The Simple Communication Tip That Can Change Your Career

Updated 07/12/17
Because Im Addicted

It seems reasonable to assume there's at least some connection between our own attitudes or assumptions and our satisfaction in the workplace. And while there may not be a straightforward set of career beliefs that could ruin you, some thinking patterns can definitely hinder performance, compromise relationships, prevent you from meeting goals, and simply make you unhappy. When I recently took part in a workplace training workshop to learn how to advocate for myself and resolve tough situations, deterministic thinking (or thinking in ultimatums) was shown to be one of the most problematic habits, making us rigid and preventing growth.

Buddy Bush of JB Training Solutions, who led the workshop, emphasized the importance of giving and accepting constructive criticism, which is pretty much impossible if you're a deterministic thinker who's set in your ways or convinced that change is impossible. With that in mind, I decided to outline how to identify deterministic thinking according to the Career Beliefs Inventory (CBI), a workbook created by John D. Krumboltz, Ph.D., and how to address it with Bush's communication strategy. So if you want to nurture your career, work through job burnout, or navigate a transition, read through the tips below to challenge your own career beliefs and open up lines of communication at work.

Why Thinking in Ultimatums Is Problematic

According to a Harvard University study, open-mindedness and optimism are directly linked to happiness in both work and life. This connection is central to the CBI, which measures qualities like confidence, activity, independence, flexibility, and positivity to determine an employee's overall job satisfaction. Those who score lowest on the CBI typically think the most rigidly. In other words, if someone's assumptions about their current career situation are negative (i.e., they don't think they can achieve happiness, because they aren't willing to initiate changes), things are unlikely to improve.

Identifying the Thought Pattern

Problematic beliefs likely emerge more subtly than, say, our favorite sports teams or restaurants, so taking the CBI can give you a more accurate reading of your own thinking. But there are also some symptoms you can identify more easily. For example, if you catch yourself thinking in terms of "always" or "never," you're probably engaged in deterministic thinking. This typically diminishes your ability to give and receive constructive feedback since you don't think anything can change. As Bush emphasized, however, there's always room for growth, which is essential to improvement and overall job happiness, so turning this thinking on its head is vital.

Besides, assuming that an issue will resolve itself or giving up on it entirely will only make the problem worse. So once you challenge that belief pattern, the next step lies in communication. And that's where responding to and giving constructive feedback come in again.

How to Give and Receive Feedback

While it's important to advocate for yourself, Bush stresses that delivery is everything. So while constructive criticism is basically just a balance between good feedback and negative feedback, it can be a tricky wire to walk. A great communication tool to ensure that you get the necessary constructive criticism for growth is asking your manager or employee to take part in what Bush introduced as the "start, stop, continue, change" model, outlined below.

Using the "Start, Stop, Continue, Change" Model

Ask your co-worker, either a supervisor or someone on your team, if you're a manager, to participate in the "start, stop, continue, change" exercise with you by creating a simple form for them to fill out. Bring it to your next check-in and offer to fill one out for them, too. Here's what each section can offer: 

Start: Here's where you get to find out what you haven't been doing that your colleague wishes you would start doing.

Stop: If someone has been doing something problematic, this is a great time to put it to an end.

Continue: Here's the chance to praise or thank your co-worker and also a time to let them know what's been working well.

Change: This gives your co-worker the opportunity to explain what adjustments need to be made for better performance and satisfaction in the future.

This exercise will allow you set up more strategic and actionable goals, improve your ability to communicate your own needs, and accept constructive criticism with an open mind. Mixing in compliments will help you realize it's not all bad and make it easier for everyone to absorb the constructive criticism.

Are you going to try this approach with your colleagues? Let us know how it goes in the comment section below, and feel free to share any other strategies that have helped you.

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