DO Push Back: It’s Always Political

Coaching advice to a public sector Manager: Push back. Don’t let anyone push you into political situations without giving you all the information you need.

The Situation: Unbeknownst to the Manager, one of her senior executives met with a stakeholder who then sent a document (about commitments made at the meeting) to the senior executive’s office as “heads up” that it was going to be tabled at the next public meeting in three days. The senior executive’s assistant sent an email to the stakeholder (copying the Manager) telling the stakeholder to meet with the Manager to resolve some of the inaccuracies in the document. The stakeholder called the Manger to set up the meeting.

Coaching Advice: The Manager asked PublicSectorWriting.com for advice and was coached to “push back” as it’s ALWAYS POLITICAL. The Manager did not brief the senior executive, was not debriefed following the meeting, has never seen the document and does not know what happened at the meeting. The stakeholder wants to advance her agenda, the “heads up” is a mere foil, the executive assistant does not want to be the one who ends up being responsible for the “inaccuracies” in the document. The senior executive can later report to his superior that he told one of his Managers to “fix it” and she failed to do so.

How to Push Back: The Manager could tell the senior executive’s assistant (by email so the Manager has an audit trail) that she does not know what happened at the meeting, what the inaccuracies are, what the executive wants to say instead, or what the organization’s messages are about this issue. Tell the executive’s assistant she will not meet with the stakeholder without knowing this, as the tabling is in three days. The executive’s office must tell the stakeholder not to table the document.

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