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

The Hamilton Spectator - - CAREERS - LIZ REYER

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.

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