Who do you confide in when you have a work related problem or reason for celebration?
Whether we decide to talk to friends, family or a work colleague people often have different ways of responding.
Here are 12 different types of responses you may come across in your discussions about the struggles and triumphs of work. As you read through this list you will notice that some overlap depending on the situation.
For the purpose of this exercise, I am not referring to people who you pay to help you with a work issue.
If we are lucky we all have at least one person in our lives who is a good listener. With any luck, you will have more than one.
When we have a problem, they listen to us talk about our issues without judgement. If need be, they let us rant without interrupting. They can also be trusted to keep the information to themselves.
The key to the listening relationship is that it needs to be reciprocal. When the other person has a problem, you sit and listen in return with no judgement or interference.
The yes man
Sometimes we like to talk to a yes person. It’s usually when we’re upset and need to get things off our chest.
In a nutshell the yes person agrees with us.
They see our point of view. They understand and sympathize. They get where we’re coming from. These conversations tend to be common when discussing a manager, boss or company.
Sometimes the yes conversation is just what we need, though it’s not a good idea to be having these conversations on a regular basis. We lose all sense of objectivity if someone is constantly agreeing with us.
The mentor listens and then makes useful and well thought out suggestions. They try to help you with the situation instead of being simply a sounding board.
They look at things from a neutral perspective and offer advice accordingly, allowing you the freedom to either take their advice or go in a different direction. They appreciate that part of their role is to help you process the information yourself, not tell you what to do.
The mentor can be a great asset. This relationship also works best when it is reciprocal. While you may not be able to help this person with work related issues, listening to them when they need to talk is a great way to repay their kindness and support.
The see both sides person
This is a combo of the listener, yes man and mentor. They will listen, sympathize and give advice but also provide insight into another point of view. Sometimes we need someone who can see both sides of the story. They often help us see a solution or approach that we may have overlooked ourselves.
They can also help us remember the positive aspects of a situation instead of focusing and obsessing on the negative.
This person will often ask you questions in an attempt to have you looking at the problem from a different angle or make you think about your answers.
The you will do it this way person
They tell you want to do whether you asked for their help or not. They don’t so much as give advice as boss you around.
Often they may have an investment in the outcome of whatever problem you are experiencing.
While this person may in fact have some solid advice, you still need to make decisions for yourself. Don’t let people take over your decision-making process. Weigh up all of the options and decide for yourself.
The person who is always better than you
Have you ever confided a vulnerability, doubt or fear to someone and their first response is – ‘I’m fantastic at that?’
Not exactly the response you were looking for when you expose a vulnerability, particularly one that was hard to talk about in the first place. This sort of response makes you doubt yourself even more.
If you know someone who tends to respond in this manner, I would stop confiding in them about certain aspects of your work. Stick to more neutral conversations where they won’t have an opportunity to put you down.
The don’t outshine me person
Thankfully sharing information about work isn’t all about problems. When wonderful things happen we like to have someone to share them with.
Unfortunately some people don’t react well to the success of others. They are happy for us but well there is always a ‘but’.
No matter how well you do at a particular task, they will find a flaw in your work. Sometimes this sort of response can be about competition, other times it’s simply about ego.
You can either stop talking to this person about your success or accept that they will respond this way and choose to overlook their element of negativity.
The one upper
If you have climbed Mt Kilimanjaro, they have climbed Everest. Sometimes no matter what we do, there is always someone more than happy to tell us they have done better.
This attitude of one upping people occurs through all aspects of life, not just work.
In some work situations you might prefer to let this one slide. Your reaction will probably depend on how often someone responds in this manner. To be honest, many of us do this occasionally without realizing and certainly without any malice intended.
In a social situation with friends however it’s not a bad idea to politely address this issue with the person involved if they regularly exhibit this type of behavior. This should preferably be a one on one discussion, not done in front of a large group. The purpose isn’t to embarrass the person, simply to point out what they are doing and how it makes other people feel. They may not even be aware they are acting this way.
The person who is genuinely happy for you
These are the people who you want to share your fantastic news with.
Most people fit in this category, so it shouldn’t be too hard trying to find someone to celebrate your good fortune or good news with.
The person who is proud of you
In the post The Importance of Show and Tell in Relationships, I mentioned how transformational the words, ‘I am proud of you’ can be.
If a friend, family member or co-worker comes to you to celebrate their success make sure you truly demonstrate how happy and proud you are of them.
I guarantee this will make someone’s day.
The trusted co-worker
If you decide to talk to someone at work about a work-related problem, make sure it is someone you trust.
It should be someone you know will keep your confidence. Once you have been working with people for a certain amount of time, you will learn who you can and can’t trust.
If you are new to a company, take your time in working out who you can trust before opening up about problems to someone.
Everyone and anyone
Sometimes when we have a problem at work, we talk to everyone and anyone about it. This includes friends, family, co-workers and clients.
Personally I think this is a mistake. People talk about other people at work. Don’t kid yourself about this. Everyone does it to some degree.
Gossiping, complaining and talking about co-workers can get out of control in an environment that is going through a period of instability or transition such as a restructure or change of management.
Alliances can change over time given people’s circumstances and you may find the problem with your boss that you talked about with co-workers, has spread like wildfire around the office. You can pretty much guarantee at some point it will get back to your boss.
Do you see yourself in any of the above situations?
Can you recognize some of the people you may have confided in?
Depending on our situation we can take on different hats and roles. Next time you have a work problem or success to discuss, take a moment to consider who you should be talking to.
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