Pixel Tracker

Thursday, December 13 , 2018, 3:42 pm | Fair 73º


John Daly: How to Not Step on Toes in the Workplace

Lots of New Year’s Resolutions were made and broken already on Jan. 1! But, if you are working and planning a career, there’s one resolution you should stick to: Don’t step on the toes of others.

What does that mean? It carries multiple responsibilities. The most important aspect that governs this resolution is respect — the respect for the responsibilities and the self-esteem of those with whom we work.

Let’s take an in-depth look at what I mean.

» In meetings, don’t “walk” over the ideas of others in a dismissive manner. Make sure all team members are on a level playing field with regard to consideration and that everyone can be heard.

» Don’t steal the ideas of another and claim it as your own, give credit where it is due. You’ll be amazed at how it will boomerang on you if you do take credit for the ideas of others. Equally amazing will be the loyalty and respect you will earn for giving others their due. You’ll never know when that loyalty will support you in your career advancement, but it will.

» In an attempt to appear amazing at a new job, don’t “evaluate” the performance of your teammates by constantly suggesting better ways to improve what they are doing. If you have helpful information, share it with them one-on-one rather than in front of the boss. Being supportive and helpful is critically important, but do so in a giving, sharing manner that helps co-workers shine at what they do and doesn’t sing to the heavens “look at how much better I can do your job!”

» Meeting with the boss about co-workers’ areas of expertise without them being present is another no-no. It’s demeaning and undermines the co-worker in the boss’ eyes. By sharing the information with the co-worker and letting him or her use it as best fits is a more respectful way to go.

» During conference calls or in meetings, don’t talk over or interrupt others while they are trying to make a point. Wait until the other person has completed his or her thoughts. Then ask questions, make suggestions or comment. Again, that’s just common respect.

How to Handle Toe Steppers

Many toe steppers think they know everything, so they step in to fix things that aren’t broken or take charge of a project assigned to another. Don’t suffer in silence. Position your response this way:

Polite Reminder

Find a polite way to get the toe stepper to back off. This person actually might not know he or she is stepping on your toes. A gentle reminder or subtle hint can help an oblivious co-worker recognize he or she is being rude. For instance, a bossy team member might think he or she is being helpful when stepping in and taking control of a project out of his or her area of responsibility. Explain that you appreciate the good intentions, but that one of the responsibilities as your colleague is to avoid impeding your performance.


Some toe steppers need to be confronted to get the message. Do so by taking the person aside for a private conversation in an area away from other ears. Give your point of view, listen to his or hers, and try to find an equitable compromise. Don’t back down or let the toe stepper steer the conversation. You have the right to look after your own responsibilities and projects without interference from others. Stay respectful and calm throughout the conversation. Avoid creating negativity if tempers start to flare. End the conversation to prevent negative feelings.

Involve Your Supervisor

If after you have tried to be polite and deal with the situation on your own, your colleague continues to step on your toes despite all your efforts, speak with a supervisor. It is likely you are not the only employee who is unhappy, so ask other colleagues to back you up. Your direct manager will understand that a workplace can’t flourish with multiple leaders, and that negative feelings can lower the overall productivity and threaten job satisfaction.

People who are conscious of others’ rights don’t habitually do things that undermine, inconvenience or intrude upon them. For example, a salesperson who respects a fellow salesperson wouldn’t call on his or her clients without getting that salesperson’s permission. A boss who respects his assistant’s rights wouldn’t commit her time and effort on a major project for another person without checking with her first.

It might be hard to be objective about this: we usually have reasons that seem legitimate to us when we do something that interferes with or ignores someone else’s efforts, responsibilities or authority.

But just think about it for a while — and decide, in retrospect, if you could have behaved in a way that was more respectful of that person’s rights.

John Daly is the founder and president of The Key Class, the keys to life skills success. Click to learn more about The Key Class, or click here to buy his book. John’s new book, 74 Key Life Skills for a Happy, Successful Life, is currently available in digital format on Amazon. Connect with The Key Class on Facebook and follow John on Twitter @johnjdalyjr. Do you have a question about business or social etiquette? Ask John at [email protected]. The opinions expressed are his own.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >

Meet Your Realtor Sponsored by Village Properties

Photo of John Sener
John Sener
"I am known for tenacity, diligence, honesty, and sound decision making with the ultimate goal of closing every transaction to the satisfaction of all involved parties."

Full Profile >