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Why It’s OK to Say “I Don’t Know” (& How to Do It Productively)

Veröffentlicht Von Team AdaptiveWork

Having to say “I don’t know” can elicit feelings of anxiety and inadequacy at work, like all of your hard work will be for nothing if you can’t answer whatever specific question has been thrown at you. This may stem from childhood, when not knowing what the teacher had just mentioned five minutes before would earn a reprimand and consistent “not knowing” would affect your grades. Or it could just be the hyper-competition of a modern workplace, where the drive for perfection means that any misstep may be deemed to have negative professional implications.

And yet, since it’s impossible to know everything, sometimes you just won’t know the answer to something. Actually, it’s something that could probably happen several times a day, and that’s okay. Being able to say “I don’t know” comfortably and with confidence might even be a lot better for your professional prospects.

Knowledge is time is money

For most managers, preparing for meetings – especially board meetings – can require cramming sessions and cause much stress for the team as up-to-date and precise reports are demanded on every aspect of operations.

While it is important for team leads and managers to know what’s going on under their watch, it doesn’t mean they suddenly have infinite time. Just as automating workflows and improving delegation free up time to create more value for an organization, spending countless hours revising facts and figures so as to be able to repeat them on the spot is not necessarily the best use of someone’s time.

Instead, focus on improving communication in the workplace, so everyone can focus on their own roles but also know exactly who to ask for anything outside of their lane. An example would be if someone asks something related to your team but not specifically to you, a good answer could be: “Here’s what I can tell you, but I feel Andrea on my team would be able to give you a more specific answer to that question.”

Flexibility is more important than static knowledge

In the age of Agile, the mantra is more about flexibility rather than having heavy loads of documentation. In this situation, staff members need to be more aware of the details that matter at that moment in time rather than being too rigid in their thought processes and knowledge. Being able to research and find the right information, whatever it is and at any time, makes Agile team members better equipped for dealing with uncertainty at work and reacting quickly to changes. An example would be to simply respond, “I don’t know that right now, but I’ll be able to find out and get back to you shortly.”

Too much focus on providing AN answer rather than the RIGHT answer

Too often, the pressure of being able to give an answer instead of waiting to get a better one means that improper decisions may be taken, which means dealing with uncertainty at work more often rather than solving it. It’s important for a team to understand that it’s okay to say “I don’t know” if it will deliver a better result overall. This dedication to quality answers also builds trust and authority in those around you. A good example of this would be to answer, “I don’t want to give an imprecise answer, so if it’s possible, I’d rather take the time to give you better information.”

Steigern Sie die Flexibilität Ihres Unternehmens mit der Projektmanagement-Software von Planview AdaptiveWork

Communication in the workplace is a vital piece of the business Agile puzzle. It allows team members to effectively collaborate and build from each other’s strengths unburdened by functions not related to them. Planview AdaptiveWork’s project management tools enable teams to communicate within specific task groupings as well as on a team level, meaning that whatever information they need can always be at their fingertips. To find out more, get in touch with our team to organize a live demo.

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