At some point you have to let go of what you thought should happen and start living with what is actually happening.
Quote attributed to Anonymous
One of the biggest challenges in managing issues at work is recognizing which ones are worth your time versus which you should simply let go (at least for now).
Psychologists have noted humans have a natural resistance to even positive change. Letting go fights against our desire to maintain the status quo. The psychological tendency to resist brings emotion into the equation. We have difficulty identifying the core issue and as a consequence are reluctant to trust in someone other than ourselves to deal with the situation. For some of us, this is rooted in a need for control. We want to micromanage the situation so it doesn’t somehow jeopardize project, team or personal success. The problem is this inability to let go can actually create a higher risk of the very failure we are struggling so hard to avoid.
So, what are legitimate reasons for pushing back on issues that arise at work?
- Something doesn’t make sense or is inconsistent with the data.
- The direction is not aligned with your principles or core values.
- Pushing back will help Management avoid a major mistake.
- You are convinced it is the right thing to do and are willing to accept accountability for any consequence from pushing back.
- It will improve the quality of your operation.
Tips for deciding what to push back on and what to let go.
The process is actually quite simple. The problem is in the execution.
First identify the issue you are considering pushing back on. Actually take the step to write it down instead of making it a mental exercise only. Writing it down will help you clarify your thinking.
Now, take a blank piece of paper and list the emotions you feel as you think about the issue. I know this step may sound weird, but it actually helps you think through the impacts of deciding to push back or not. Being self-aware can be critical to genuinely letting go of the issue.
Next, do a back of the envelope cost/benefit analysis to determine the feasibility of successfully pushing back. For most people, this looks like a simple pluses and minuses chart. But, for some issues there is a quantifiable dollars and cents figure you can attach to the decision.
Finally, think through the potential tactics and strategies that might be appropriate if you decide to push back; and turn that into an action plan.
Additional considerations you might want to think about …
Do you know what your personal style of dealing with conflict is? If you push back on an issue you are going to face conflict. Understanding how you will handle it in advance will improve your odds of success.
Is there a win:win solution to the issue that you might propose? This is easier to think through before you create the conflict. In fact, pre-defining a win:win solution may help you avoid the worst of the conflict.
Actively learn to let go. The more successful you are the more frequently you will be actually managing issues. Find a couple mentors you respect and can trust for an objective perspective and advice on how to effectively manage issues. Nothing beats real world experience, and while you won’t necessarily handle letting go the same way, the input will help you find a personal path that works for you.
Work on building a positive emotional bank account with your leadership team and management. The more good will you create, the easier it will be for you to push back when you need to.
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