplace conflicts. Specifically, I was an employee at a financial institution. In retrospect, I see that there were various cases where conflict was the result of uncritical thinking and a lack of fair-mindedness.

Diestler mentions various forms of self-deception that could cause pitfalls to critical and fair-minded thinking. Specific cases that I encountered in my workplace were ethnocentrism, rationalization, conformity, and emotional reasoning.

Ethnocentrism, according to Diestler (p. 380) can also be referred to as sociocentrism. This is the tendency to consider a the race or culture one belongs to as superior to all others, and central to the world in general. In the financial company I worked for, I encountered this in various forms. There were for example a group of white male friends who worked together. When one of them was fired for unethical behavior, an Indian woman was appointed in his place. She was appointed for nothing more than her high level of education and her work experience. However, the remaining members of the group in question continued to make derogatory remarks about her clothing, hair and heritage. Our floor leader was also a white male, and did little to modify the behavior. In the end, the company lost a potentially valuable and loyal worker. She resigned in less than a month of her employment. She was not replaced, and the remaining workers were obliged to take over the extra workload.

The main problem in this case was that the floor leader himself subscribed to the ethnocentrism displayed by the four male members of the group. The floor leader turned a blind eye, mainly because he subscribed to the same ethnocentrism as the persons in question. He was also in denial regarding the lack of ethics and fair-mindedness displayed by the white male workers. In short, he rationalized their behavior with thinking that justified their behavior on the basis of what he labelled "friendly teasing." He was therefore not willing to face the facts or to maintain a fair-minded view regarding the situation. He was continually unfair, regardless of the new worker's continual complaints.

The situation could have been easily remedied by modified leadership. The floor leader was fully aware of the situation, but chose to rationalize and deny it. If he had not been such a strong subscriber to ethnocentrism, he would have been able to be more fair-minded. Such an attitude would have enabled him to treat all of his workers with equal respect, and encourage them to treat each other in an equal way.

Had I been the leader in this situation, I would first ensure that I have all the facts surrounding the situation. I would conduct interviews with each employee to determine their viewpoints on the situation. If I find unfairness in any viewpoint, I would ask targeted questions in an attempt to make the culprits aware of the reality of the situation. From my leadership position, I would then increase the diversity on the floor and model the ideal behavior in such a way that others will follow my example.

In terms of conformity, I also found a difficult situation in my former place of employment. According to Diestler (p. 388), people who are unsure of themselves in situations that are unclear or ambiguous look to others for acceptable behavior, to which they then conform without any further thought. Diestler also refers to this as "pluralistic ignorance," where people blindly follow others without thinking about whether such actions are in fact the best for the situation involved.

On such case in my workplace was when our groups were rearranged to encourage fresh thinking and ideas within each sector of our company. In our particular group, this was a mistake, as the group members were so used to their own ways of thinking and doing within the groups that they knew, that they were completely flustered within the new setup. While the situation improved as we became more familiar with each other, it was difficult in the beginning. As the group leader, I would make suggestions and the rest of the group would immediately conform to whatever decisions I thought were best. In a sense, I may as well have been working alone, as the other group members contributed very little towards our collective function within the company as a whole.

In retrospect, I believe that I could have handled the situation better as group leader. The concept of active listening could have helped me. According to Diestler (p. 499), active listening skills are best used in conflict situations, where both partners listen to understand the other rather than to win the argument. In a group situation, active listening could have helped me to lead the team to function better earlier on in our work. I could for example invite suggestions or comments by asking each person their honest opinion about my input, and ask for input of their own. When input is given, I would the model active listening, and ask for further input from the others. Active listening would have enabled the group to overcome their conformity and function better together.

According to Diestler (p. 391), emotional reasoning distorts the truth and results in poor decision making. The reason for this is that emotions play the most important part in such reasoning, and emotions tend to be both unrealistic and irrational. Emotional reasoning means that a person uses the emotion as a result of others' words or actions as a basis for perceived fact.

An example of this is a middle manager we had a problem with during my employment at my former company. Not usually the friendliest of persons, this manager suddenly became unreasonable in his expectations of employees. Many were required to work late, and some even faced dismissal if they did not adhere to… [END OF PREVIEW]

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