How to be constructive instead of destructive at work 

1. In meetings

When you are in a meeting, instead of looking for stuff to correct, look for stuff to add to the conversation. Focus on your goals and do not lose them from sight just for the sake of being right. Think about what is being said instead of focusing on what you are going to say. Chances are you will get much closer to your goals by paying attention to what others say and observing their body language when they say it so that you can then adapt your own response, than by having a pitch perfect speech.

2. Commenting on drafts 

Oh, there is a teacher in all of us! You might feel like you’re proven your superiority when you are sending back a draft all red with your tracked changes but before hitting that send button imagine being on the receiving end of your message. Now, before you start correcting, answer these questions:

– Do you have the time to do all those editing suggestions? It’s an easy one here, if you answer no, then limit your comments to the essential. No need to bother about a missed full stop or a double space.

– Does the text engage your responsibility? Yes – ok, you can invest more time in it. No – back to the essential then!

– What’s the added value of your changes? If someone else will review language and editing down the line, what’s the point in investing your time and vexing the writer with those little grammar corrections? I work in a multilingual environment. My English, as you can probably tell already, is not native but it’s still pretty good. Oftentimes I have resisted the urge to correct a blatant mistake because 1. it wasn’t essential enough to upset my coworkers about it and 2. someone else was supposed to check the form of the document, including the language once it reached final stage. And most of the native speakers I’ve worked with, in English or French, had the same approach even if they were even better placed to do all that proofreading. So, don’t be happy to spot mistakes of the writer and don’t correct just for the sake of correcting. Small editing mistakes or one word here or there are not worth it!

Instead, look at the big picture! See if you can improve the strategy, focus or direction of the draft, check if it covers all subjects and all messages to get across and skip the stylistic details.

A bit more on track changes

There is a nono here, actually two of them. First, if required to track changes, don’t turn them off just to make your changes less visible. People will get on their guard if you do this. I’ve only done it when the text needed such a heavy makeover that it would have been embarrassing to leave them on but then you should openly but privately talk to the author about the changes and why the document was going in a different direction than what was intended. Secondly, do not completely delete the text to replace it with your own conception, especially if the ideas in the text are similar to what you are going to use. Work on the proposed draft and do not reinvent the will. I have a small technical tip on how to do that. Under the review tab in Word, activate track changes, and set the the view to “final”. When you’re done correcting just change the view to “original, show corrections”. Word will automatically convert your text in track changes and you will have worked on a clear user friendly version.

3. Come with a problem and its solution

If you want to be seen as a constructive, problem solving class mate, whenever you state a problem follow that with a suggested solution, possibly more solutions, hinting which is the better one in your opinion. Between complainers and contenders, this will immediately pull you out of the clueless category and advance bot your career and your relationship with your coworkers. However, be careful not to sound like Mr. Know-it-all nobody-likes-to-spend-time-with at work. A great idea can easily be killed by the way it is delivered, especially in early stages.

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