September 19, 2008
Ask yourself what behavior co-workers want from you
Q: I've been told by co-workers that I need to be more patient. The problem is I'm an impatient, goal-oriented guy. I don't want to change who I am just to get along with my co-workers. How do I deal with their unreasonable expectations?
A: You start by realizing that no expectation is "unreasonable." An expectation may be impossible, like flying. An expectation may be also be something you're not willing to do. Arguing about the "reasonableness" of expectations is always a dead-end conversation.
I notice you're also confusing your inner self with your external behavior. The truth is you don't change your soul when you change your behavior. The other truth is it's unlikely any of your co-workers can discern your innate spirit; they just notice how you act.
Once you assimilate these two truths, you have the freedom to act in ways that achieve better results in your workplace. Even if you are impatient internally, you can behave in ways that get more of what you want from your co-workers.
I could tell from your letter that you were upset your co-workers called you "impatient." The majority of us are upset anytime other people call us "names" rather than asking for a behavior. Some of us even go to graduate school so we can use "big names" like passive-aggressive, insubordinate or supercilious. Whether names are big or small, they have the same effect of giving no information and insulting others.
A great tip that prevents other people from calling you names is to repeat the name (in this case "impatient") and ask what behavior they want from you. If they give you synonyms of impatient, ask them to imagine the new, improved you on a video and tell you what you are doing. Keep at it until they give up a behavioral request.
It's easy to get huffy when people use vague but insulting labels to describe us. Few of us get huffy when we're asked for concrete actions, like double-checking numbers or repeating an explanation.
For your own liberation and peace of mind, consider that how you feel is just a passing mood. Your essential self is far greater than any temporary feeling, such as impatience. It's ironic that we get so upset when others label us and then turn around and label ourselves defending our right to be defined as "impatient."
Next time a co-worker makes an "unreasonable" request, drop the debate about reasonableness. Ask for the behavior they want, consider whether doing it will allow you to get what you need, stop defining your innate nature through your fleeting moods, and make your decision based on your long-term goals.
The last word(s)
Q: I'm burned out in my current career. Is it foolish in this economy to consider a change of industry?
A: No, no one can pay you enough to hate your life five days a week for 40-plus hours every week.
Daneen Skube, Ph.D., is an executive coach, trainer, therapist, speaker and author. She can be reached at 1420 N.W. Gilman Blvd., No. 2845, Issaquah, WA 98027-7001; by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org; or at www.interpersonaledge.com. Sorry, no personal replies. To read other Daneen Skube columns, go to www.seattletimes.com/daneenskube
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