My colleague needs to be stronger in her interactions or she’ll limit her options. Help!

My colleague needs to be stronger in her interactions or she’ll limit her options. Help!

My colleague is extremely talented and I would love to see her promoted. However, she’s very well-liked, which normally wouldn’t be a problem but because she’s invested in being everyone’s favorite, she doesn’t insert herself forcefully when she should or give constructive feedback. How can I show her that she’s getting in the way of her own advancement? A.S., Chicago, IL

While I applaud your desire to help your colleague, the question is, “Whose problem is this to solve?” If you were her manager, it’s clear that it would be your responsibility to confirm your assumptions (not inserting herself/giving constructive feedback is impeding her advancement) and hypothesis (“she is invested in being everyone’s favorite”). Since you’re not her manager, why do you feel that you should insert yourself, especially since you have no evidence that your suppositions or conclusions are accurate?

In our desire to help others, boundaries can often get blurred. We can inadvertently overstep with the best of intentions. Imagine how you’d feel if you received unsolicited advice from a peer who was making a critical judgment about your behavior and concluding that you were sabotaging your career. Would you assume your peer was looking out for your best interests? Or would you wonder about their motives? Even if you’re asked for your input, be careful to couch your opinion as just that—an opinion. While you believe your analysis is correct, it’s your judgment and nothing more. If your colleague is also your friend, my advice is the same: it’s her problem to solve and it’s within her control.

Instead of focusing on your colleague’s career, look at your own career and concentrate your efforts where you have more control over the variables.

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