Why Settle for Maybe?

Caron Mason has a nice reflective post on her blog about whether to make changes (in a new job) or just go with the flow for a while to better understand the system. When you're new to a job, the "we have always done it that way" answer actually seems pretty good, at least as a start. But there is one line in her post that I think provides for an interesting tangent. Part of what is pushing her to change things is a comment she got from her Vice President:

The vice president often smiles at me and says, “if you can think of
any way to improve this, let me know.” She must say this a few times a
week—which makes me think maybe she really wants me to change things

True, MAYBE she really wants her to change things. Maybe she just wants incremental improvements on a number of specific projects. Maybe she likes things the way they are and pushed it on to Caron as a way to buy some time. Maybe she meant...anything.

It is true that Caron's interpretation is logical, but why do we settle for interpretations? This one is very common. We take a few words spoken by someone, we then fill out a more comprehensive story about what was really meant, and then we make our own decisions based on the story, rather than the words. Sometimes we have to--we can't always have access to the full story. But so often we DO have access--we can go ask the person:

So, I've noticed that this is about the fourth time you've asked if I had a way to improve something, and it touches on a topic I've been thinking a lot about lately: do you think i should be making broader changes around here?

Have the conversation. Ask the question. Speak up.

Let's Talk About Workplace Culture


  1. 08.01.2009 at 12:34 pm

    Good advice, Jamie

  2. 09.01.2009 at 12:52 pm

    While CEO of a running association, our on-site registration for a training program exceeded our expectations.
    I said to the Program Director, “It looks like we’ll have to order more t-shirts.”
    She asked, “are you telling me to order more shirts or just making an observation?”
    Since then, I’ve always been direct.

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