Q. I'm excellent at my job and find that my colleagues are threatened by my competency. When I make suggestions, they often tell me, "We don't do it that way around here." How do I get people to quit being upset when I point out how they could do their jobs better?
A. If you don't want people to be upset when you show them how to build their mousetrap better, you have to see why people are threatened by your "helpful" suggestions. People are hired because they are competent. People are fired because they are incompetent.
Think of human nature in the workplace as a series of buried emotional land mines that you have to be aware of or risk your foot being blown off. If you blithely waltz around at work unconcerned about these powerful emotional currents, you'll badly compromise your future success.
Fear is one of the most powerful motivators on the planet. Anxiety about survival is one of the most powerful fears, and nothing brings it up like having your job threatened.
You can now see that people are not threatened by your competency -- they are threatened by their fears about unemployment. If you make suggestions that confirm your coworkers' value and proficiency, you'll cease to have a problem.
Next time you want to make a suggestion try something like this, "I know that you have considered (insert your idea here), and I'm wondering what your thoughts are." Your colleague can now run with your improvement without any fear of appearing inept.
Other ways of making suggestions can include inquiring whether a colleague had mentioned (insert your idea) in the past, that a conversation with that person made you think of (insert your idea), or that you imagine he or she had a plan for (insert your idea).
If you do not want to trigger your coworkers' survival fears, you have to find a way to help them feel competent. Most of us know that none of us can see all solutions to workplace problems all the time. However, when someone loudly points out what we have missed, most of us most of the time will be more interested in saving our job than effectiveness.
I know for some readers it may seem wrong not to get credit for every brilliant idea that they have. I encourage my readers to take and get credit for their work. Because you are superb at your job, consider that you have enough brilliant ideas to share credit once in a while. People will be well aware that when you are in the room, everyone is somehow smarter. That is the best credit of all.
The last word(s)
Q. My boss has terrible manners. Is there a way to correct him without offending him?
A. No. It has been said that a closed mouth gathers no foot, and you'd be putting your worst foot forward to police the manners of your boss.
(Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker, also appears as the FOX Channel's "Workplace Guru" each Monday morning. She's the author of "Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything" (Hay House, 2006). You can contact Dr. Skube at http://www.interpersonaledge.com or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027. Sorry, no personal replies.)
Getting colleagues to love your ideas
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