Q: I can’t decide whether to share some information with my colleagues. I am in the final year of a master’s degree program, and I recently started a new job. Because of my graduate training, I have already been able to make some unique contributions.
Yesterday, a co-worker asked where I found an organizational tool that I was using. After I explained that I’m learning these techniques in school, she suggested putting the information in a shared directory for the whole department to use. I am feeling rather conflicted about this idea.
My graduate courses are expensive and require a lot of work. Since I’m making these sacrifices to gain a career advantage, it seems wrong to just give my knowledge away. On the other hand, I do want to be a helpful colleague. If I keep my resources to myself, am I being savvy or selfish?
A: To resolve this dilemma, you will need to expand your thinking. So far, you have defined your options as either hoarding your knowledge or dumping it into the computer system. While refusing to share would indeed be selfish, making an anonymous contribution would be politically stupid.
A far better alternative is to impart this valuable information in a way that showcases your talents. The first step in this process is to meet with your boss and explain what you have to offer.
For example: “Some techniques that I learned in graduate school have helped me work much more efficiently, so I thought they might also be useful to others. If you agree, I would like to talk about the best way to share these resources.”
If your manager supports this effort, distribution strategies might include a lunch-and-learn session, an article for the newsletter, or a staff meeting presentation. Be sure to add your name and contact information to any printed or posted material. With this approach, you can assist your colleagues while simultaneously enhancing your reputation.
Q: My boss recently assigned a very annoying consultant to work with my department. This guy constantly tries to demonstrate his superiority by criticizing the way we do our jobs. I would like to tell my manager about his negative attitude, but they used to work together, so I’m afraid she might take it the wrong way. Should I say something or just try to be more open-minded?
A: Acting on emotion will only get you in trouble, so you need to control your instinctive territorial reaction. Not only do the consultant and your boss have a previous relationship, but she also selected him for this project. If you criticize his performance, you are automatically criticizing her decision.
Keep in mind that consultants are typically expected to recommend improvements, so try not to take this feedback personally. If you appear resistant to change, your boss might conclude that you are part of the problem. But if you seem open to new ideas, she will be more likely to consider your opinions.
Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of “Secrets to Winning at Office Politics.” Send in questions and get free coaching tips at www.yourofficecoach.com.