Let’s Talk Pushy

Join this month’s forum, as we tackle the p-word. What’s your experience of the term “pushy” as it relates to you, and to all women?

Mohr, Tara“‘Pushy’ is such an interesting term because work that is worthy of our time and energies often involves pushing for something. Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were pushy—pushing against the legislation and culture of their time—and as a result, you and I can vote. Today, women push for improvements to our communities, for more transparency and accountability from those in power, for better lives for our kids. As bosses, we push for excellence, from ourselves and from those with whom we work. Women who push, are, of course, inconvenient challengers to the status quo. Let’s keep pushing.”

–Tara Sophia Mohr, author of “Playing Big: Find Your Voice, Your Mission, Your Message”

Kate White“I call it the pushy paradox. When men push they can be seen as going for it, being all in, whereas a woman who pushes can be assessed as being up someone’s grill. That said, it’s always important to be aware of how you are perceived in the workplace. Listen, pay attention to feedback, respond to feedback. If you ruffle too many feathers, regardless of whether you’re in the right or not, it can bite you in the butt.”

–Kate White, New York Times best-selling author and internationally known leadership expert

Healy, Amanda“Do me a favor and type ‘Pushy’ into Microsoft Word. Right click and hit ‘Synonyms’. Like what you see? Neither do I… Forceful, aggressive, loudmouthed, brash—these are the equivalents of ‘pushy.’ Men are more often described as ‘assertive.’ The synonyms? Self-confident, self-assured, positive. It’s the old ‘boss’ versus ‘bossy’ conundrum. We use a different set of vocabulary to describe similar dispositions displayed by women and men.”

—Amanda Healy, marketing program manager at TIBCO Software, Inc.

  • C N TX

    Kate, your comments above summarize exactly why it’s so frustrating to be viewed as “pushy”. Specifically, “whether you’re in the right or not, it can bite you in the butt.” Let’s assume you’re “in the right”. What can you do to overcome this perception? It seems as though a very important element to this issue is the underlying and often subconscious expectations people (including other women) have of how women should “behave”. This is really out of our control. So, what can we do or say to prevent offending and help others view this “pushy” behavior as an individual just being confident, passionate and/or expecting accountability – all of which are totally acceptable?

  • MM

    I have been called “pushy” by two previous co-workers. After taking a step back and looking at them as an individual, I gathered that they were unhappy where they were (work, since they both left w/in a year), and at and who they were. These individuals were both going through relationship issues. While I may not like the word, there’s usually something behind the reason (past/present issues) that they are dealing with that makes them associate another with being “pushy”.