Pushback: It Doesn’t Make You a B!tch

Posted March 6, 2013 by Marcy Twete in On the Ladder

There’s an epidemic in the cultural education of girls in America. We tell them to be sweet and agreeable and not to talk back. We put in our nursery rhymes about what “little girls are made of” and the like. So it shouldn’t come as any surprise that it’s often difficult for adult American women to push back both personally and professionally, for fear they may be seen as difficult or antagonistic or worst of all, bitchy.

Whether you’re timid and shy or have the world’s biggest backbone, I can guarantee you’ve been in a spot where you’ve held your tongue, not just to be polite or professional, but to avoid being judged or disliked. Today, we here at Career Girl Network are giving you the permission (after all, you’re a good girl who asks for permission, right?) to push back.

Situations In Which You Should Absolutely Push Back

  • When you feel uncomfortable physically or emotionally with something that’s going on. A friend recently told me about her boss asking her to make run an errand for the company in a neighborhood she was physically uncomfortable going to alone. Instead of pushing back, she went and nearly cried when she found herself lost and unable to find a taxi in the dark in a bad neighborhood. This is one instance she should have insisted her boss pay for a car service to take her there or a courier service to deliver the package, no matter how scared or stupid she might feel. If you are physically uncomfortable or have real fear of a situation, push back!
  • When instructions are not clear and lack of clarity could cause additional issues. We often allow our bosses and colleagues to give unclear or unfinished instructions. We think to ourselves, “I’ll figure it out.” What happens if you don’t? Isn’t it better to ask for clarification, push back on the steps you need to take, and learn the right process than to make the mistake of doing it wrong the first time and having to apologize? Don’t worry about looking dumb. Simply ask for clarification.
  • If you feel like this is something you might lose sleep over later. I’ve heard so many women say things like, “I’m so mad, I can’t believe he said that to me” about their boss or colleagues or a client. These are exactly the moments you have to find a professional way to push back. You don’t deserve to lose sleep over the way someone else is treating you or to shed tears over the stress of a project when you could just as easily ask for help and clarify needs. Take the time, when these negative encounters arise, to compose yourself, take a deep breath, and professionally give a little bit of pushback. You might look like a bitch, but at least you’ll know you’ve done all you could.

Where are you missing some pushback in your own career? Are you allowing yourself to be walked all over? Take the time to erase the old stigma of the “difficult woman” and replace it with the empowered one!

About the Author

Marcy Twete

Marcy Twete is a career fundraiser turned corporate responsibility executive, a career and networking expert and the author of the book "You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works."