How to avoid being an office soapboxer

Published: 10 November 2017 By Harvard Business Review 2016

How to avoid being an office soapboxer

Make sure to talk to, not at, your peers and be cautious when giving uninvited opinions

 

Make sure you’re not being someone who comes to the table to yell at your coworkers about what to eat. Photograph: Michael Blann

Make sure you’re not being someone who comes to the table to yell at your coworkers about what to eat. Photograph: Michael Blann

 

An office soapboxer tends to be utterly convinced that theirs is the only view – and tends to be vocal about it. Trying to work with this kind of person, especially in a group, can be incredibly unproductive. Here’s some advice on how not to be a soapboxer.

You don’t want to be in a room with a person like that. Even more, you don’t want to be that person. But how do you recognise if you’ve got one foot (or both) on the box?

1. Talk to, not at: if you talk incessantly at and over group members, you’re telling them you do not value them or their perspectives. “Talking at” is dictation. “Talking to” is conversation – what a group discussion is supposed to be.

2. Watch the toes: don’t step on other people’s toes. Imposing unsolicited and uninvited opinions in a forceful manner is a sure way to offend others, and eventually it can lead to your marginalisation within the group.

3. Don’t beat a dead horse: if you have a concern that the group is making a mistake, request a short meeting with the leader of the group to speak up one last time – and then put it to rest.

4. Broker it: narrowly focus your perspective on an aspect of the decision to be made, not its entirety. This will demonstrate that you are accommodating, not domineering and dismissive.

5. Take their order: when you go to a restaurant, you expect to be served by an accommodating waiter who is willing to explain the menu and help make selections for an enjoyable meal. Make sure you’re not being someone who comes to the table to yell at your coworkers about what to eat.

– Copyright Harvard Business Review 2016

 

Previously published in The Irish Times.

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