The ladder of inference designed by Chris Argyris
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The ladder of inference was designed by Chris Argyris (1970) and made known in Peter Senge’s book The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organisation. Chris Argyris developed the concept as a tool for double-loop learning that produces a change in values and assumptions, focus on how people make inferences obvious so that others can discover and correct errors in their reasoning (McArthur, 2015). The ladder of inference is very much useful in discussions, meetings, social interactions, cooperative projects, also can be applied to many different parts of everyday life.
The ladder of inference could lead to positive or negative actions. As part of positive actions, people can improve the way they communicate with others through reflection and using the ladder of inference in three ways as follow (Brown, 20XX):
1. Becoming more aware of your own thinking and reasoning (reflection).
2. Making your thinking and reasoning more visible to others (advocacy).
3. Inquiring into others\’ thinking and reasoning (inquiry).
However, if people jump up the ladder, things would get wrong even though they have the best intentions. Subjectivity might influence the event which comes from personal feelings, cultural and social background or based on past experiences (Warfield, 20XX). Therefore, Chris Argyris suggested that it is important to be aware of our position in the ladder and prevent to climb too high and too quickly.
The experience that I want to reflect in this journal is a lesson learned through working with an introvert supervisor, who then contributes to strengthening my personality in having a productive communication.
When I was a newly graduated in 2007, I was being rigid with theories and less manageable to elaborate it with practice in the real world. I realized that even though I learned many theories about organizational behavior in an undergraduate degree, I had not had an opportunity to put it into real life practice. As a consequence, I did many miscommunications with some colleagues including my supervisor in the first month of working.
Against my supervisor, I felt that we had rare direct communications. She preferred to use e-mails to delegate certain tasks (apart from my daily duty) and never took an opportunity to discuss how to deliver the tasks to me. I made assumptions that my supervisor was too busy and would review my task results later. However, if she felt unsatisfied with the results, she reprimanded me in front of other employees, which made my self-esteem humiliated. At this point, I made another assumption that maybe she was too young to lead and it influenced her behavior as a team leader. Also, other colleagues said that she never had a team before, in which made her pretentious. But again, I never clarified and initiated to start a conversation, which made our relationship more uncomfortable.
My situation above relates to the bottom part of the ladder. I made assumptions based on what I see and the data was raw even though it was clear and observable. I didn’t apply the pattern of the ladder of inference carefully and mostly jump to conclusions.
The situation between my supervisor and me affected my personality significantly. I really wanted to perform well in my first job and gain a good reputation for my future career. However, my supervisor made me felt like a stupid scholar, unable to work and communicate appropriately. Even if I could deliver the tasks successfully, I didn’t receive an acknowledgment, which made me thought that it was still unsatisfied her. I got to the stage that I hate my supervisor professionally and personally. I felt burnout and unwilling to go to work, wanted to avoid any circumstances with my supervisor.
As a consequence of this situation, I planned to end my probation contract and got things right before I resigned. I still wanted to obtain positive aspects of this short working period and learned the risks of possible same event occurred in the future. I proposed my resignation to my supervisor on short notice and requested to have a conversation.
The last conversation I had with my supervisor was very touching. It was more to personal reflection than professional talk. Both my supervisor and I admitted making assumptions without willing to clarify. She assumed that I can do the tasks since I was a scholar, she never explained anything because I didn’t ask. Also, she felt a bit disgrace because other colleagues spoke about her having a scholar while she wasn’t and that made her reprimanded me in front of others.
We started to solve our problems with using the ladder of inference carefully and made our thinking obvious to each other. I learned that even though my supervisor was an introvert. We could have the similar way of thinking if we communicate effectively. Communications help us to figure out how to clear misunderstandings, to hit all the steps, and to make sure everyone is on the same page with the same information. We agreed to improve our selves in any working relationships in the future and add value to the effectiveness of interpersonal communication to allow being productive, to overcome a better result and minimize risks in our job and responsibilities.
Against my experience, I decided to develop an understanding of viewing real situation (data) and experience to make assumption and conclusion. I found that my beliefs would influence my action, that’s why I need to reflect on what people might think about the situation and initiate to have conversations to clarify the things before taking an action. If we did not use past experience to help us interpret the world, we would be absolutely lost (SkillsYouNeed, 2017).