A co-worker’s advice may not always work best
Give it careful consideration, but it doesn’t mean it’s suitable for your situation
Q: I have a co-worker who is always telling me how I should handle different situations. Her advice tends to go against my intuition. She is more experienced than I am, so I don’t know whether I should trust her guidance or my gut. Zanna, 33, sales representative A: Authenticity is key; at the same time, figure out the best ways to learn from others.
First, think about how things are going. Are you having problems, or are you resolving situations successfully (but in a way that’s different from what she would do)?
In cases where you have been dissatisfied with your management of a situation, do some “what if” thinking. What if you had used her approach? Consider if you would have gotten a better outcome.
Next, reflect on other options, especially identifying examples you have seen from others that may have gotten you a more desirable result.
If you determine that any of these other approaches would have been better, then check them out against your intuition. The risk of relying on intuition is that it can really just be habit. And habits can and should be changed if there are better ways to proceed.
At the same time, don’t discount the value of your professional and life experience. For example, you may have a more refined level of emotional intelligence, so you may have an innate understanding of what will work with an individual ... and what won’t. In this case, your intuitive knowing is a highly valuable resource.
I also wondered why your co-worker was providing advice, especially if it’s unsolicited. You would do well to ask yourself what she has to gain by advocating a particular approach.
Her motivation may indeed be very well intentioned. However, even if she’s just trying to help, it isn’t empowering or beneficial to give advice to less senior employees.
People can also have ulterior motives related to securing their own power bases or exerting control. This could be quite damaging to you, so it’s something to be alert to.
Now take a look at yourself to see if there are other reasons she may be offering help that you’ll want to address. For example, if you send a message that you’re needy or insecure by fretting verbally to people or second guessing yourself out loud, you’re going to attract “helpers.”
All this said, it’s good to have trusted advisers and mentors at any stage in your career. Ideally you can identify a variety of people who can support you in different ways. Your boss is an obvious one, especially with day-to-day challenges in your current role.
Also seek out other role models, focusing on longer range development goals you may have, or more sensitive aspects you may not feel comfortable discussing with your boss. This may even include this co-worker; if you trust her, it may be a good step to find a way she can genuinely help you.
The key is to be in charge of your own solutions, not being reactive and adapting to advice that may not serve you.
Liz Reyer is a credentialed coach with more than 20 years of business experience. Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
If others offer advice, give it its due but don’t discount your professional and life experience.