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  • Janeen Shaffer, PCC

How to listen to your intuition at work

I often hear from clients that they “had a feeling” about a person or situation and wished they had listened. How do you know when your intuition is speaking to you? And, what do you do when it happens? Here are some tips to consider:

Intuition shows up immediately. Intuition is a way for your mind, body and soul to communicate with you. It usually shows up as an unanticipated thought or physical reaction. For example, you are talking on the phone and immediately sense that something doesn’t feel right. You enter a room and your stomach tightens or you get goose bumps. Or, you're in an interview with a company and get a bad feeling about the environment. Think about how your intuition speaks to you. Is it an immediate thought? Is it a physical response in your stomach or breathing? I believe intuition appears quickly, and hopefully, the effects linger long enough for you to listen to them and decide what to do next.

Take a moment to decipher your intuition and plan informed actions. When your intuition speaks to you, it is helpful to think about action steps you can take to honor it. This step becomes critical in respecting your intuition. Taking action is more helpful than speculation about your interpretation of the intuition. When intuition speaks, it is helpful to take a moment to slow down your breathing, become more present in the moment, and identify the information your intuition is telling you versus your emotions or reactions to it. For example, I was attending a meeting at a conference center and was having a difficult day with some of my peers. My intuition nudged me to walk down a different hallway during a break. I stopped and made the decision to listen (versus following my inner question of “Why go down this hallway?”) and I ran into a former colleague who has always been a trusted advisor and friend. He ended up helping me navigate the challenging work situation and was a comforting face to see in the midst of the conflict.

Intuition is about big and small nudges. I believe intuition speaks to us about big and small situations. Not every nudge represents a metaphorical tsunami that is about to come – thank goodness. Usually, I find my intuition prepares me or saves me from something I did not foresee. For example, if your instincts are telling you that you can’t trust a person at work, there are several actions you can take. One action is to share necessary and relevant work information with this individual, and to not share information which makes you vulnerable or puts you at risk - such as medical or personal information, or your opinions of others. Another action is to observe how they handle sharing information with you. Do they share relevant and timely information? Do they make judgmental comments about other people to you? Is the work information you share with them being shared with others inappropriately? The answers to these questions will inform you about how to best work with this individual in a way that protects you while allowing you to perform in your role. If this individual is your boss, I would suggest building a strong network of advocates for yourself and work on projects that give you visibility to other teams and leaders so you can create future role opportunities. As the wizard says in the Wizard of Oz, “I’m not a bad man, I’m a bad wizard.” If your instincts aren’t positive about your leader, it doesn’t mean this individual is a bad person, but they may be a bad leader for you and you have the ability to create alternative options.

Distinguish between intuition and fearful thought. Intuition provides signs to pay attention to. Fearful thinking can be an unintended response to your intuition and can cause confusion. For example, let’s say your intuition is telling you that your new leader is going to lean on you as a dumping ground for what she doesn’t want to handle. Your thoughts in response to your intuition could be, “I’m in a dead-end role.” “My boss doesn’t value me.” “I’m not seen as a leader.” This is fearful thinking. You don’t know if any of those thoughts are accurate yet. All you know is that your intuition is giving you helpful information. With that, you can create actions to mitigate being the fix-it person and observe how your leader responds. As you try different actions, you will gather more information about your leader and this will allow you to identify what to do next to best support yourself. If your actions are led by your fearful thoughts and assumptions versus gathering deliberate information through them, it is possible you could miss an opportunity to build a meaningful and impactful role with your leader.

Intuition is a powerful tool within each of us. I’d love to hear how you have honored it in the past and what happened as a result. The next time your intuition speaks to you and provides you a helpful nudge, how will your honor it?

Janeen Shaffer is a PCC certified coach helping individuals and leaders with their internal development and external performance. If the article resonated with you, follow me on LinkedIn and check my other articles. Contact me at,, IG @janeen.shaffer, Pinterest Shaffer Coaching + Consulting.


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