Most of us work at finding ways to do a better job, advance in a career, and become more successful. That is commendable, but we may differ on how to go about getting there. While most are straightforward, tackling one challenge after another; others do it differently, and their actions leave marks that affect our success.
Most of us cannot choose our co-workers, team members, or business associates. Nonetheless, we can avoid being blindsided by those who, often unintentionally, would throw us off course. Here is what to look for:
Those who act too quickly. In school, they raced to get a seat in the front row, and their hands always went up first when the teacher asked a question, even though they didn’t know the answer. Some never stop raising their hand first. They are enthusiastic, but they can cause trouble by not taking time to think things through.
Those who lack flexibility. We admire those who stand by their beliefs and don’t give in even when it could help to bend a little. Rigidity can create roadblocks that thwart discussion and lead to hostility.
Those who rush to get it done. They plough right in, ignoring even the most obvious red flags. They never ask questions, refuse help, and never think through tasks before moving forward. They leave a trail of trouble behind them for others to clean up.
Those who never quite finish. Whatever the task, they drag it out (usually accompanied by questionable excuses). Then, when the deadline passes, they want more time to “check one more thing,” while co-workers are left waiting.
Those who want to do too much. Smart and capable, they are up for any challenge that is handed to them. You can count on them to do a good job and do it quickly. Without knowing it, they can also create dissension among team members who resent having a “star” in their midst.
Those who always misunderstand. It seems as if not getting something the way it was intended is a character trait with some people. No matter how clear the instructions or how detailed the discussion, someone always comes up with, “But I thought….” It is not so much that they see things differently as it is “reinterpreting” them, so they are comfortable with them.
Those who are brain pickers. “I am kind of stuck. Could you give me some ideas?” they say. You can count on it. Some are just plain lazy; but others, lacking self-confidence, feel free to take from others, and adding nothing of their own.
Those who are unendingly late. Whether it is getting to meetings or completing assignments, some people are always late. It does not appear to bother them that others depend on them and that being out of step is disruptive.
Those who make up their own rules. In the past, there may have been more room for outliers, those who “march to a different drummer,” or “do their own thing.” But not so much in an interdependent and collaborative work environment that depends on communication, coordination, and cooperation.
Those who set their own limits. Whenever they are asked to take on an assignment, meet a critical deadline, or make some accommodation, they always have too much on their plate, while others find time to get the job done. Their plates may be too small for the job.
Those who are always right. They may not know the right questions to ask, but they never run short on having the right answers. The more you attempt to convince them otherwise, the more they feel cornered and the more they resist. Their favorite spot is standing outside the circle and criticizing.
Those who always see flaws. Uncovering flaws is a useful skill for improving the quality of our work. But some flaw-finding can be self-serving, especially when it is used to improve one’s position by embarrassing or attacking others.
Those who do not think things through. An analytical approach takes time and, more often than not, requires deferring decisions until more data is available. However, that does not satisfy those who want action. “By the time we get around to making a decision,” they say, “it will be too late.” Pushing things through rather than thinking them through is dangerous.
Those who second-guess everyone and everything. No matter how hard you try to draw them into a discussion, they sit by silently while the members of the team wrestle with the issues. It is then that the second-guessers come to life to let it be known why it will not work, why it will fail.
Those who see only through their own eyes. No matter how vigorously denied, we are all held in the clutches of biases that color our picture of the world. It is the stuff that causes some to misunderstand and righteously reject ideas and actions that differ from their own.
Those who equate quantity with quality. Years ago, a student came to his 10th-grade civics class carrying a ridiculously thick binder filled with newspaper clippings. Today, he would download endless articles from the Internet. Either way, the results are the same: a stack of stuff but little or no understanding.
While most of those we encounter throughout our careers are helpful and supportive, there are others whose actions can cause us trouble. So, what’s the best way to avoid being blindsided and hurt? Stay alert and remember, someone is out to get you. Count on it.