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Constructive Irritants Get Ahead at Work—Are You One?

Constructive Irritants Get Ahead at Work—Are You One?

Dr. John Izzo is a bestselling author and business visionary who helps companies maximize their potential from the ground up. Here, he shares his useful advice about how to have a positive impact at work by being a “constructive irritant.” Not sure what that is? Read on for more:

A recent survey by LinkedIn showed that the number one biggest pet peeve about colleagues at work were finger pointers, and the number two were complainers. Reading that survey, you might think that the best way to get ahead is to keep a low profile and stay quiet. Well, it turns out that if you want to get promoted, grow your brand at work and have a bigger influence, there is a third choice: Be what I call a Constructive Irritant.

Research by Dominic Infante from Kent State University has consistently shown that argumentative people who debate and raise issues are routinely rated higher by their supervisors and more likely to be promoted. Of course the challenge for most of us is to figure how to be seen as a Constructive Irritant rather than just a complaining pain in the rear end. One of the most interesting things he found was that while argumentative people (people who argued issues) were highly rated, verbally aggressive people (who blamed and name called) were consistently rated poorly.

Not only is being a person who raises issues and challenges things in a positive way good for your career, it also happens to lead to better decisions. Over the last twenty years academic research has clearly shown that when faced with complex problems, the more we can hear from divergent points of view, the more we will make better decisions. When Jack Welch began his change transformation at GE he actually told people, “I welcome skeptics who will raise the tough issues.” Smart move!

Bob Peter, the CEO of the LCBO told me that these constructive irritants can be a real pain but that they are what make the organization grow, and in the end gain the respect of leaders.

So what distinguishes a complainer from a constructive irritant? Complainers are toxic and increase the negativity in the environment. They are finger-pointers and focus on everything that isn’t working. Constructive irritants see a problem and courageously bring it into the light and offer concrete solutions. Management sees this type of action as pushing a company forward. Companies with constructive irritants are not only more successful, they have thriving vibrant cultures.

Here are some ways to be a constructive irritant.

• Punch above your weight or formal position. Be creative and generate new ideas for products and innovations even it’s not your job description. Win customers for life even if it’s not your department, and generally go bigger than whatever your role says you MUST do.

• Don’t complain, Bring Solutions! When you see a problem, bring it into the light and offer solutions. And when you hear others complaining, make a constructive comment to change the atmosphere.

• State your intention. Write down how you want to change your workplace. Look for ways to influence in the direction of that intention all day long. Say things like “I am raising this issue because I care about this organization and our success.”

• Never finger point. Take Responsibility. When you raise an issue say here is how I have contributed or here is what I can do to solve this. Begin with yourself.

• Debate Up, Advocate Down. With your peers and those above you be known as someone who challenges things in a constructive way. To those who report to you always be a team player supporting decisions made by those above you.