This co-worker asked for your opinion, which seems to have gone over like a lead balloon. Oops. Here are five tips for dealing with co-workers who always ask for your advice but never take it!
For sake of ease, let's make your co-worker's question easy, breezy, and non-work related. I can't decide between a vacation in the mountains or renting a beach house on the coast this summer. What would you do? muses your seemingly indecisive co-worker from the comforts of an adjacent work area.
You take the bait and offer your opinion. You would definitely go to the mountains, hands down! You proceed to explain why.
You soon get cut off with a terse "I know!" or a huffy "That wouldn't work" as your co-worker immediately books a week at the beach.
Hey, you were asked for your opinion, and you very kindly offered it! You thoughtfully weighed the pros and cons and warts and all, only to have your co-worker dismiss your input. Way to be a mansplainer, lady. Nobody asked for your opinion!
Well, actually this co-worker did ask for your opinion. It just wasn't the right opinion, apparently. In fact, you suspect this co-worker's mind was already made up before she asked for your input. It's like that awesome Lyle Lovett song. Still a great song, in my opinion.
What's going on here, you ask?
First, this co-worker wasn't really asking for your opinion, although he or she might have been looking for a little bit of validation. Most likely, this work colleague was thinking out loud, or simply making conversation. Whatever the reason, your advice wasn't welcome. Now things feel awkward.
Ugh. How to deal? Here are five, strategic tips for interacting with the co-worker who always asks for advice but never takes it:
1. Ask what this co-worker really wants. Before you utter a three-step solution to the problem at hand, ask: "Are you asking for my opinion here? Do you really want my advice?" By placing a disclaimer up front, you get this co-worker's buy-in before proceeding with an opinion.
2. Turn the question back to them. In future interactions, it might be best to knock the ball right back into this co-worker's court by responding: "Hmm, the beach and the mountains both sound nice. Which one are you leaning toward?" Most likely, your co-worker has already figured it out, and you won't find yourself on the outs.
3. Apologize if necessary. If you feel your advice has managed to irk a co-worker, go ahead and apologize. You might say your advice is based on personal experience, which may not turn out to be their experience. Say, "I'm sorry," put it behind you and move on.
4. Take your own life experience into account. "Been there, done that" is one of the benefits of getting older, but experience also puts us at risk of coming off as preachy or condescending. Age can also make us bolder in our honesty. If you're over a certain age, ahem, you'll have to weigh your potential advice against a younger colleague's potential reaction to it. One word: plastics.
5. Don't get fooled again. You got burned the last time you offered advice to this co-worker, so water down your future input -- if you don't decide to turn off the tap altogether. When this co-worker asks for your advice, you might refer to Tip #1 and Tip #2. It's a bummer, because sometimes you have do some very sound work/life advice to offer! Oh, well. Your opinion is valuable, so save it for the co-workers you know will value it.
This workplace problem is fairly common, and it can pertain to non-work related matters as well as work-related issues.*** Feel free to offer your advice for dealing with this workplace quandary without putting your foot in it. We promise to listen without saying we know that already.
*** If a co-worker ever asks for your honest opinion regarding the colors she's chosen for her upcoming wedding, simply say they're "very pretty" and leave it there. Just trust me on this one!