Muddled vs. Clear and Exact

December 30, 2013 2 mins read

The workplace is full of contradictions: For example, you have to simultaneously abide by the two conflicting maxims “Keep a clear head” and “Ignorance is bliss”.

On important matters, be clear and exact; on trivial matters, don’t.

There are two types of important matter: The first are related to the company; for example, your work, tasks assigned by the leadership, and company targets. The second are your own important matters; for example, your contract, salary, benefits, and possible promotions. When these matters are concerned, you have to be clear and sharp. For everything else—trivial matters—there is no need.

During meetings, be clear and exact; after meetings, don’t.

Meetings should be treated as official functions. Everyone’s comments are recorded, so be sure to think before you open your mouth, and make sure your opinions are clear and well-prepared. After the meeting, you should be less clear and precise—don’t go around telling everyone where you stand on this and that issue.

At work, be clear and exact; in personal matters, don’t.

Where your work is concerned, you must be clear and exact: There is absolutely no room for muddled opinions or grey areas. Do your best to avoid language like ‘probably’, ‘maybe’, and ‘it seems like’. Dealing with personal matters, however, is a different story: There are a huge number of variables, many of which are extremely subtle. You frequently have to act as mediator and diplomat; don’t go around telling everyone your opinions about everything, don’t talk behind people’s backs. Remember, sometimes ignorance is bliss.

On the clock, be clear and exact; off the clock, don’t.

When at work, you are mostly dealing with important matters, so maintain a clear head. When off the clock and enjoying a relaxed chat with colleagues, however, it’s best not to be overly clear or exact.

When you are well-prepared, be clear and exact; when you are not, don’t.

When at work, you will be presented with a huge array of different issues. For those which you have already thought through, you can be clear and exact in presenting your opinions—this is a good chance to show off your unique viewpoints and recommendations. For issues which come up suddenly and for which you haven’t had adequate time to prepare, don’t be overly clear, precise and exact right off the bat—only after giving yourself a chance to think through the issue should you stake out your viewpoint.


Morgan McKinley