How To Get Sh*t Done Without People Hating You

Illustrated by Madelyn Somers.
Sure, everyone wants to hire an employee with big ideas and the power to follow through with them. But, just being a "doer" isn't always enough to effectively get things done — that is, if you don't want to be labeled as a "troublemaker," too. Thankfully, a new study offers some helpful advice for those of us who'd rather the rest of the world stepped aside and let us take care of business.
The research, published recently in the Journal of Management, examined the relationship between German employees, coworkers, and supervisors. In a series of three separate experiments, all bosses and workers completed extensive questionnaires about the climate of their workplace and how they operated within it. From these data, researchers were able to figure out which environmental and personal factors predicted how much initiative an employee might take — and how that action would be perceived by the rest of the office.
According to their results, having interpersonal skills was the most important element in making an employee's initiative successful. The study authors say this comes down to an employee's instinct to read a given situation and act appropriately in response; the worker has to be able to accurately judge whether or not anyone even wants him or her getting involved. In particular, employees have to be able to assess their workplace climate accurately so they can pick the right time to jump on opportunities. They also have to be able to understand the motives of other people and to help make others feel at ease. And, although it might seem obvious, workers should make sure that what they're planning to do is something other people want, too.
So, if your boss is consistently late on email replies and it's slowing everything down, you might want to check in with your coworkers to see if they're dealing with the same issues before you go campaigning for change. Then, strike only when you feel like your boss has the time (and is in a good mood) to talk your brilliant ideas over.
Of course, if you're trying to blaze some trails, other people's feelings might not be your top priority. And, there are certainly examples of people doing great things without necessarily being "people people." However, if you can accomplish a lot without the support of your coworkers, just imagine how much more you could do if they were on your side.

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