Gut check: How to put your intuition to work


Gut check: How to put your intuition to work

By Robert Half International

In a business world increasingly driven by hard data, honing your intuition skills might not be top of mind. But possessing the power of perception can aid you when contemplating difficult work-related decisions, navigating sticky interpersonal situations and generally trying to collaborate more effectively with your boss and colleagues.

In fact, 88 percent of administrative professionals surveyed by OfficeTeam, a division of Robert Half, said they often make decisions based on gut instinct. What these workers — and those in other fields, no doubt — have recognized is that good judgment sometimes comes down to following your instincts, especially when they are backed by wisdom and experience.

First and foremost, understand what “going with your gut” truly means. Intuition is not relying on random hunches or mind reading to guide your every action. It’s a process that involves tapping several valuable skills: close observation, careful analysis, critical thinking, good judgment and sound reasoning abilities.

Following are tips on using intuition on the job:

Watch, listen and learn
Intuition often begins with understanding. To anticipate a supervisor’s or co-worker’s needs or reactions with any degree of certainty, it helps to have gained a sense of the person’s work style.

Observe your manager closely to get to know his preferences, perspectives and pet peeves. The effort is well worth it. According to the survey, 97 percent of administrative professionals polled said anticipating their manager’s needs is at least somewhat important to their career growth and 94 percent of executives agreed.

Likewise, take note of your co-workers’ habits, inclinations and methods of communicating. Pay attention to patterns. One of the best predictors of future behavior is past behavior. If a swamped team member typically works very late the last few days of the quarter, you might proactively lend a helping hand the week before. Even a thoughtful gesture like buying the person a cup of coffee can go a long way.

Look for nonverbal signs 
You don’t have to become a mentalist to get a read on people. Nonverbal signals, namely facial expressions and body language, can convey a great deal of information. It’s true that reading body language is a subtle art, and contextual clues and personal quirks should always be considered, but visual cues can speak volumes.

For example, if you go to your boss with a question, and after a few minutes she begins tapping her foot and nodding excessively while looking past you, that’s probably an indication it’s time to end the conversation.

Remain attuned to other people, no matter how busy you are
When neck-deep in work, people often hunker down to meet critical deadlines or check the next item off their ever-growing to-do lists. But that level of self-focus can come at a cost if you completely disconnect from colleagues. Misunderstandings and conflicts tend to arise when workers lose sight of the fact that they’re not the only ones under pressure.

When interacting with supervisors, fellow employees, clients or customers, take a moment to put yourself in those people’s shoes. What work demands or other factors could be influencing their behavior? As the saying goes, seek first to understand before being understood. Adopting this approach can help you adjust your tact and tone appropriately.

Honing top-notch intuitive abilities can take time. At first you might be nervous and hesitant to go with a gut feeling because it feels like a risk, particularly when the stakes are high. Challenge yourself to take baby steps so you can get more confident and comfortable with the process. As actress Ingrid Bergman once said, “You must train your intuition — you must trust the small voice inside which tells you exactly what to say, what to decide.”

Yes, you might make the wrong choice at times, but give yourself permission to practice. The more you call upon your business instincts, the more reliable they’ll become — and the more effective you’ll be on the job.

Robert Half International is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm with a global network of more than 350 offices worldwide. For more information about our professional services, visit For additional career advice, view our career bloopers video series at or follow us on Twitter