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Consider this comment by @jmac,

"...I have a long-standing bias for jargon-filled software industry questions that really ask a simple general question like, "My boss can't stick to his own project plan. How can I convince him to stop moving the goal posts?"

Prima facie, I view "How can I convince Person 'X' to do 'Y'?" questions with suspicion.

Here's why:

  1. Each question assumes that doing 'Y' is widely considered a good thing to do. In many cases, this is a false assumption.
  2. Many times, the OP is just looking to feed his/her confirmation bias, and he/she will actively refuse any answers which contradict it.
  3. Changing someone's mind is often "a very difficult thing to do".

So here's my question:

  • Are "How can I convince Person 'X' to do 'Y'?" questions a good fit for TWP?
4

Executive Summary

The "How do I get X to do Y" question format is definitely not always an issue, take this very successful question for instance: How can I encourage a culture of punctuality in a software company?

The issue is what the X and Y are.

X as Boss vs. X as Subordinates

If you are a boss, it is your job to get people to do stuff. If you can't, that is a serious issue that definitely has a place being discussed here. You also have a lot more leeway to actually do something about it if your subordinates aren't doing what they need to.

The reverse often falls in to one of the pitfalls on the don't ask page of the help center, namely:

  • your question is just a rant in disguise: “______ sucks, am I right?”

And if it does fall in to that pitfall (as many questions often do), we should comment, close, and/or aggressively edit the question.

Y as Do Their Duty vs. Y as Do What I Want

If you are talking about someone doing what they are supposed to do (come in on time, give a promised raise, manage a problem in the office if a boss, etc.), then the question is far more likely to have value. Many of these things are virtually common sense requests that unfortunately are also commonly ignored by the people who should do them.

However, if you want someone to do whatever you think should be done, you tend to fall in to the same traps as before listed on the don't ask page of the help center, namely:

  • your question is just a rant in disguise: “______ sucks, am I right?”

Examples

"How do I convince my employees to come to team meetings on time?"

Good question.

(Boss to Employee + Common Sense)

"How do I convince my employees to fill out TPS reports?"

Decent question.

(Boss to Employee + Not So Common Sense)

"How do I convince my boss to support training new team members?"

Decent question.

(Employee to Boss + Common Sense)

"How do I convince my boss to put me in charge of decision-making?"

Bad question.

(Employee to Boss + Not So Common Sense)

  • 2
    "How do I convince my employees to come to team meetings on time?" The overwelming response to this was do not try... – IDrinkandIKnowThings Nov 12 '13 at 14:56

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