Turn nitpickers into pushovers

Some people love to pick apart whatever you say. Rather than cooperate, they raise objections or challenges.

If you manage compulsive nitpickers, then you’ve probably squandered hours haggling with them over minutiae. They waste time voicing their concerns, issuing warnings or correcting what they see as your misstatements or faulty logic.

While it’s tempting to tell a nitpicker to clam up and get to work, that won’t accomplish much. They’re often smart and may chafe, making them worse.

Try these strategies:

Request their input in writing. When you don’t have the time or patience to listen to a nitpicker, explain what you want done and tell the employee to draft a one-page memo with, say, “ideas on how to carry out your plan successfully.” Expect more niggling complaints than can-do ideas.

Enforce the one-page limit. This encourages the author to list concerns succinctly. Follow up on specific points to show that you treated the write-up seriously.

Redirect the nitpicking. For employees who like to focus on inconsequential flaws, give them a safe outlet. Match them with a mentor or “buddy” who’s willing to listen. That’ll free you from hearing it.

Apply a test. Encourage the employee to nitpick only when certain conditions are met. Example: when there’s a bottom-line cost savings. That should cut the stream of criticism to a trickle.