From Sara Harrup
I was recently chatting to an old colleague about his work. He’s an astute man, intelligent and very conscientious. When I asked him how things were going he said to me “I am so frustrated. I couldn’t get any more frustrated, and I just don’t know how to stop being frustrated”.
When we talked more it seemed that he was a victim of a project that had constantly moving goalposts. The stakeholders all seemed to be confused and the more the goalposts moved the more wishy washy it all became. Funnily, it wasn’t the moving goalposts that was causing the frustration for my dear old colleague, it was that every attempt he made to derive clarity and move things forward was met with a plethora of micromanaging by his manager and believe it not, his peers. It had become so bad that they were dictating to him who he should speak to, how he should speak to them and even what tasks he should be doing on a day to day basis.
As we talked it seemed to me that he knew exactly how to cut through the confusion and get things back on track so at first I wondered why the intrusion was occurring. And then it hit me! My old colleague was a “sharer”. His work style was one where he was very transparent and shared very openly what he was working on and where he was at. He does this out of an ethic of inclusiveness and collaboration and from habit, in that he traditionally works for clients who need regular updates. His sharing was unwittingly inviting his peers and manager, who were equally stressed about the project, to comment, analyse and review everything he was sharing.
So I asked him how he would feel about cutting back on his transparency, focusing only on deliverables and timeframes. I wasn’t suggesting to him to shut down and not work collaboratively with his colleagues, just to only give them the opportunity to provide feedback on matters that had reached a draft stage and not discussing how he intended to go about achieving them. I asked him if he thought he could actually be inviting them to micromanage him? “What do I do if they ask how things are going?” he asked. “Tell them it’s going well and you will have something for them to give feedback on in the next few days”. I said.
Well he thought about my suggestion overnight and went in to work the next day ready to try it. By mid morning he contacted me saying “It’s miraculous Sara! I have effectively just removed their ability to intrude on my work. I am having the most productive day and achieving more than I have in weeks. The relief I am feeling at being able to just get on with things is enormous”.
Are you a sharer? If you are stop and think about what your current frustrations are at work. Feel like you are being micro managed or that peers are intruding on your work boundaries? Are you spending a distasteful amount of time in meetings? Consider whether your own collaborative nature may be the culprit. Test drive the strategies my old colleague tried and see if it works for you.
About Sara: Sara is a Cause & Effective Associate. She is a former not for profit CEO and has first-hand knowledge of the challenges and issues faced by organisations in the sector and the people who work in them. She brings this experience and insight to our Leadership Recruitment team.