CXO

On-the-job strategy: How do you come across to co-workers?

A TechRepublic member is trying to help his organization but his "helpfulness" comes across as pushy and is not welcome. How can he turn this situation around?

We asked what kind of career issues most plague IT pros. A good number of TechRepublic members said that tips on developing slick resumes and interview skills take a back seat to finding out how to deal with issues in an existing workplace. For example, how do you keep your career on the right track when your boss is ineffective or you have a co-worker taking credit for your accomplishments?

After hearing from you, we decided to develop a regular feature in our Career topic center, called "On-the-job strategy," in which we talk about some of the on-the-job career challenges that many IT pros face. Here's the first of our reader-supplied scenarios. Thanks to Emma Hamer of HamerAsscoiates, a career and performance management company, for providing professional advice to the TechRepublic member who submitted the question.

The situation: "I seem to have a double-edged sword of a problem. I have recently been told that I have a type-A personality that is a little too aggressive. I work in an IT Department of 10 people. I agree that I am not shy when it comes to expressing my opinion, but until now that has always seemed to work to my advantage. While I think I am very good at being politically correct, I do not hesitate to question things.

I do not mean my questions to be a sign of disrespect. This is not only how I learn, but how I troubleshoot. When a particular software kept locking up during peak times, I questioned our security administrator's scheduling of the malware and virus scans. This was an open discussion. Another time, I questioned which queries our database administrator was running when I had a user calling that they were unable to retrieve reports.

Both of these caused major problems. I was accused of "wanting to do their jobs" and poking my nose into things that I didn't have enough knowledge about. Can anyone offer any advice in these situations? I truly have no problems with my coworkers, but somehow I am coming off as too pushy."

The advice: " An old consultant's trick is: "Whenever you feel the need to express an opinion, or make a corrective statement, phrase it as a question." While you do ask questions, the effect seems to be that you are perceived as a busy-body, a know-it-all, and, in general, as a negative voice in the discussion. Your tone of voice could have something to do with that, as well as your body language. Type A personalities are regularly perceived as impatient; and many have an air of superiority about them which, as unintentional as that may be, really puts people on the defensive. My advice to you is: preface your questions with things such as: "While this is a little out of my field of experience, could it be that ..." or "I know you've probably worked all the angles already, but it just occurred to me that maybe ...". The key issue is that you want to be perceived as helping, rather than criticizing - so make that explicit in your feedback. It also helps if you let people know when they've come up with a really good idea or solution; balance is important.

If you have a story to share or a need for some advice, respond in the discussion area of this article or send us e-mail. With the help of some career experts and your peers, we'll get you on the right track.

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