Being a fresh graduate who isn't quite proficient in office politics, I sometimes feel that my way of dealing with problems isn't quite famous at my workplace and two months into this position, I think my approach has already antagonized a few key people.

It began with me working on some problems and as I delved deep to find their root causes, I became aware of few obvious shortsighted decisions made by middle and top tier management and I tried to present short and long term solutions for these problems. Unfortunately, during the process, I didn't mince my words and criticized few departments for not complying with the Standard Operating Procedures and I was being completely honest but somehow that has given me a reputation for being a whiner which is the last attribute that someone can attach with me. Yes, I will blurt out more often then I should but I'm not a good for nothing whiner.

Throughout my educational career, I have triumphed in every situation and that is because whenever I encountered a problem, I planned a solution and implemented it. I think more than any other thing, my mouthiness has landed me in trouble. My criticism of practices has given me a reputation for being a "loud" person whose priorities aren't exactly aligned with the top management's position. It would be wise to mention that when I joined the organization, it wasn't in an enviable position and even the top management gave me this impression as if they wanted me to highlight where they were going wrong and how they could solve the issues.

Having said that, all isn't lost yet. This perception about me is still limited to few people. Now, I honestly want to alter this image. What should be my line of action now? Should I try to stay quiet? Or should I have an honest chat with the people who think of me as a whiner and try to clarify my position?

Response to Comments: I'm a trainee engineer and honestly speaking the members of management themselves explicitly asked me to point out the areas of improvement and that is exactly what I did. Also no one disagrees with the solutions that I propose so I think it must be my overly overt criticism which is irking them.

EDIT 2: I'm so very grateful to you guys for being such a great counsel. I know there is no other way for me to mend my relationship with few individuals but to apologize for my "know it all cum criticizing attitude". I hope it works out for me. The only guilt that I feel in doing this would be that during the last two months, I only tried to work honestly and in the end I landed myself in this mess. But then again, I can live with this guilt and I have already started reproaching with those individuals. One of them has shown good response and I hope everything works out fine. I will try to follow all of your advice.

EDIT 3: So I had a very frank discussion with my manager today in which I openly admitted that my attitude might have antagonized him nd few others while I made sure to emphasize that it was an honest mistake which I am eager to rectify. He was gracious enough to understand my situation and accept my implicit apology and gave me a word or two regarding how I should not go forward. He encouraged me to remain honest but express my point in a more " politically correct" way. Today was a big learning curve for me. I will strive hard not to get dragged in this situation again and I'm truly thankful to all of you guys who pointed out mistakes on my part and this post sure will remain a guide for me for sometime now.

  • 3
    Are you sure that every single classmate would only say good things about you? Somehow I question if you understand the audacity of such a claim. – JB King Oct 24 '16 at 4:59
  • What's your job and where do you live? You have the characteristics of an external consultant or auditor, but those traits are not appreciated everywhere. – Erik Oct 24 '16 at 5:35
  • 7
    If your version of the story is right, you are falling for a common pitfall of criticizing a solution without understanding the problem it tried to solve. Besides, as a fresh graduate, questioning decisions of top management makes you come across as immature, more than a whiner. Also, there is nothing wrong with not mincing words in criticism, but you need to grow a certain finesse before you can do so. – Masked Man Oct 24 '16 at 5:58
  • I was basically ousted out of a job due to a similar thing. The manager who hired me, and supported the idea of 'being open about issues' took me pointing out a task was missed (which he should of completed) as a personal insult and made it his aim to get rid of me from the company. – djsmiley2kStaysInside Oct 24 '16 at 11:22
  • 1
    One of the most difficult lessons of my career has been learning that often enough, there will be a wide gulf between "What is most correct and right" and "What management decided we need to do." Change what you can, make peace with the rest, and remember that the people that made the bad solutions you encounter may have had their hands tied. – Ethan The Brave Oct 24 '16 at 12:55
  • The Good: You are aware of the importance of office politics. Took me 13 years to get the lesson. You are much better than I was, in that respect.

  • The Bad: You did some damage to your own image in this firm before realizing it. It's not the end of the world. What you have to do – this is the direct answer to your question – is to take the time to befriend people, learn not to openly criticize their positions, to cover them with compliments, to wrap your proposals into sugar, like

Wonderful idea! Do you think we can do it this way: insert here your own idea? Yeah, you really know how to find good ideas!".

