“Wait, Michael,” you might be saying, “Maybe this is more of a you thing that you’re projecting as a universal truth so that you can deal with the fact that you annoy your co-workers.” I hear you, and I’ll own that it’s a possibility, but hear me out.
The twenties, for most, mark a time of entering the workforce and beginning a career. Fresh off of whatever schooling was mandated, the twenty-something taking their first position is often ambitious, driven, and eager to prove that they were worth the hire. Having grown up with workplace sitcoms, we twenty-somethings approach our first jobs with hopes of making friends and doing good things.
Here’s the reality: You are somebody’s colleague nightmare. Maybe you come to work with a smile and a cup of coffee each day, but your cubicle-mate notices you don’t ever arrive quite on time. Maybe you are dependable and reliable, answering every e-mail with lightning precision and creating workplace efficiency flow like none other, but your project manager notes you’re harmful for team morale. Maybe you are passionate and contribute solid ideas, but the three people sitting behind you in that meeting think you like to hear yourself speak. Maybe you’re a team player who creates waves with nobody, but somebody on your task force thinks you’re a schmoozer with very little vision. Your co-workers are going to find your ‘but.’
The reality is that the process of teamwork and cooperation is, and always has been, a pretty challenging undertaking. Because the twenty-something years typically mark the introduction to a workplace setting, they are also the years we are figuring out our identity as an employee. It may be tough to hear, but there is a ‘but’ about your approach to work.
There are two keys, I think, to moving forward with this information: (1) Own the feedback, but (2) don’t dim your shine.
Own the feedback. It’s important to be self-reflective and to understand that you probably wouldn’t mind what your co-workers are telling you (or each other) if there wasn’t some truth to it. Your weaknesses will not be erased, and hiding them is temporary at best, so it seems helpful to acknowledge them, to work against them when possible, and to apologize for them when necessary.
Don’t dim your shine. Sometimes there is an additional ‘but,’ that sounds more like this: ‘But I’m only picking at that because you’re such a good problem-solver that it makes me feel insecure.’ ‘But I wish I could network like that; it doesn’t come naturally to me.’ ‘But I don’t know how to put people at ease like that.’ ‘But you always seem to know what you’re doing, and it makes me unsure.’ You can’t take all the feedback, or you’ll always be in evaluation mode and you won’t get anything done. Trust your brand. Accept that it’s going to annoy somebody.