Rubbing People the Wrong Way

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about being seen as too outgoing–rubbing people the wrong way:

I recently began work as a coop at a company. This is my third internship and I have gotten excellent reviews from my previous companies. I have been working here for 4 weeks and things were going well. I was assigned a decent sized project and I am also doing training in the field. Yesterday my mentor (assigned by the employer) came to me and said I have been rubbing people the wrong way. He said that I made some sarcastic jokes as well as took some actions (not alone, I was working with others) that made some people angry with me. He said that when he was a coop he was seen but not heard.

I know I have a very outgoing personality, and I am always eager to learn more so I question a lot of things. I do make suggestions but never do I not take into account any feedback that I get. This is really bothering me because I did not see this at all and I really do not want to come off as arrogant, but I also do not want to sit back and do nothing. What can I do to improve this? I really like the work environment, and I have been getting only positive feedback from my supervisors. Is there something I could change?

Signed, Something I Didn’t See

Dear┬áSomething I Didn’t See:

Your question indicates that you will have career success. You are eager to learn and this feedback from your mentor is an unexpected lesson. Now you will replay what you might have said and/or done that “rubbed people the wrong way.” You might not be able to recall anything specific, but you will at least think next before you talk. I assume you responded to your mentor in a grateful rather than in a defensive way; thanking him for bring this criticism to your attention and asking if he had any specifics of what you said or did that was perceived negatively. His advice to be “seen and not heard” is a bit extreme and likely meant to emphasize that he recommends you should soften your exuberance. That doesn’t mean you should never cheer others on or inquire. But it might mean that you express your self more quietly and avoid comments that appear bossy.

Don’t allow this criticism to cause you to avoid your appointed mentor. Confer with him within a week to learn if he has any other advice. Remember that rarely do we say thank you too often. Behave as if you owned this company in the sense that you are keenly committed to representing it well; pleasing internal and external customers and enhancing good will.

Don’t obsess about this unexpected criticism. It is a learning experience that should help you unexpectedly. For example, if a mentor advised you to arrange your hair in a more business-like fashion that could help you come across more professionally. Learn, learn, learn. Internships teach product/service knowledge and build a network. You are on your way to success. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS.

William Gorden