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Here’s how to get the best advice at work
New research suggests that we should think twice before asking for input from a very wide range of people.
Asking for advice at work is an essential way to learn, to course correct, and to improve.
Colleagues with different expertise across your company can provide insight into their career paths if you're considering a move, thoughts on workplace best practices if you're new to a position, or advice on how to handle specific, often stressful, situations. People often think that asking several people for advice leads to the best results — after all, the more diversity in perspective, the more information we can consider. However, new research suggests that we should think twice before asking for input from a very wide range of people.
New research published in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes explains that asking many people for advice can actually trigger negative reactions. "Given how commonly most of us are told to seek second and third opinions, we expected advisors to rate those pursuing this strategy as more competent. But we found the opposite. People who were in a group of several advisors not only rated the advice-seeker as less competent, but also indicated that they felt more socially distant to them later and were less interested in advising them in the future," Hayley Blunden, a Ph.D student at Harvard Business School and a co-author of the study, and her colleagues wrote for Harvard Business Review.
The researchers hypothesized that these reactions stemmed from the advisers' realization that their advice might not be followed; the larger number of people who were consulted for advice, the lower probability that an adviser's advice would be followed, resulting in a sense of rejection because individuals "tend to think highly of themselves and their opinions and gain status when their advice is taken," the researchers explained. In a subsequent study, the researchers confirmed their hypothesis — advisers whose suggestions were ignored became more offended and "were likely to denigrate and sever their relationship with the seekers," the researchers wrote.
Such findings might confuse those of us in need of advice. Should we only consult one person when we need guidance? What if that person's advice doesn't line up with goals or values? While seeking the "wisdom of crowds" — as the researchers put it — could come with some negative side effects, it can also be done in a way that promotes an environment of candor, understanding, and growth. After all, soliciting multiple opinions is still valuable.
Be direct and transparent about your goals
First, the study suggests that advice seekers should be more transparent about their intentions when asking a group of people for ideas and suggestions. So whether you are looking for general information about next steps in your career or are curious about a specific concept you're not familiar with, let people know what kind of information you are after and why you are asking in the first place.
Express gratitude before and after seeking advice
Gratitude has been shown to promote honesty, productivity, and overall well-being in the workplace, and can be used as a tool to ease any interaction, including asking for advice. If a co-worker agrees to meet for coffee and share a lot of advice with you, emphasize how much you appreciate their time. After your conversation, send a follow-up email, deliver a handwritten thank you note, or drop by their desk to reaffirm your gratitude.
Ask the right kinds of questions
To reap the most reward from any advice that a co-worker gives you, be sure to ask questions that show your interest and keep the conversation flowing. Follow-up questions can make conversations less superficial, and research shows that people are more willing to reveal sensitive or personal information when the toughest questions are asked at the beginning of the conversation. Active listening should also be a key component of your conversation, as it will show your advice-giver that you are engaged and care about what is being discussed.
Use compassionate directness in your approach
If you decide not to follow someone's advice, there is no better way to inform them than with compassionate directness. As Thrive founder and CEO Arianna Huffington puts it, compassionate directness means "empowering employees to speak up, give feedback, disagree, and surface problems, pain points and constructive criticism… immediately, continuously, and with clarity" in a way that is empathetic and understanding. Take a moment to talk with your colleague about why you decided to pursue another path, or rely on other information. Be straightforward in your conversation, but be sure to express the ways in which their advice was helpful.
Asking for advice — especially from a large group of people with conflicting opinions — can feel like you're treading water. The good news, though, is that you can navigate these situations with transparency, gratitude, and compassionate directness. This way, you can garner the information you need, while maintaining good relationships in the workplace and ensuring everyone feels valued.
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Ever since we've had the technology, we've looked to the stars in search of alien life. It's assumed that we're looking because we want to find other life in the universe, but what if we're looking to make sure there isn't any?
Here's an equation, and a rather distressing one at that: N = R* × fP × ne × f1 × fi × fc × L. It's the Drake equation, and it describes the number of alien civilizations in our galaxy with whom we might be able to communicate. Its terms correspond to values such as the fraction of stars with planets, the fraction of planets on which life could emerge, the fraction of planets that can support intelligent life, and so on. Using conservative estimates, the minimum result of this equation is 20. There ought to be 20 intelligent alien civilizations in the Milky Way that we can contact and who can contact us. But there aren't any.
Frequent shopping for single items adds to our carbon footprint.
- A new study shows e-commerce sites like Amazon leave larger greenhouse gas footprints than retail stores.
- Ordering online from retail stores has an even smaller footprint than going to the store yourself.
- Greening efforts by major e-commerce sites won't curb wasteful consumer habits. Consolidating online orders can make a difference.
A pile of recycled cardboard sits on the ground at Recology's Recycle Central on January 4, 2018 in San Francisco, California.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images<p>A large part of the reason is speed. In a competitive market, pure players use the equation, <em>speed + convenience</em>, to drive adoption. This is especially relevant to the "last mile" GHG footprint: the distance between the distribution center and the consumer.</p><p>Interestingly, the smallest GHG footprint occurs when you order directly from a physical store—even smaller than going there yourself. Pure players, such as Amazon, are the greatest offenders. Variables like geographic location matter; the team looked at shopping in the UK, the US, China, and the Netherlands. </p><p>Sadegh Shahmohammadi, a PhD student at the Netherlands' Radboud University and corresponding author of the paper, <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/26/tech/greenhouse-gas-emissions-retail/index.html" target="_blank">says</a> the above "pattern holds true in countries where people mostly drive. It really depends on the country and consumer behavior there."</p><p>The researchers write that this year-and-a-half long study pushes back on previous research that claims online shopping to be better in terms of GHG footprints.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"They have, however, compared the GHG emissions per shopping event and did not consider the link between the retail channels and the basket size, which leads to a different conclusion than that of the current study."</p><p>Online retail is where convenience trumps environment: people tend to order one item at a time when shopping on pure player sites, whereas they stock up on multiple items when visiting a store. Consumers will sometimes order a number of separate items over the course of a week rather than making one trip to purchase everything they need. </p><p>While greening efforts by online retailers are important, until a shift in consumer attitude changes, the current carbon footprint will be a hard obstacle to overcome. Amazon is trying to have it both ways—carbon-free and convenience addicted—and the math isn't adding up. If you need to order things, do it online, but try to consolidate your purchases as much as possible.</p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
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