What to Say Instead of "My Old Company Did This Better"

You’ve landed a new job, and everything seems to be going great—except for one little thing. Your boss and your team seem to always do things the hard way.

Maybe their software is majorly outdated, their processes need some serious streamlining, or they’re about 10 years behind what the rest of the industry is doing. Regardless of the specific circumstances, your experience in past positions has shown you that there are far better ways to do some of these regular tasks.

You feel like every other sentence out of your mouth starts with something like, “Where I used to work…” And, you’re to the point where you can feel the eye rolls that your colleagues let out every time you chime in with your next suggestion.

So, what do you do?

Well, before you continue to trudge along with methods that you know are ineffective, try offering your two cents using one of the below phrases—instead of that standard, “At my old job…” one you’ve come to rely on.

1. “Do You Mind Explaining Why We…?”

You’re smart, capable, and more than qualified to have that gig you just landed. But, none of that changes the fact that you’re still new—meaning you’re not in the loop on everything that happens in the office.

Before jumping to conclusions and assuming that everybody at your company simply likes to make more work for themselves, it’s worth asking exactly why they approach things in that way.

Perhaps there’s a certain part of the process that you weren’t aware of. Or, maybe there are some constraints or limitations that you didn’t even realize existed—making your potential suggestion completely irrelevant.

When you’re the newbie (and even when you’re not!), it’s always better to seek clarity before pointing any fingers. Not only will you portray yourself as more of a team player, but you’ll also be able to ensure that your contribution is actually doable.

2. “It Might Work Better if We…”

Let’s say that you really do have an improvement that could significantly help out your team. But, now you’re not sure how to present it in a way that doesn’t seem condescending.

A phrase like this one is direct and effective, without mentioning one specific thing: your previous job or employer.

Think about it: Why does your boss or your colleagues need to know where you gathered the inspiration for that idea? The root of your suggestion isn’t imperative information.

So, simply put your suggestion out there in this matter-of-fact sort of way. Yes, you can still provide supporting evidence of how you’ve seen this same approach play out in other situations—without ever mentioning your past role or company.

Chances are, people will be much more receptive to your contribution if you don’t tie it back to your previous job.

3. “Have You Thought About Trying…?”

Remember—you don’t know everything about why this company does things that particular way. They could’ve tried your alternative method already, only to find that it didn’t suit them in the way they hoped.

Sharing your suggestion as a question can seem a little bit like sugarcoating. But, if you’re worried about sounding far too bossy or demanding, it can be a great way to get your idea out there in a more approachable way.

Using a question format will also help you get to the root of why your team might be resistant to try that specific technique. People are much more willing to voice those concerns in response to a question—rather than feel like they’re poking holes in someone’s suggestion.

Aside from mention of a previous employer, you’ll notice there’s one other small detail missing from these various phrases: The word “I.”

Instead, these suggestions use “we.” If you’re concerned about sharing your contributions in a way that doesn’t seem arrogant or patronizing (here are some other tips to help you with that!), switching out that one small word serves as a subtle reminder that you aren’t trying to get up on your high horse and dole out improvements from your many years of experience—you’re simply trying to help out your whole team.

Yes, you’ve learned a lot in your past roles and there are plenty of instances when that information could be beneficial to your new employer. So, by all means—share your ideas! But, skip prefacing them with that old, “At my old job…” opener and use one of these three phrases instead.

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About Richard Moy

Richard Moy
Richard Moy is a Content Marketing Writer at Stack Overflow. He has spent the majority of his career in talent management, including a stint as a full-cycle recruiter and hiring manager. In addition to the career advice he contributes to The Muse, he also writes test prep and higher education marketing content for The Economist. Say hi on Twitter @rich_moy.

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