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Paperwork Phobia?


We have an Engineer who has recently been promoted to Deputy Foreman (or some other title). He has a lifetime of knowledge in his trade and is keen to progress within the Company, but we both agree that he has a phobia of paperwork. Does anyone have any ideas or exercises around written communication that I can run through with him. I have a couple of ideas of my own to relate to his hobies, but need some help please.
Nigel Richards

5 Responses

  1. Phobia?
    Before I comment on this I am interested initially to know:

    1. How you established that the issue is a phobia?

    2. How does this behaviour manifest its self? What does he do, how does he act?

  2. Phobia?
    Firstly, I wholly agree with Garry’s reply, and would only add one other question:

    How do you define “phobia”?

    Firstly, I’m wondering if either you or the engineer are trained in psychology so as to know what a phobia is – that is to say, a fear of something so strong and all pervasive that the phobic person feels literally unable to go near or engage in whatever they are phobic about.

    Is the engineer actually so afraid of ANY paperwork that he can’t even bear to go near it, let “do it”?

    Or does he simply have a strong aversion to taking time out from whatever else he is doing to complete the relevant paper work?

    I’m guessing it’s probably the second, and if so it may be helping to perpetuate the situation by giving it a “technical name” which makes it sound far more serious than it really is.

    On the basis of whatever answers you get to Garry’s questions, and this one, unless you find a genuine psychological problem is at work – in which case this a case for professional intervention – then I would suggest that maybe what the chap needs is to do some clear thinking about his priorities and develop some self-derived motivation for carrying out this part of his duties.

    If you know NLP, or anyone genuinely competent in that field then a technique such as “mapping across” a pattern of relevant submodalites from an activity the engineer enjoys doing to the activity he finds unappealing might be a good place to start.

    Just a suggestion

  3. Is it a phobia?
    Hello Nigel and all,

    Following on from what the others have mentioned, I have no clear indication that it is a phobia, as I am not a qualified psychologist.

    To me it seems to look a lot like a heavy dose of the syndrome called procrastination.

    If this is the case, then I am sure some good support processes can be put in place to support the engineer.

    I have also seen a few times, that people in a similar “place” were just simply not confident with there written business English. Again with good support processes this can be helped a great deal.

    Just another angle on the issue.

    Andi Roberts

  4. A coaching session could help!
    Sounds like a coaching session could be useful to identify the real issue. Possibly a limiting belief around writing?

    A client of mine established that it was her reading that was the underlying problem.

    A speed reading course (based on Tony Buzans speed reading book)sorted her out!It did take time and practice but it paid off!

  5. Phobia or procrastination?

    Here’s the important thing – I bet your engineer who it appears is avoiding paperwork, would fill in a timesheet if that’s the only way he could ensure he gets paid. Not so ‘phobic’ about it now, eh?

    Definitely procrastination, I’d say.

    Without wishing to sound like I’m generalising here, I have found that while most people might avoid ‘paperwork’ if they can get away with it, techies and engineers seem to be the ‘worst offenders’, when it comes to admin of any kind. I expected the conversion from traditional paper-based systems would encourage techs to keep on top of their admin, because ‘techs love computers’. It doesn’t help!

    Accountants and admins ‘live’ to achieve order and efficiency, everything balanced and organised. They actually enjoy paperwork! Salespeople get a buzz from closing the sale, but in most cases the sale is not closed UNTIL the paperwork is done, so they know have to do it.

    Technical people are stimulated by solving technical problems. There’s no satisfaction in paperwork, so it’s avoided in favour of ‘more pressing’ matters. They’re able to JUSTIFY avoiding the paperwork. They may not even realise they’re doing this. Every human being procrastinates to some degree about doing the thing, or things, they do not enjoy or cannot really see the benefit of doing. If there’s something else more enjoyable or ‘less unappealing’ they can do instead, they will.

    Adults usually understand that there are clear benefits to getting ‘chores’ done a little and often (why wait til ALL the cups are dirty before washing up? Oh no, hang on, that happens too where I work!).

    If we don’t send out invoices to customers on time the business doesn’t get paid so the suppliers & staff can’t be paid. Most of us ‘get’ that some admin is necessary for the health and efficiency of the business, yet still some staff may have developed an unhealthy view that efficiency is a BAD THING. That is, if the  business is efficient it might need fewer staff, thus putting some people out of work. If that’s the case it’s up to the senior  management to help them see things from a different perspective.


    I think the key to getting procrastinators to do their paperwork is to help them to make these links in their own minds:-

    1. ‘little and often’ is less painful and stressful than avoiding admin altogether and being faced with a backlog on a tight deadline. Once you’ve avoided a pile of paperwork for a week or two then you find yourself thinking ‘another day won’t hurt’, then before you know it you’ve got a month’s worth and you ‘re thinking ‘how will I ever find time to do all that’?. Vicious circle!

    2. How is the ‘well-oiled machine’ (the business) affected if THEY personally throw a spanner in the works by not doing THEIR paperwork?

    2. Efficiency is GOOD. Businesses have to change in line with changes in the market in order to stay successful. This means sometimes redundancies do have to happen even though no-one likes to think about it. If a business is run efficiently it will be better placed to weather difficult times and this creates job security in the long term. If you are an efficient member of staff with lots to offer the company, even if the company finds that your POST is no longer needed it’s more likely the company would still want to find a way to keep YOU.


    Support staff by setting them allocated times to do their paperwork, maybe? Then if they’re ‘caught’ doing something else at those times they have no justification, not even to themselves!

    Sadly I am only just at the point where I’ve realised that I need to help some of our staff make these links, so I’m still unsure how I’m actually going to get there!

    Would love to hear other ideas!





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