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Welcome to Merge's Monthly Mega Minute - a bite-sized, yet substantial and practical, nugget of information that you can use immediately to enhance your professional and personal success.

Diagnosis or treatment, which should come first?

There are two steps in medical therapy – diagnosis and treatment. But which should come first?

As individuals, we often treat first. We guess as to what might be the cause of the ailment – a runny nose could mean a springtime allergy, or a rash might be due to excessive heat – and we then take a remedy, whether pharmaceutical or herbal, to feel better. If the treatment works, then we know that our diagnosis was correct. If it doesn’t, then we try something else. Depending on the situation, this can be a very reasonable approach.

However, medical professionals usually diagnose first. On the basis of laboratory and other tests, combined with knowledge and experience, doctors try to determine the reason behind the illness. Sometimes, they look to eliminate possibilities as they try to narrow down and pinpoint the source of the disorder. Only once they have determined the problem do they move to treatment.

Which approach is better? It depends. It depends upon the severity, complexity, and frequency of the symptoms and their outcomes. It depends on whether you see yourself as an expert and a professional. Which is also not a bad way to think about how you deal with problems and issues in the workplace. When things go wrong, do you diagnose first, or do you treat first?

Treatment without diagnosis is likely quicker, but it can get expensive, particularly if you don’t get it right on your first or second try. The biggest shortcoming of the “treatment first” alternative is that it too many wrong solutions can negatively affect your professional reputation. But we often do it, because proper diagnosis takes time, which can frequently be in short supply.

On the other hand, the “diagnosis first” approach positions you as a professional. As a trusted advisor to your clients (internal or external), it is important to invest the time to correctly diagnose the root cause of the problem or issue, before you offer solutions. Even if it means that you have to slow things down. And if the issue is complex or critical, then proper diagnosis becomes even more important.

As a general rule, I am always deliberate about diagnosing first. Asking questions, observing patterns, listening to perspectives is part of my diagnosis toolkit. But if it is a routine problem that I have experienced frequently, then I might jump to the treatment faster.

So, diagnosis or treatment, which should come first? You know what I think, but I’d love to hear more about your point of view, and even your first-hand experiences. Please comment directly on the blog at

Workplace lessons from the COVID contagion of kindness

  • As devastating and difficult as the COVID-19 world has been, the one seemingly silver lining to emerge from this pandemic is the contagion of kindness. Ironically though, the world of work has often viewed being kind as being weak.  In Merge’s latest column in The Globe and Mail, she lays out the Five ways being a kind person can help your career.


Turning Managers into Leaders

That our blog is eleven years old this month!?

Yes, we know, eleven years!! When Merge started the Turning Managers Into Leaders blog in August 2009, she was tentative about it.  In fact, she only did it only because people told her that it would be a great platform on which to share and learn about leadership. Of course, back then we had no idea that it would turn into something bigger than anyone of us had ever imagined. Today, almost 1,700 posts (in fifteen categories) later, we’re proud to say that our blog is a valuable resource for leaders in Canada, the United States, and around the world. Whether you're seeking tips on how to deal with a specific leadership or workplace communication issue you're facing, or if you just want to dialogue with other like-minded leaders in our learning community, chances are your issue has been covered at some point or another. Use the categories or the keyword search function to find what you need. And if you can't find the answer to your leadership question or issue, please let us know because Merge will probably address it in a future blog post!


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