Consulting Lessons Learned 28: Pushing back

When starting at a top consulting firm, many people will tell you how important it is to also give push-back. Back when I started as a fresh new-hire associate, I was working endless night shifts. Colleagues often told me, that I should just “push-back” a bit more and my work-life-balance would improve instantly.

I made a mistake back then… I confused “pushing back” with “saying no”. You see, saying “no” will lead to the impression that you don’t take ownership and don’t care about the project. Actively giving push-back means something different: It means actively managing yourself through the work in front of you.

This might sound easier than it is. For this reason, I strongly recommend fresh new-hires and interns to be especially careful with this topic in your first months.

But how to give push-back? Push-back is all about setting expectations and prioritizing.

Let’s say your manager briefs you on another task you should do by EOB. You feel that your todo list is already extremely packed. How to react in such a situation?

Well easy: Go through your todo list, write the expected amount of time required behind every todo and place the todos in your calendar for the day. Then go to your manager and discuss your calendar. Ideally, you want to present your own mitigation plan / prioritization and ask for approval.

You see what happened here? You are not denying work, but actively managing it. Your mindset should always be “how can we guarantee the project success within my personal working hour limits” and not “how can I get rid of this task”. Your manager will fully understand.

We discuss related topics like how to manage your work or push-back in front of your client in our ConsultingPerfection Masterclass.

Categories: Best practices