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Resolving ‘Work Knots’ That Can Sabotage Jobs


Resolving Work Knots that can sabotage teamwork is vital to collaboration and success for enterprises, large and small. Consider these tips to uncover and resolve hidden expectations and assumptions that may be getting in the way of success at your workplace.

Resolving Work Knots

By Seth Eisenberg

Last week, I wrote about typical Work Knots that can sabotage jobs (FatherhoodChannel: Beware of Work Knots that can Sabotage Jobs) within businesses and organizations, large and small.  Identifying hidden expectations and assumptions at work is a chance to create an environment in which each person has the best opportunity to contribute and succeed. As with families and marriages, successful teams are built on emotional maturity, responsibility, integrity, and an authentic commitment to shared values and vision.

If any of the seven examples in last week’s post were familiar, consider these tips to transform those Work Knots into opportunities for more fruitful collaboration and accomplishment.

TRANSFORMING COMMON MANAGEMENT WORK KNOTS: Untangling Hidden Expectations of Managers and Supervisors that Typically Sabotage Workers and the Workplace

  1. YOU WOULD KNOW: Managers and co-workers cannot assume others know what needs to be done.  It’s important to regularly make time to keep each other up-to-date and communicate clear requests asking for what we want and not expecting others to know without being told.
  2. YOU SHOULD GET TO KNOW: Not everyone is a talker.  Each of us has our own rules about how and what we share with others. Perhaps the person is preoccupied.  When people are going through personal challenges and transitions, they may not feel safe talking about those issues at work. Maybe the person never learned to talk (or listen).  We need to check out perceptions and not assume.  Silence shouldn’t be interpreted as not caring.
  3. IT MUST BE YOU WHO’S WRONG: We are all unique and different. Bringing together diverse perspectives, experiences and talents contributes to the success of teams. We can each have a valid point of view.  When there are disagreements, discuss them, seek to understand, change them, or accept them.  Disagreements at work (or home) are an important opportunity to learn something different and new that can leave us enriched through greater understanding.
  4. WHEN YOU ARE UNHAPPY: When others are going through a difficult period, we can be supportive without believing we have to provide a solution.  We can listen, empathize, and acknowledge what they say, including their ability as adults to be honest and ask for what they want. Persistent complaints without specific requests for change may be a sign of underlying issues such as fear, guilt, anxiety, or other matters that need to be addressed.
  5. IF I HAVE TO TELL YOU: We cannot expect others to know what we want. We have to be able to ask.  Nor can we expect someone else to do anything exactly the way we would.  We can still appreciate the contribution others make because they believe it is important and valued.
  6. I CAN’T NEED YOU: We do not create trust or safety by testing others.  We have to be able to make decisions about trust based on our actual experiences with another person, not based on predictions or past history with others.  Being right in this case can be a self-fulfilling prophesy.  It’s important to embrace that while we do work together, we can enjoy the meaning of shared accomplishments and collaboration.
  7. DON’T DO TOO MUCH: We can enjoy collaborating with others yet still survive without them if we need to.  As adults, we are not helpless.  We can make adjustments when necessary.  Meanwhile, accomplishing ambitious goals as a team is among life’s most fulfilling gifts.

Later this week, I’ll share typical Work Knots that sabotage collaboration among co-workers. Stay tuned!

Seth Eisenberg is President and CEO of the nonprofit PAIRS Foundation, one of the nation’s oldest and leading providers of relationship skills training programs. Learn more at

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