My husband was telling me one of his eye-roller stories about work and shared that he had described a consultant to the firm as one who uses “pigeon management.” I laughed at the silliness of the term, and asked what he meant.
“It’s someone who flies in and poops on everything, then flies off,” he said (although he used a more graphic term for “poop”). The guy he was talking about doesn’t work for the company, but mentors the management and frequently acts like he’s the CEO. He’ll plan a meeting, tell employees what they “should” be doing, then take off to do his own thing, leaving team members bruised in his wake.
I’ve been thinking about the term off and on, and how appropriately it applies in more than just work situations. It can happen to you as a mom, a volunteer, a neighbor, or a friend. I even experienced it when I became a widow! People (all of us, me included) so often think we know the answers for someone else—even if it isn’t an instruction that we’ve ever had to apply to our own lives. We swoop in with a fix-all suggestion, then depart believing we’re great problem solvers for folks whom we think haven’t got a clue.
Usually we’re on the window ledge side of the poop … but sometimes we’re the pigeon. So here are a few tips to avoid being either:
If you’re the recipient:
1. Listen but don’t negatively (frowns, sighs, arguments, etc.) react. You might do a slow burn as the pigeon drops his or her unsolicited “wisdom” on you, but stay calm. If it happens at work, look interested and take a couple of notes—it makes you look good!
2. If the pigeon poop is coming from a friend or family member, acknowledge the idea (and maybe even murmur a sense of interest in)—even if you disagree or plan to never use it. You’ll make them feel good, which will ease the blow later when they find out you ignored them.
3. After you calm down, try to find some merit in the idea. If it’s work-related and you simply can’t value the advice, speak with a supervisor about your concerns and try to reach a compromise. In your personal life, be open. Sometimes the poop can be cleaned up, finding value under the mess and you can make changes that prevent it from hitting you in the future.
If you’re the pigeon:
1. Remember that everyone experiences the same situation differently. If you have advice, gently test the waters. Ask questions to gauge where the other party is at, and seek their input about the situation before you give advice.
2. When giving advice, don’t act like a genius or know-it-all. Instead, share experiences you’ve had seeing the solution work elsewhere. That will give credibility to your idea … and ultimately to you.
3. Don’t assume advice is needed. Sometimes people just need a listening ear. If you’re someone who typically rushes in to fix, practice being quiet and listening. Sometimes the person wants advice; sometimes they just want support; and sometimes they want a sounding board for testing their own solutions. We really can’t help others if we truly don’t know what they are asking for … and we can’t know that if we talk instead of listen.
Next time flight is taken, whether you’re the pigeon or ledge, you’ll know what to do.
You’ll also like Frustration in the Workplace, and Trusting God With It, Got a Problem? Go Direct!, and Do You Have to Like Your Job?