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Middle Manager’s Dilemma: Differentiating Pushback from PITA

Upside Downside Photo by Thomas Lieser

Upside Downside by Thomas Lieser

Are you the gal who’s known for pushing back on every proposed change?  Do you know that gal?

Almost every one of us knows someone who sees the downside to every initiative, and one of the challenges that my client, Negative Nellie, reports is that it’s hard to get people to take her seriously.  She’s frustrated, because she’s trying to point out risks and set reasonable expectations.  She believes the people around her are frustrated and annoyed from the eye-rolling and the sighs.

Nellie isn’t an idiot.  Nellie is an extremely bright, thoughtful person who makes solid points.  In areas other than change, people experience Nellie as competent.  So, why the roadblock here?

For one thing, everyone expects Nellie to bring up the risks.  She’s been typecast as a Pain In The….Assignment.

For another, when generals bring up a change initiative, what they really want is for the soldiers to take their part of the job and do it.  Nellie makes that hard.

What did my client, Nellie, do to become more effective?

First, she performed a gut check.  Our first reaction is to reject change, so Nellie learned to step back and take a more objective frame.  That allowed her more comfort in picking her battles.

Next, she asked whether the generals were looking for feedback or whether the decision had been made.  If they were looking for feedback, she now had permission.  We worked on ways that she could communicate that message more constructively so that the others could hear it.  If the decision was made and she still had grave concerns, she found that expressing those concerns in private yielded better results.

One reason that Nellie is such an asset to her organization is that she can think through the risks of the initiative.  The key is being able to pushback in a way that communicates her thoughtfulness and intelligence and value as opposed to being a PITA.

Be Your Best You Today,


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