Career Testing
Career Testing
Career Testing
CAREER DEVELOPMENT / FEB. 23, 2016
version 13, draft 13

The Dangerous Business of Workplace Advice

When it comes to workplaces and careers, there are two types of people: fools and wise men – fools learn from experience, and wise men learn from history. In other words, doing as your conscience dictates is not a bad approach per se, but if you have the opportunity to keep mistakes to a minimum, take it.

See Also: 10 Career Tips From Self-Made Billionaires

Being a workplace consultant is much harder than anyone can imagine. Sure, it does not involve any heavy lifting, so it’s not hard in that sense, but providing someone with workplace advice that works is a delicate matter. First of all, people sometimes fail to tell good and bad business advice apart. Also, people sometimes tend to follow suggestions that they personally find appealing, which can also turn out to be a bad choice.

So, workplace consultants need to make difficult choices – provide the advice the customer wants to hear, or focus on a satisfying end result. Here are some of the struggles that any workplace consultant can experience.  

1. People Don’t Always Like What They Hear

shocked woman
Shutterstock

The first problem of working as a workplace advisor is telling people who seek advice that they are not right. It is not always the case but, every now and then, someone will ask what they should do, and telling them they should admit they are wrong will not result in a happy customer. Furthermore, there are various other reasons why the given advice can be deemed unacceptable (personal belief, cultural differences, fear of taking action, etc.).

This is why a workplace advisor needs to be persuasive – he or she needs to make people reevaluate their situation from a different perspective, and we all know just how stubborn we can be once we have made up our minds. Lastly, there is a possibility that someone is not looking for advice, and they only need to tell you what is bothering them at their workplace and blow off some steam.   

2. Sometimes People Don’t Want Any Workplace Advice

Well, if someone doesn’t want a second opinion, then why would they ask for it in the first place? It’s rather simple really; it’s easier to forgive yourself if things go south. If you can say “I even talked to an expert and things still did not go the way I planned”, then you can easily assume that the whole universe is somehow against you.

It is not uncommon for someone to have already made up his or her mind, so asking for advice is a mere courtesy. Additionally, it is also possible for someone who asks for advice to omit important details related to the entire situation. In that case, you won’t be able to give someone quality advice, even if you wanted to.   

3. People Are Largely Influenced by Media

One of the main reasons why there are so many popular shows nowadays, is because the characters in each one of them are created to be relatable to a specific target audience. So, a lot of themes in current shows revolve around drama in the office, or how you need to outsmart your competition by constantly scheming.

It comes as no surprise that people who lack excitement start imagining their workplace as Westeros from the TV series “Game of Thrones”, and proceed with playing mind games to uncover the true motives of their coworkers and superiors. Before you know it, the entire workforce becomes a band of schemers.

Additionally, some of the most popular online content has titles like “X things I learned from (Name of the TV series or movie) about business”. For example, one seeks wisdom by finding business lessons in True Detective, which, truth be told, offers good lessons, yet what the advice seeker fails to do is separate general advice from a specific situation.

In other words, despite the similarity, one’s situation is not completely applicable to the one in a certain TV show, even if people want it to be. As a workplace advisor, it is your duty to burst their bubble and suggest a mundane and somewhat boring course of action.     

4. You Need to Make Them Stare at The Harsh Truth

new girl nick and jess
Kinomania

We go through life being told that if we are diligent and hardworking people, we will be rewarded. Yes, it’s true, but not as much as we want to believe. You can be a good person, a good employee, you can finish all of your duties on time, and never cash in your sick days, yet still it won’t guarantee that you might end up being promoted one day. Why? It’s simple. Unless you show the potential for advancement and take additional interest, you’ll end up on a mediocre level.

In fact, what was described so far was actually an average citizen doing his or her job and minding their own business. The harsh reality of any workplace is that a person like that is really nothing special. If you want to advance, you need to become someone who is truly beneficial to society or to your company, otherwise you are just another expendable worker bee. The world is full of people eager to work and earn their salary, so you need to prove that you stand out somehow.

The best advice any workplace advisor can give you is to work on your skillsets, work on becoming versatile and work on becoming irreplaceable for one reason or another. In a situation where someone is bleeding and fighting for his life, unless you are a doctor who can help him, you are more or less useless. To truly advance in any line of work, you need to be the best employee in the area that brings in the greatest amount of income, someone who’s good at solving problems.  

If you are able to transfer your knowledge to others, yet able to keep your secrets in order not to become replaceable, you will advance, because you bring your company the most money and still no one can fill in your position. Anyone who does not fit into this mold is simply not entitled to advance.     

5. People Are Seduced by Their Own Experience

Finally, people are not always willing to learn. They feel confident that they are mature enough so they prefer to follow their own gut. It’s not that they do not want to hear your opinion, it’s not that they do not agree with you; they simply prefer to trust what they know. The only reason they turned to you is to seek some sort of approval, or to see whether you agree with their choice of action.

It’s hard to blame them though, if the method they used to solve problems has proven effective so far, it’s really hard to convince them otherwise. The problem is that workplace etiquette and rules are not the same as the ones we had going through life and social relationships, so their plan is likely to backfire. Remember the good old phrase – “Sorry, it’s not personal, it’s just business.”   

See Also: Career Advice From 10 Successful People

To sum up, it’s difficult to be a workplace advisor, or even to offer someone work related advice, mainly because people have a firm belief in their own convictions. The advice can very often be perceived as something that undermines their point of view or something that contradicts their logic. You can either agree with them against your own beliefs, tell them the best course of action even if they don’t like it, or give them general suggestion to work on their professional development.    

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