Taking Action at Work – Go Now or Wait?

by Jennifer Miller on January 17, 2013

in Personal Effectiveness

doctor with reflex hammerWhen you take action at work, are you making things better . . . or worse?

The American workplace reveres action. Our drive towards forward motion is embedded in our national psyche.  One of our nation’s forefathers even tied one’s own self-definition to the ability to act. Thomas Jefferson once said, “Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.”


I’ve been paying attention lately to “moments of choice” – those times when I noticeably have a decision to make: take action or leave it alone.  Often, the force of habit urges ‘”get moving!” so I lurch forward, like a foot whose knee has been tapped with the doctor’s reflex hammer.

Reflexive action rarely yields positive results.

Sometimes, a compulsion to act only makes things worse – in that moment. I’m not suggesting that you avoid problems or abandon responsibilities. But is taking action right now the best course?

Why are you choosing to take action?

Do any of these thoughts cross your mind as reasons?

My company is all about “teamwork” and “inclusiveness” – it’s important for me to participate.

I’ve gotta “CYA” in case there is fall out – after all, who can take issue with taking action?

My customers expect me to be super-responsive. It’s unacceptable to avoid immediate action.

I’m not sure this is exactly the right course, but at least I’m doing something.

Whenever you feel compelled to act, and you suspect you might be succumbing to a knee-jerk reaction, ask yourself this one important question:

Will taking action truly move this process, project or relationship in a positive direction?

If not, then it’s time to step back, examine the situation more closely and modify your approach. If you’re feeling especially impatient, read this great article from Inc.com on three ways to manage impatience. You may just find that playing the waiting game is the best approach. Even if the sage Mr. Jefferson suggested otherwise.



Image credit: iofoto / 123RF Stock Photo

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

karin January 17, 2013 at 9:56 am

Jennifer, I wonder if is the time of year, because this has been heavily on my mind as well…and I have an upcoming post scheduled. I look forward to linking back to this post.. Great insights.

Jennifer Miller January 17, 2013 at 12:02 pm


Can’t wait to read it!

Jennifer Miller January 25, 2013 at 1:51 pm

Hi, everyone! Karin DID write a post on this theme – and it’s excellent – go check it out:


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: