How to Communicate That Others Are a Barrier for Your Work

Though you may be averse to voicing excuses for why you can’t complete a certain task at work or at home, we often find ourselves with no way out.

At home, your task of cooking dinner for the family may be halted by a power outage due to scheduled maintenance. At work, your need to evaluate and edit a document at work may depend on a colleague finishing up with it, and closing out on their browser.

We’re often limited by others’ actions in just how much work we can put out. People make mistakes, have their own goals, and often act in ways which hurt the schedules we’ve set for ourselves to complete work.

This article is about communicating the fact that you’re being limited by someone else in your capacity to work.

Though people rightly choose to publicize the limitations others are placing them under in reference to not being able to complete their work, they often make some mistakes in doing so.


Do Not Assign Malicious Intent Without Proof

When our plans are derailed by someone else’s actions, it’s easy to interpret their effect on us as a personal attack. Perhaps the colleague who has a file open for editing knows that we’re eagerly waiting to make our own edits, and is taking their sweet time. Maybe the electric company could have done their maintenance work prior to people getting home from work, and could have saved their customers the inconvenience of missing dinner.

It is easy to reason down to ways that others may have acted personally against you and your plans. Far too often when voicing the reasons for why we can’t do our work, we assign malicious intent to the people who are keeping us from progressing. Doing so communicates a victim mentality to the ones around you. You do well to rile up emotion for no particular valid reason, and can encourage the formation of the same habits in the ones you influence.

Your kids will be watching you make excuses for why you can’t cook dinner, for example. Attributing malicious intent to the ones keeping you from doing that work will encourage them to do the same when others are a barrier for them. By attributing malicious intent without proof, you discourage openness, and encourage a defensive mindset in the ones who apologetically keep you from doing what you want to do.

Your attribution of maliciousness onto those inadvertently keeping you from doing what you want to do, will often spill over into your interactions with them. You’ll walk up to your colleague more annoyed than you should be, in an effort to ask if they’re finished editing the file you’re waiting for. You’ll make your way down to your building’s management office already having gone through a mental argument whilst on the elevator. The words you say, and actions you take, will be infused with an assumption that the individuals you’re speaking with acted maliciously, and personally, against you.


Attempt to “Steel Man” Their Position

Prior to voicing reasons for why you can’t do your work to your manager, take a breath, and think of all the reasons for why a particular individual is keeping you from doing your work. Try to see things from their perspective as best you can, and present as strong of an argument for their perspective as you can.

“Steel manning” the position of the ones who are keeping you from doing your work will encourage you to first thoroughly understand their position. You’ll not only calm yourself down, you’d calm those who are listening to you and watching you give your reasons. In addition, you’d encourage yourself to be open minded when dealing with the individuals in question, and would encourage them to feel free in completing what they need to do.

Though it’s difficult to prove, not placing negative pressure on the ones who you depend on to finish their work seems to be an effective way to speed them up. If not encourage speed, you’d likely encourage accuracy in their work. Your colleague would be less likely to make an error if they understand that you’re not fuming out the ears. The electric company will be motivated to infuse quality into the work they do when they notice you being an attentive student of their process, rather than a pressing customer.  

Most importantly, your excuses to the ones who hold a stake in you completing your work will be seen as educated and reasoned. You’d be less likely to make assumptions in the things you say, and would avoid infusing emotion into what may be a rather normal event.

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Disclaimer of Opinion: This article is presented only as opinion. It does not make any scientific, factual, or legal claims. Please critically analyze all claims made and independently decide on its validity.