We all know the people in our organization who appear to make a living out of obstructing our progress. I have called them “Paid by the No.” Dane Cook calls them Karen. And whatever phrase you have for these serial obstructionists, they exist and they happen to be public enemy #1 to me.
These co-workers are the ones who poo-poo the new and create obstacles where there were none. Why? I am honestly not sure, which is why I coined the phrase ‘Paid by the “No”’, because the only logical explanation for this group is that their compensation must be tied directly to the number of times they say “No” every pay period.
The obvious problem here is that our marketing ecosystem is evolving too quickly for team “Paid by the No” to have a big, vocal seat at the table. What the obstructionist ends up doing is putting a boulder in front of progress, testing and experimentation. And in modern marketing we don’t need any extra boulders – the customers pack their own these days!
How can you spot them?
Not everyone who obstructs is forthcoming about their obstruction, so, it is key to spot them quickly so you can get them out of their own way (and yours). The office obstructionist often (and repeatedly) can be heard uttering these phrases or ones remarkably similar:
- It’s more complex than that.
- That will never fly.
- We can’t do it that way.
- This is not possible here.
When you hear phrases like these more than once a month from the same person, it is possible they are your obstructionists.
Once you know who is impeding your progress, you can implement any of the following steps to try to move the boulder. As with anything in life there are two ways to manage obstruction – go through, or go around.
Being savvy means being able to spot the path of least resistance. Sometimes the best way to overcome obstructionists is by trying a different route to success. If there is a place in your company that you might be able to test and learn your new idea, concept or campaign that is not touched by the point of obstruction, you might explore that opportunity. If you can show some modicum of success, it makes the obstructionist less likely to get in the way because there was success elsewhere.
Far too frequently, going around is not an option, could be a political reason, could be any number of other reasons, but in these instances, it is best to just go through in one of two ways:
People who think that things are too large, cumbersome, complex or burdensome can come around if you can identify where the common ground lies. People have trouble obstructing when the ask is small or the test is controlled. If you can identify a test for your campaign or solution that is small and controlled, the obstruction gets smaller. It is grand sweeping change that scares the obstructionist into action. As with above, when there is success to speak of from a small test, you can share this win with the obstructionist and as things move forward, they will become a likely ally.
When you are faced with comments like: “This cannot be done here.” The easiest path forward is to probe until you understand what’s at the heart of the pushback. This should be a dialog. Maybe there is a lack of understanding of the goals of the idea or how it might be implemented. Chances are the push back is fear based. When you continue to have a dialog there are strong chances that you will come to a place where you can include the obstruction in the solution. Understand their point of view. Help them see your idea as a smaller solution and enlist their help in validating the idea along side you.
Partnering in the workplace is a hard thing to do. Everyone has accountabilities that rely on each other so heavily. Understanding how to overcome obstruction will lead to a stronger solution and a better internal partnership.
What have you tried in the past to help overcome the organizational obstructionist? What worked? What didn’t?