I was having dinner last night with a friend, who recently became Director of Operations for his company. We were discussing how he is navigating the waters, and he relayed a few of his techniques for dealing with “push-back” – that behavioral characteristic displayed by business-persons when confronted with something or someone that is challenging the status quo (usually a status quo in which they are heavily invested).
He noted that rather than argue (or even spend any time at all) with some of the more contrary people, he was simply going around them. I pointed out that while this may be effective for him right now, I would take a different approach: be blunt, and use facts as a hammer to pound down positions that aren’t supportable.
The discussion at hand centered around how to deal with people when they are threatened. If the perception of the threat comes from an honest misunderstanding, then it is imperative for everyone involved to discuss the issue(s), exposing the facts and allowing the “threats” to be dissolved in a non-hostile forum.
But it rarely is a simple misunderstanding, sadly. Most times, most people will see the new guy coming to Ruin Their World. And He Must Be Stopped. So they invent reasons to disagree with the new guy’s position, and go out of their way to “talk up” their disapproval, which usually is done in hallway conversations outside the new guy’s presence. This happens every day, and the degree to which it exists in an organization is an effective measure of its dysfunction.
I interjected that my way of dealing with people like this is very direct: I wait for an open forum where the person is attempting to support his position, essentially throwing FUD at anyone who will listen (“That won’t work”. “We’ve never done it that way.” etc.). And then I flatly, methodically lay out the facts that directly contradict the position that the person is trying to support. But I don’t attack the person, just the position. Clearly, there’s some finesse here, and I have developed great skill in this over the the past 15 years or so.
My friend countered with this post’s title: “That’s a great way to win friends and influence people”, clearly in disapproval of my technique. I replied that I’m not there to win friends or influence anybody – I’m there (very specifically) to provide my best technology-centric business advice to my client. My value lay in exactly that: I don’t bullshit and I don’t candy-coat anything.
I have nothing to gain – literally – by being obtuse, coy or “soft”. And for the record… some of my best friends on the planet are former clients or employers dating back many years. But hey, my friend is still young… and pretty damn smart, so he’ll figure it out.