Dealing with ambiguity is a competency that often comes up in the workplace and is something my clients often talk to me about, both in a personal and professional context.
What is ambiguity and why is it desirable?
Dealing with ambiguity is about coping effectively with change, it’s about being able to make decisions and to act on them without necessarily having a complete picture, without full information. It’s about being able to sit comfortably with a level of risk and uncertainty. Unsurprisingly, this makes many people decidedly uncomfortable.
While some of us are better at ambiguity than others, the good news is that dealing with ambiguity is something we can develop. Why do we need to, you ask? Well, as I’m sure you know, the environment we work in is changing rapidly. Many of us have been exposed to at least one, and often many company restructures. Technology is impacting the way we work, with many people working off site, or without a fixed desk and the pace of change often means decisions need to be made quite quickly.
What could ambiguity look like?
Ambiguity shows up in many common situations that start well before you enter the workplace. A few of my own examples would be choosing a university course at high school with little life experience; travelling overseas on a one-way ticket with limited dollars, knowing I would get work, but not being sure what, how, or even in which country; living in share households; starting a romantic relationship. All these situations relied on an element of trust that things would be ok, as I didn’t have full information in any of these situations. Instead, I learned to make decisions and to problem solve based on the information I had at the time.
Your own similar experiences will have provided fantastic experience and learning that can be applied in a professional context where you may experience one or more of the following:
The impact of ambiguity
The thing about ambiguity is that it embodies uncertainty and as such, can result in feelings of overwhelm, stress, fear and can prevent us from moving forward or from implementing the actions we need to take.
Your ability to manage ambiguity is linked to how much you trust yourself to cope with change and to problem solve on the spot if things don’t go according to plan.
There are a number of things you can do to build your ambiguity muscle:
Finally, remember that managing ambiguity is not something that you either can or can’t do. It’s something you learn and the best way to learn something new is to practice, so pick situations that are less important for you and have a go at acting on the information you have right now.
If you need some support developing your ability to manage ambiguity, give me a call on 0413 776 564 or learn more at www.harvestcoaching.com.au.
Until next time (whatever that looks like), take care.
Laurenne Di Salvo
Leadership & Professional Development Coach | Corporate Trainer | Learning & Development Consultant
0413 776 564
Laurenne Di Salvo is an Accredited Coach (ICF), Corporate Trainer and Learning & Development Consultant. She enables individuals and groups to take the next step in their development through evidenced based coaching practices and learning programs.