In other words: Always make sure people feel your feedback as positive – even when it's not. There are different ways – some subtle, some less – to give positive feedback. But negative feedback is nearly always considered as an ad hominem attack – even when it's not.

  • The Ugly: You are convinced that your technical solutions are always right. Just because it was the case in the university. As commented by JB King, it's very unhealthy to think like that. Even if it's true.

It's probably false anyways. The business world has requirements that do not always mean we have to choose the best technical thing. Notably for standardization reasons – a mediocre standard can be, in several cases, a better choice than a non-standard optimal choice. Or there might be budget reasons. Or there might be recruitment reasons : an exotic language may be better than JAVA, but when you find only JAVA developers on the market, then the sub-optimal solution is in fact better, when you see the grand scheme of things.

Finally, the technical challenges are very different from the university ones. And your solutions might very well be not that good as you may think. This is what worries me the most, in your answer. A good professional never thinks he is always right. I would not hire a professional who claims not to have known failure. Nobody is really smart enough to program computers – or for other engineering duties as well, IMHO. Neither are you. I am wrong most of the time, and so are you. I still am a professional, because I'm aware of my shortcomings. Be, yourself, aware of your own. Being humble is a mandatory characteristic. It will help you a lot for office politics – but also for being a better professional.

  • Thanls for the edit – gazzz0x2z Oct 24 '16 at 11:27

Change your attitude. Your question comes across as "I did nothing wrong, but some people were offended. How can I fix this without fundamentally changing how I work?" I don't think this will be a successful attitude going forward.

It sounds like you were significantly out of line, and you need to change the way you work. This is a matter of substance, not just style. As a newly graduated employee only two months in, do you really know enough to recognize "obvious shortsighted decisions made by middle and top tier management", as well as the solution to these problems? The answer is almost certainly no. This is usually not enough time to learn the company and its business, or understand why decisions were made. You need to at least take a step back and think about on what basis you made those claims and whether you really know what is going on.

Sorry to be harsh, but I think this attitude needs to change if you want to have a successful career, and I want to be very clear about this.

Directly apologize to those you may have offended. This is really the best way to repair your relationship. Say you are sorry for the way you approached those issues. You were enthusiastic and wanted to contribute, but the way you went about it was out of place. You want to be a better team player and seek to learn from others in the future.

An apology often goes a long way. In this case, it will show a willingness to learn and change, which is a great trait for a new employee. People know you are new to this and will make mistakes; what matters most is that you are willing to learn from your mistake.

Resist the urge to "clarify your position", if that means trying to justify what you did or explain why they just misunderstood your style. Make this a genuine apology, not a "clarification".

Even if you remain convinced that you were right on the substance, don't so much as mention that right now. Just focus on the style, say you were wrong, and move on. As someone new and junior, there is simply no chance of convincing people that strategic management decisions were wrong, and you have the solution. The best way of eventually getting into a position where people will listen to you is to flat-out apologize now, and start from scratch.

Work differently in the future.

  • Focus more on learning. You are surrounded by people who have worked at the company far longer than you have and have skills and experience to share. Try to learn as much as you can.
  • Start small and focus on building credibility. This means achieving a record of success. When you are given responsibility in a small area, do an excellent job with it. As people recognize your good work, you are more likely to be given larger responsibilities. Your advice will be considered worth listening to.
  • Run big decisions by others. If you want to propose something, ask a few people informally first rather than waiting until the big meeting. Get others' opinions and input to shape what you are doing. This reduces the risk of making another high-profile mistake that will be a hit on your reputation.
  • Focus on the positive. Even if you are explicitly asked about "areas of improvement", there is a good and a bad way to approach this. Saying "what we are doing is terrible" rarely works; remember, you may be attacking what someone else spent the last ten years of their life working on. How do you think they will respond to that? Instead, focus on positive changes and their potential benefits.

Overall: You have made a mistake, but as a new employee, you can still recover if you apologize and start fresh with a new approach.

  • 2
    I woudl add, that when a process seems to be sub-optimal, there is always a reason why. Until you know why they made that decision, you are not in a position to sell a change to the process unless there has recently been a spectacular failure. – HLGEM Oct 24 '16 at 13:29

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .