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The Challenge of Working with Colleagues Who Aren't Self-Aware: Strategies for Success



In today's workplace, self-awareness is a crucial trait for individuals to have. It is the ability to understand one's strengths, weaknesses, and how one's behavior affects others. However, research suggests that only 10 to 15% of people are truly self-aware, leaving a staggering 85 to 90% of individuals who are not. This lack of self-awareness can lead to a range of negative consequences, including decreased job performance, career stagnation, and ineffective leadership.


Today we will explore the challenges of working with unself-aware colleagues and provide practical strategies for dealing with them.


The Consequences of Unself-Awareness in the Workplace


The consequences of unself-awareness in the workplace can be severe and far-reaching. Unself-aware colleagues may struggle to understand their own strengths and weaknesses, leading to poor performance and missed opportunities for growth. Without self-awareness, individuals may not understand the areas they need to improve, making it difficult to advance in their careers. Unself-aware leaders may struggle to inspire and motivate their teams, leading to decreased productivity and high turnover rates. Additionally, working with unself-aware colleagues can be frustrating and stressful, leading to decreased motivation and job satisfaction.


Below are some of the consequences of unself-awareness in the workplace and how it can impact job performance, career advancement, leadership effectiveness, and overall well-being.


a. Decreased Job Performance: Unself-aware colleagues may struggle to understand their own strengths and weaknesses, leading to poor performance and missed opportunities for growth.

b. Career Stagnation: Without self-awareness, individuals may not understand the areas they need to improve, making it difficult to advance in their careers.

c. Ineffective Leadership: Unself-aware leaders may struggle to inspire and motivate their teams, leading to decreased productivity and high turnover rates.

d. Increased Stress and Decreased Motivation: Working with unself-aware colleagues can be frustrating and stressful, leading to decreased motivation and job satisfaction.


Strategies for Dealing with Unself-Aware Colleagues


Dealing with unself-aware colleagues can be challenging, but there are steps you can take to address the issue effectively. First, it's essential to communicate openly and honestly with unself-aware colleagues, providing them with feedback on their behavior and its impact on others. When providing feedback, use specific examples to illustrate the behavior or action that needs improvement. It's also important to focus on the behavior or action, rather than attacking the person's personality. Additionally, encouraging self-reflection and seeking support from other colleagues can be helpful strategies. If necessary, set boundaries and consider a change in leadership if the behavior is negatively impacting the team.


Below are some specific strategies practical tips for dealing with unself-aware colleagues.


a. Communicate Openly and Honestly: It's essential to communicate openly and honestly with unself-aware colleagues, providing them with feedback on their behavior and its impact on others.

b. Use Specific Examples: When providing feedback, use specific examples to illustrate the behavior or action that needs improvement. This helps the individual understand the issue more clearly and can reduce defensiveness.

c. Focus on Behavior, Not Personality: It's essential to focus on the behavior or action that needs improvement, rather than attacking the person's personality. This helps to avoid hurt feelings and promotes a more constructive conversation.

d. Encourage Self-Reflection: Encourage unself-aware colleagues to engage in self-reflection, such as keeping a journal or seeking feedback from others. This can help them gain insight into their behavior and its impact on others.

e. Seek Support from Other Colleagues: If dealing with an unself-aware colleague is proving challenging, seek support from other colleagues who may have experienced similar issues.

f. Set Boundaries: If an unself-aware colleague's behavior is negatively impacting your work or well-being, it's essential to set clear boundaries and communicate them openly.

g. Consider a Change in Leadership: If an unself-aware colleague is in a leadership position and their lack of self-awareness is negatively impacting the team, it may be necessary to consider a change in leadership.


Helping Unself-Aware Colleagues See Themselves More Clearly


Helping unself-aware colleagues gain greater self-awareness and improve their performance requires a proactive and supportive approach. One effective strategy is to encourage them to participate in 360-degree feedback, which can provide them with a more well-rounded understanding of their behavior and its impact on others. Additionally, offering coaching or mentoring can help them develop greater self-awareness and improve their performance. Training and development programs that focus on self-awareness, communication, and leadership skills can also be helpful. Furthermore, encouraging self-reflection and journaling can provide unself-aware colleagues with an opportunity to gain insight into their behavior and its impact on others.


Below are some strategies and practical tips for helping unself-aware colleagues develop greater self-awareness and improve their performance.


a. 360-Degree Feedback: Encourage unself-aware colleagues to participate in 360-degree feedback, which can provide them with a more well-rounded understanding of their behavior and its impact on others.

b. Coaching or Mentoring: Offer coaching or mentoring to unself-aware colleagues to help them develop greater self-awareness and improve their performance.

c. Training and Development Programs: Encourage unself-aware colleagues to participate in training and development programs that focus on self-awareness, communication, and leadership skills.

d. Encourage Self-Reflection and Journaling: Encourage unself-aware colleagues to engage in self-reflection and journaling to help them gain insight into their behavior and its impact on others.


Conclusion


Working with unself-aware colleagues can be challenging, but it's not impossible. By using the strategies outlined above, you can help them see themselves more clearly and improve their performance. Remember that everyone has blind spots, and it's important to approach these situations with empathy and understanding.


It's also important to remember that you can't change others, but you can change how you react to them. If an unself-aware colleague is negatively impacting your work or well-being, it may be necessary to set boundaries or seek support from other colleagues or a supervisor.


Ultimately, dealing with unself-aware colleagues requires patience, empathy, and effective communication. By using the strategies outlined above, you can help create a more positive and productive work environment for everyone.


 

Jonathan H. Westover, PhD is Chief Academic & Learning Officer (HCI Academy); Chair/Professor, Organizational Leadership (UVU); OD Consultant (Human Capital Innovations). Read Jonathan Westover's executive profile here.



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