I am the kind of person who likes looking at the interiors of other people’s apartments (usually via the Times real estate section), but looking at all these work spaces is fascinating as well.
What do you do if you’re afraid that you’re coming off as a condescending know-it-all at work? Should you try to act “dumber”? Karla Miller who runs @Work Advice at The Washington Post says know-it-alls shouldn’t act dumber—they should be “strategically generous”:
They ask questions instead of spitting out answers: What do you think? Does anyone have a different idea? What if we tried this instead?
They recognize that everyone has a contribution: Great point, and I’d like to build on that by adding … Let me defer to Eloise on that topic.
They dissent politely: I see where you’re coming from, but I think …
They acknowledge vulnerabilities: I sometimes struggle with expressing myself tactfully.
They apologize as needed: I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be brusque.
They laugh at themselves: Whoops, I had a Sheldon Cooper moment there. Bazinga!
At a previous job, someone who built a reputation for being a know-it-all and interrupting colleagues at work was simply told, “Stop interrupting people while they’re in the middle of talking—it’s rude.” He apologized, and consciously made an effort to stop himself from correcting people while they were talking. It’s the thought that counts.
Mr. Waber says a worker’s immediate neighbors account for 40% to 60% of every interaction that worker has during the workday, from face-to-face chats to email messages. There is only a 5% to 10% chance employees are interacting with someone two rows away, according to his data, which is culled from companies in the retail, pharmaceutical and finance industries, among others.
Want to befriend someone on another floor? Forget it. “You basically only talk to [those] people if you have meetings,” Mr. Waber says.
Some companies, especially tech companies, like to mix up the seating arrangements of their employees every few months to shake things up and have everyone collaborate with each other more. This was not so successful at a startup I used to work for, which liked to move me away from my editorial team and seat me next to, say, a programmer who was too busy building systems to talk to me. I had to get up a bunch of times a day to have some face time with my team (which I actually didn’t mind so much—it’s good to have an excuse to get up and stretch). How are seating arrangements decided where you work?
Photo: Peter Van De Linde