Q: A guy at work has told me I'm intimidating. I try hard to be approachable and easygoing. Now I'm staying quiet in meetings and wondering...

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Q:
A guy at work has told me I’m intimidating. I try hard to be approachable and easygoing. Now I’m staying quiet in meetings and wondering how to change my reputation. My performance review is coming up. What should I do?

A:
Realize that one person’s opinion doesn’t create a majority. Your performance review is about pleasing your boss, not your co-worker.

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Trying to guess at the meaning of vague feedback is one of the most common mistakes in corporations. Based on his comment, your co-worker could have meant anything from “I’m jealous of you” to “You speak loudly in small spaces.” The only way you’ll know what he meant is to ask him.

The executives I coach tell me they accept vague feedback because of fear of looking stupid. They believe they should know what people mean at all times.

Unless you’re psychic, many statements other people make will be confusing. People vary in their ability to articulate their meaning. When you become adept at asking specific questions, you won’t be at the mercy of others’ communication skills.

Go back to your co-worker, tell him you realize he’s trying to improve your work performance and tell him you need an example of how you appear intimidating to know what he means.

If the co-worker mentions the way you presented a brilliant idea at the last meeting, he’s jealous. Your being less creative won’t help anyone. If he tells you people suffered hearing loss the last time you made a presentation in the small meeting room, you should lower your volume.

It takes courage to ask questions when you might hear negative information. Then again, you won’t harbor vague worries.

The last word(s)


Q:

I have an employee who needs to shape up or get fired. However, shouldn’t I focus on the positive to motivate him?

A:
No, grownups need to know what’s at stake. Don’t threaten, but tell him his options if you want to give him the best chance.

Daneen Skube, Ph.D., can be reached at 1420 N.W. Gilman Blvd., No. 2845, Issaquah, WA 98027-7001; by e-mail at interpersonaledge@comcast.net; or at www.interpersonaledge.com. Sorry no personal replies. To read other Daneen Skube columns, go to: www.seattletimes.com/daneenskube