One great piece of advice I’ve heard from Randy Pausch (late professor at Carnegie Mellon) is “when you’re screwing up and nobody’s saying anything to you anymore, that means they gave up.” This was a thought that came to me when I was driving back from a foreman’s meeting with my fellow engineer and he decided to give me some constructive feedback about my behavior. He was been a great coworker/teacher because I can truly tell he’s looking out for me through his many actions and the way he goes out of his way to teach me things about building construction; I truly believe that hereally wants to see me succeed. Before he started the conversation, he told me about a training he went to called “Training Young Leaders” and he said that it was necessary to give constructive feedback to help people grow or else they will get complacent with constant positive feedback. He then proceeded to tell me that he could see I really want to work hard and that I had great potential and will go far with Turner. After he built the cushion to drop me down on, he started to tell me about a few things I did that made me look unprofessional and also things that my immediate supervisor didn’t like.
First, he told me about a habit I’ve developed in college that I wasn’t realizing I did in meetings. I learned how to do a pen flip in college and that was what I would constantly do in lecture without ever realizing it. It seems that this habit transcended into my professional career and I was doing it during meetings without a thought. He told me this excessive movement made me seem nervous and it can be annoying to some people. Further, it made me look unprofessional by making it seem like I wasn’t paying attention. I never really thought of it that way before and I felt embarrassed when he told me but was also very grateful because it’s really difficult to see sometimes when you are stuck in the middle. It’s nice that somebody from the outside can pull you aside and tell you what the problems are because they have an objective view. I really appreciated him telling me about this because now I can be more conscious about what I do at meetings. As strange as it may seem to me still, I am a professional now and everything I do will be scrutinized by coworkers, subcontractors, clients and customers, my supervisor, and everybody else who is making a judgement about my character with every action I make.
The second piece of feedback had to deal with the same issue but this time it was more directly related to my supervisor. I sometimes make a clicking noise, similar to a beat boxing when I get bored and my coworker told me that this annoyed my supervisor. She had subtly mentioned it before but I never knew how much it really bothered her until my coworker told me she said to him in passing how it makes her really tick. Once again, I became more conscious about what I do in “down times” so I don’t seem unprofessional. It gets really difficult because when your mind starts to wander then you don’t pay attention to the little nuisances that consume your everyday life.
So my advice to you is to ask a close worker to give you candid feedback on any nuisances you do that tick them off or if they heard about things you do that tick other people off. It will be difficult to hear and you might just think those people are being anal but you must realize you are a professional and you should conduct yourself in that way. Nonchalant things to you might be a pet peeve to someone else – as I found out. Take one of your trusted coworkers aside and ask them for some constructive feedback and be prepared to receive it because in the end it will make you a better professional. Also, don’t forget to tell other people if they do things that you find annoying because you are probably not the only person being annoyed. Just do it tactfully and never embarrass your coworker in front of others; have this conversation in private and explain to them your doing this because you respect them as a coworker and want to see them succeed. I believe these little things will truly help your career in the long run, I know it has already made a tremendous impact for me.