Don’t be a Jerk: 6 Tips for Giving Suggestions at Work

Don’t be a Jerk: 6 Tips for Giving Suggestions at Work

A common problem I hear about is an engineer not knowing how to properly give his or her opinion to others. It’s a real problem, and let’s face it, many engineers lack these soft-skills that are critical for team building and career growth. I’ll get right to the point in this post, and that’s how to properly give a suggestion without coming off as a jerk.

6 steps to giving suggestions at work without being a jerk

  1. Reset your intentions to make sure it’s really about helping the team
  2. Realize that the people around you aren’t incompetent
  3. Get the back story about why things are the way they are
  4. Start a dialogue about your proposed solution
  5. Try to get others to come to the same conclusion on their own
  6. Assist with the new solution in a positive way

If your only purpose for bringing up a new solution is to make yourself look good, it’s time to reset your intentions. Your colleagues will see right past it and will know you’re simply trying to show off. No one likes that type of person on their team. Even if you’re brilliant, there is a limit to how big your ego can get before it begins to affect your reputation. Check your intentions from the start, and if your suggestions aren’t for the right reasons, then it’s best to reevaluate what you’re trying to accomplish.

I know you might say, “but they are!” The thing is, most people in a professional environment are not incompetent, and believing otherwise is a sign that you’re probably a little too full of yourself. Trust me when I say it will be impossible for your suggestion to land the right way if you’ve already dismissed the people you’re talking with. Even if, for some reason, your co-workers are incompetent, treating them that way is a sure-fire way to make it so they never improve.

Getting the back story is really important, and not getting it is usually a mistake of new members of a team. If you go in giving suggestions without understanding what led to the previous decisions, not only will your suggestion lack critical information, you’ll also be very easily dismissed. I’ve heard it over and over where an engineer will say, “this implementation is so bad,” but what they don’t understand is that everyone already knows that, but there was a reason for it. Having that back story will add credibility to your proposal.

Your suggestion should start out as a conversation; you should start a dialogue about the proposed solution to get others on board. This will allow you to really hear the point of view of others and possibly adjust your suggestion based on new information. It will also allow others to understand your train of thought. If they know how you thought through your recommendation, chances are they will respect the idea more.

Another great reason to have a dialogue is to allow for others to come to the same conclusions that you came up with. Don’t blurt out your solution right away, instead discuss the issue at hand, allowing for others to think through possible ways to fix it. This goes back to your intentions, and even if the team comes up with the same solution, they’ll credit you for being proactive. Now, I’m not suggesting you waste people’s time when you have a good answer to a problem. I’m simply recommending giving people at least a few minutes to process the situation.

Assisting with the new solution seems pretty basic, but I’ve seen people walk away at this point. If you want to bring a new solution, then you’d better be willing to contribute to implementing it, if tasked to do so. Refactoring or reworking an existing part of your project can get messy, and getting your hands dirty illustrates to the team that you’re fully committed to making things better. If you just want to show others that what they did previously was terrible, and then have them fix it all themselves, chances are the next time you have a suggestion they’ll be less receptive.

Everyone has different personalities—and that’s important—but even if you’re a more blunt person, it’s important to have a good approach when working with others. It will not only help your team function more effectively, but also help you with your career aspirations.

Credit: Feature image by Alekksall / Freepik

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