The Eagle Blog

Rocking the Boat!

Sometimes we need to rock the boat … but it should aways be something that is carefully thought through. The reality is that nothing changes if people are not prepared to push for change … we would still be in the dark ages if previous generations had not asserted their rights through the ages.

Having said that there are right and wrong ways to approach things … here are some thoughts on the subject.

1. “Nobody likes a whiner” is a fairly common expression, and there is a lot of truth in that. If you have a beef make sure that you are not just whining!
2. Understand the situation before you start to “knock it”. Usually there are very good reasons why things are the way they are … which doesn’t mean that they are optimal, just that someone put effort into the current status, so be sensitive to that.
3. Always be constructive! In the best case scenarios you should pitch solutions not problems, and at a minimum you should identify issues in a non-judgmental fashion! Starting sentences with words like … I can’t believe we do this! etc is just going to get people’s back up.
4. Try to be a team player … how can WE work at this? I would love to help you on this challenge etc.
5. Try to look at the situation from all points of view and understand why the situation is the way it is. If you can understand the other person’s point of view then you have a chance of effecting change.
6. Remember that most people don’t like change, so there will always be resistance to change … if you challenge the status quo in a cooperative manner you will have more chance of success than if you go at it in an adversarial manner.
7. Rocking the boat can be a very positive thing for everyone … if it is seen as positive input with a win all around. It can also be a very negative experience if someone loses … and that can often be the “whining boat rocker”!

The bottom line is that nothing ever changes unless someone makes it happen … the process of boat rocking however can be tricky, so approach with caution!

All of this advice applies at the individual level (both at work and home); it also applies at the company level, in the marketplace and with clients; and finally it applies to “special interest groups” whether non-profit or industry groups.


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22 thoughts on “Rocking the Boat!

  1. In my opinion, contract workers have to be especially careful when rocking the boat. No one likes to hear criticism from an outsider, no matter how delicately phrased.

    One of the biggest mistakes I see is a new contractor, out to make an impression, start loudly expounding upon the shortcomings of the client’s operation, and how much better everything was run at his previous client’s.

    The other is “the man of principle” who when faced with a client who proposes to take an action he deems to be unwise, persists in complaining about it even when it is clear the decision is final. If he turns out to be right, he is the first voice in the “I told you so!” chorus.

  2. In my opinion, contract workers have to be especially careful when rocking the boat. No one likes to hear criticism from an outsider, no matter how delicately phrased.

    One of the biggest mistakes I see is a new contractor, out to make an impression, start loudly expounding upon the shortcomings of the client’s operation, and how much better everything was run at his previous client’s.

    The other is “the man of principle” who when faced with a client who proposes to take an action he deems to be unwise, persists in complaining about it even when it is clear the decision is final. If he turns out to be right, he is the first voice in the “I told you so!” chorus.

  3. Excellent point! One of the side benefits of using contractors is that they are not part of the “politics”. They are brought in for their expertise and expected to knuckle down and get the job done.

    A good contractor who has valid concerns will however find a way to express them in a positive, non-threatening or judgmental way.

    This is one reason why great contractors are not just excellent at their technical role, but they also need to have soft skills to navigate through these tough scenarios.

    Thanks for the comment.

  4. Excellent point! One of the side benefits of using contractors is that they are not part of the “politics”. They are brought in for their expertise and expected to knuckle down and get the job done.

    A good contractor who has valid concerns will however find a way to express them in a positive, non-threatening or judgmental way.

    This is one reason why great contractors are not just excellent at their technical role, but they also need to have soft skills to navigate through these tough scenarios.

    Thanks for the comment.

  5. I follow the ‘three strikes’ rule when a client seems bent on a course of action that is ill-advised.

    Strike 1: “Are you sure that this is what you want to do? Have you considered the possible down side?”

    Strike 2: “I really don’t think we should do this, there will be all sorts of adverse impacts.”

    Strike 3: “This course of action is extremely risky, I strongly recommend we consider an alternative”.

    At this point, if the client persists, you have two choices:

    1. Give up and do your best to implement the client’s wishes. This is the recommended way to keep your job.

    2. Resign in protest. Be aware that if you do this, you may never be able to work with this client again, even (or especially) if subsequent events prove you right.

  6. I follow the ‘three strikes’ rule when a client seems bent on a course of action that is ill-advised.

    Strike 1: “Are you sure that this is what you want to do? Have you considered the possible down side?”

    Strike 2: “I really don’t think we should do this, there will be all sorts of adverse impacts.”

    Strike 3: “This course of action is extremely risky, I strongly recommend we consider an alternative”.

    At this point, if the client persists, you have two choices:

    1. Give up and do your best to implement the client’s wishes. This is the recommended way to keep your job.

    2. Resign in protest. Be aware that if you do this, you may never be able to work with this client again, even (or especially) if subsequent events prove you right.

  7. I think that is a fair approach, clients hire contractors becasue of their knowledge. You are sharing that knowledge with them, it then becomes their choice whether to accept your recommendation … but you have met your obligation.

