In this ‘Social’ and ‘Knowledge Sharing’ world, are we better or worse at information exchange?
And here’s another question:
Should we share everything?
Or are we better off consciously keeping (otherwise helpful) information to ourselves?
How people portray themselves (especially on Social Media) as having more exciting, happier lives than they really do – or how we hide behind screens when face-to-face conversation would be better – gives us a lot to talk about. How ironic.
What if we don’t?
Not talking – just keeping our heads down behind that computer – can get us into unexpected hot water. How easy is it to inadvertently develop an undesirable, and perhaps unfair, reputation when we’re just getting on with the job?
Take one case – a previously amiable, popular and easy-going chap – who’s now regarded as untruthful, covert, untrustworthy, two-faced, unpredictable, unreliable and unwilling.
Most of us would find that description of ourselves hard to swallow, wouldn’ t we? And we might wonder what someone must have done to deserve such a damning profile.
In fact, it was all too easy:
A task, unimportant to his job, wasn’t done – but which someone else saw as a basic ‘taking pride in what you do’ activity – this registered as laziness;
Undertaking tasks without obvious logic in their execution – this got logged as meaningless/inefficient;
A necessary task wasn’t completed, with no explanation – equalled a lack of conscientiousness;
When a task was done after, but not because of, the reminders (from someone unaffected by the task) – he was deemed disorganised and disrespectful;
Information wasn’t shared and a situation worsened – it was considered deliberately deceitful.
With repeat occurrences, small things quickly amalgamated into one big negative impression.
What if, though, our scapegoat is:
Unaware that people may make negative assumptions without additional explanation?
Humble, and doesn’t blow his own trumpet when something goes well?
Unwilling to let people down?
Averse to delivering bad news or placing blame elsewhere?
Scared to admit limitations or ask for help?
Intimidated by the people around him?
Unsure as to what people want to hear?
Following someone else’s example?
Lacking in confidence, but doing his best?
Feeling unappreciated, in any event?
He could be any or all of these. The common denominator is that, in the absence of information, people have feared the worst – or felt unable to assume the best.
So what might have helped?
Ways to maintain a more positive reputation:
Not expecting to be chased for information, and delivering it in a timely fashion.
In passing, telling people what’s happening. Whilst some people seem to spend their lives reporting back but doing little, there’s something to be said for saying where we’re at.
Knowing – or finding out – who cares most about particular tasks and self-assigning accountability without it being formalised.
Openly discussing work priorities – especially when there’s a clash and, as always, limited time.
Having someone to turn to – preferably a close work colleague, and a boss and mentor figure – to approach as a confidante when confidence wanes or a problem feels insurmountable.
Airing problems without feeling culpable, just because we don’t have the answer.
When styles of approach differ, letting people know how we might achieve the same end result, only differently.
We’re not talking having to justify our actions to someone looking to meddle or be divisive – that’s a different topic altogether. But, in our busy world, to question how we feed back to others about what and how we do things.
In a flexible working world, where we’re appreciated as individuals to manage our own workloads without a strict ‘one rule for all’ policy, perhaps the pay-off is that we need to accept more personal accountability?
One part of that is giving evidence to people to show how we’re working. Another is to seek it when it’s not readily available, to help people be better understood – when giving someone ‘the benefit of the doubt’ may not always happen.
Information may well be power. But perhaps, like many things, unless it’s shared, it’s meaningless.