I have a manager at work who often comes up with shortsighted ideas and then expects his staff to adopt them. On occasions, my colleagues (his staff) will suggest improvements to his ideas that offer demonstrable, measurable positive impact--representing a superior idea. Despite efforts, however, the manager often struggles to grasp the superior idea we put forth and instead bullheadedly adopts his original idea, asking "What's the harm in doing it my way?"

The logic/language issue I want to discuss here is the use of the word harm. When an idea is sub-optimal or simply shortsighted, it doesn't mean that it must be harmful. It just might be inferior. By putting the team in the position of having to explain what's harmful about his inferior ideas, we lose sight of what's about dumb about it! We're often left at a loss for words because he's asking a question that doesn't apply. What he should be asking is "why is your idea better?" or "why is my idea inferior?"--but not "why is my idea harmful?" any more than he should be asking "why is my idea funny?" I believe this manager has learned that by asking a question that nearly always will have "nothing" as its answer, he is able to advance bad ideas. And that's actually the real harm...

What is an effective rebuttal to such misdirected questions as "what's the harm"? Surely, this is a logical fallacy of some sort--I just don't know enough about logic to know (but I sense it!). The question is loaded because if there is no harm to speak of then you have to reply "there is no harm"--then you get a gleeful "Well, then, if there's no harm then let's go with my idea!" response.

To point out to the manager that it's not a question of harm, it's a question of "which idea is intrinsically better?" might be a start; but are there tried-and-true rebuttals to this misguided way of defending one's inferior ideas?

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    the "harm" is known as opportunity cost. That being said, I would suggest an edit- this is more a question of rhetoric, then it is of propositional logic.
    – emesupap
    Apr 27, 2022 at 0:52
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    Be aware that if your boss is really like this, you aren't likely to gain any points with him by arguing. What he wants is for his idea to be used, as long as it doesn't clearly make him look bad (that's the "harm" he's talking about - a consequence that would make him look bad). You can suggest alternatives, but if he's not immediately persuaded, he may consider further argument to be a challenge to his authority.
    – causative
    Apr 27, 2022 at 1:11
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    Probably a better fit for workplace SE.
    – armand
    Apr 27, 2022 at 3:31
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    I agree with Papuseme. There might be no apparent harm to the company, when the only comparison is between the current status quo and the results of whatever decision the boss wants to make. But there is a loss when the comparison is between the boss’s so-so idea and the future improved situation of the company if alternatives are adopted. Apr 27, 2022 at 4:12
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    Is your goal to win an argument or to get the team going in the right direction? If it's the latter, then assuming you are describing your boss accurately, the most effective method is to get him to see the problems by playing dumb and asking questions until he comes up with the right answer and thinks it was his idea. The point is, as much as possible, to ask dumb questions, not challenging questions. Challenging questions will get his defenses up. Dumb questions will make him feel smart and insightful when he sees a problem in his original idea. Apr 27, 2022 at 4:13


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