  8. I think that is a fair approach, clients hire contractors becasue of their knowledge. You are sharing that knowledge with them, it then becomes their choice whether to accept your recommendation … but you have met your obligation.

  9. Real life is like that too. If you have grown children, you become a sort of ‘consultant’ to them. You may have influence, but you have no authority.

    With your greater experience, you will see pitfalls that they are oblivious to, yet the final decision to proceed is theirs to make.

    In this case however, resignation is not an option. 🙂

    If they make the wrong choice, then you have to be there to help them pick up the pieces. If you’ve raised them right, they’ll learn something from the experience.

  10. Real life is like that too. If you have grown children, you become a sort of ‘consultant’ to them. You may have influence, but you have no authority.

    With your greater experience, you will see pitfalls that they are oblivious to, yet the final decision to proceed is theirs to make.

    In this case however, resignation is not an option. 🙂

    If they make the wrong choice, then you have to be there to help them pick up the pieces. If you’ve raised them right, they’ll learn something from the experience.

  11. I do have grown children and I am very proud of them. We raised them to be independent people capable of making their own life choices, and hopefully take our “2 cents” into account. You are however right in that we are just consultants in their business of life!

    It sounds like you might have had an experience or two here! Hope it is all working out.

  12. I do have grown children and I am very proud of them. We raised them to be independent people capable of making their own life choices, and hopefully take our “2 cents” into account. You are however right in that we are just consultants in their business of life!

    It sounds like you might have had an experience or two here! Hope it is all working out.

  13. No I am fortunate, our kids haven’t screwed up yet… Unless you count getting a tattoo as a ‘screw up’.

    🙂

  14. No I am fortunate, our kids haven’t screwed up yet… Unless you count getting a tattoo as a ‘screw up’.

    🙂

  15. It would be pretty hard for me to cmplain about tattoos … I have a couple myself!

    Nice job with the kids!

  16. It would be pretty hard for me to cmplain about tattoos … I have a couple myself!

    Nice job with the kids!

  17. Speaking of kids, one of my sons is a recent university graduate (Engineering). He is now at that very awkward and difficult point in his life where he is trying to find his first job within his profession.

    Do staffing agencies handle this sort of worker? The agencies I’ve worked through have all been interested in the ‘experienced’ worker.

  18. Speaking of kids, one of my sons is a recent university graduate (Engineering). He is now at that very awkward and difficult point in his life where he is trying to find his first job within his profession.

    Do staffing agencies handle this sort of worker? The agencies I’ve worked through have all been interested in the ‘experienced’ worker.

  19. He broke the news about his tattoo at the end of a long phone conversation with his mother (he is away at university). He asked her to put the phone on speaker because he had some news to tell us.

    Ominous words. We braced ourselves, expecting to hear something like:

    “I’m leaving school….”
    “My girlfriend’s pregnant…”
    “I’m in trouble with the police..”

    When we heard the real news, my wife and I had to stifle our relieved laughter. I wanted to say “is *that* all?”, but I kept my parental mask on by instead asking how much he spent on the artwork.

    It was more money than he could readily afford, so I got to express some mild disapproval (as he no doubt expected). “$300!? That’s a lot of beer son!”

    🙂

  20. He broke the news about his tattoo at the end of a long phone conversation with his mother (he is away at university). He asked her to put the phone on speaker because he had some news to tell us.

    Ominous words. We braced ourselves, expecting to hear something like:

    “I’m leaving school….”
    “My girlfriend’s pregnant…”
    “I’m in trouble with the police..”

    When we heard the real news, my wife and I had to stifle our relieved laughter. I wanted to say “is *that* all?”, but I kept my parental mask on by instead asking how much he spent on the artwork.

    It was more money than he could readily afford, so I got to express some mild disapproval (as he no doubt expected). “$300!? That’s a lot of beer son!”

    🙂

  21. Will staffing agencies work with new grads?

    Not a quick answer, but generally speaking your experience is not out of line. Our clients come to us for experienced resources.

    Having said that, with the skills shortages and coming labour shortages we do see times when clients want good entry level resources.

    If you use your contacts to actually get resruiters to talk with you or your son then you might get somewhere. If he sends his resume in with the thousands of other resumes he will likely not get much attention.

    Not sure if that helps but worst case the agencies will know which of their clients are hiring entry level resources.

    If all else fails send him to Calgary … he will get a good job in a hurry!

  22. Will staffing agencies work with new grads?

    Not a quick answer, but generally speaking your experience is not out of line. Our clients come to us for experienced resources.

    Having said that, with the skills shortages and coming labour shortages we do see times when clients want good entry level resources.

    If you use your contacts to actually get resruiters to talk with you or your son then you might get somewhere. If he sends his resume in with the thousands of other resumes he will likely not get much attention.

    Not sure if that helps but worst case the agencies will know which of their clients are hiring entry level resources.

    If all else fails send him to Calgary … he will get a good job in a hurry!

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