Thriving In A State of Confusion

Thriving in A State of Confusion

Webster’s Dictionary defines confusion as “The state of disarray; disorder; perplexity of the mind; or embarrassment.” Given that definition, you may wonder why you should embrace confusion. There’s a good reason: when people are in a state of confusion, they are open to redirection in the hope of avoiding rejection. If the sources of their confusion can be examined and reframed in a mutually supportive setting, think of the potential benefits.

For such a radical idea to gain acceptance, a more constructive definition of confusion is needed.

Looking again at the dictionary reveals that con means, “to study or examine closely,” and fusion means, “merging of separate elements.” Thus, redefined in a positive sense, a state of confusion now becomes a venue for learning together.

Confusion Pathways

The concept of a confusion pathway is based upon research findings that identified three factors present in a state of confusion. Each one takes the form of a path that shows the way forward.

Separatism — Mutualism

The differences between separatism and mutualism behaviors are subtle and difficult to spot; however, two critical factors stand out. First, those who fear rejection pull away from teamwork. Second, those who seek to learn from rejection look to others for support. This list provides a sampling of both types of behavior. When viewed together, the contrasts are more noticeable.


  • Myopic self-interest and individual viewpoints dominate discussions.
  • Job descriptions and work assignments are disregarded.
  • Problems are ignored or passed along to someone else.


  • Enlightened joint perspectives and opinions are openly shared.
  • Self-directed co-workers establish team goals and set priorities.
  • Constant improvement is expected and realized quickly.

The contrasting behaviors listed above may at first appear to be a normal, natural part of everyday work life; however, if you expect people with differing work habits to come together when they are confused, it is not likely to happen without an intervention.

Frustration — Clarification

There is one observable characteristic that sets this pathway apart from the others. The achievers will express their frustration and ask for clarification, making it easier to connect the two. While the disgruntled sit quietly nodding or shaking their heads in disapproval. By comparing this list, you can see the potential for rejection lurking just below the surface.


  • Disappointment, disillusionment, and dissatisfaction are expressed openly.
  • Hindrances and blockages to completion of work abound.
  • Hidden agendas, contradictions, and mixed messages stifle creativity.


  • Reflection, understanding, awareness, and discovery relieve tension.
  • Stated expectations and formally acknowledged objectives are declared.
  • Hopeful perspectives and a greater sense of connection resolve disputes.

With a little practice you’ll be able to dig out the frustrations of the disgruntled and get them working alongside the high performers. The behaviors listed above seem natural to both types. The challenge is to put a stop to the dysfunctional practices by reinforcing the functional ones.

Security — Futurity

Once this point is reached, the achievers are embracing the future while the insecure are clinging to the past. Pulling both together forces everyone to concentrate on the same issues at the same time. Reviewing the list below helps to gain perspective on just how far apart they are.


  • Predictable environment with a firm future and no changes is sought after.
  • Job security with a short-term outlook is the highest priority.
  • Steady workflow, higher pay, and regular promotions are all that matters.


  • Being flexible, fluid, and fast moving motivates the achievers to excel.
  • Doers are open to job changes, advanced technology, and new work methods.
  • Producers are confident that positions exist for those willing to move into the future.

Once the previously confused get comfortable providing a rationale for their rejection, the challenge will be to keep them from justifying the past and not talking about what to do differently in the future.

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