It’s OK for Jr. Staff to Disagree with Sr. Management

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Has there ever been a time where you were on a client call or in a meeting and you disagreed with what a senior-level colleague was advising the client on? Raise your hand because you know you’ve felt this way on more than one occassion.

Whether it’s getting a placement in The New York Times or receiving a client shout out in an e-mail, it’s easy for junior staff that have excelled early in their careers to develop a certain confidence and mild arrogance, and as a result, think they have the right answers for every matter. So when you hear something a manager or colleague advises a client on and you disagree with their view, does it mean they are wrong and you are right, or vice versa?

There’s a few ways of looking at this. For one thing, it depends on the subject matter in which you have the disagreement. If it’s about a pitch or press release and a client is wondering just how much coverage to expect or if that particular angle can work, while a senior-level manager has the experience to properly advise the client, we can’t ignore the fact that junior staff is on the frontlines with reporters every day and can also add a credible perspective to this discussion. We all know that the media landscape is continually changing, and senior and junior staff  should work together and agree on recommendations in order to bring the best counsel to the client.

However, if it’s overall strategy or planning for the coming year in which you disagree, you might be wise to sit back and take everything in. While junior staff do get to participate in client calls and have a great feel for what the media wants, they don’t have the experience that is often required to counsel a client. It’s easy to think about what might work now without thinking about the bigger picture. I know, I’ve done it.

The moral of the story is, we would all be wise to take a step back at times and listen, take in all we can from those around us, and embrace the learning that we’re able to consume on a daily basis from all of our colleagues, regardless of title. And while it can definitely be intimidating to speak up to your boss(es), especially when you disagree with them on an issue, they will (or should) admire you if you make time to sit down with them one-on-one to discuss client strategy, why they make some of the decisions they make, etc. If you don’t ever speak up, then you may never learn as much as you could. So be smart about how you go about it, and don’t be scared to talk your boss once in a while in an effort to learn from them.


8 comments on “It’s OK for Jr. Staff to Disagree with Sr. Management

  1. I’ve had a few experiences with finding the appropriate time to provide advice to my bosses. For me it mostly comes into play with social media. I have been advising my boss and in turn my clients. Sometimes its not credited to me, but I know my bosses know and that’s what counts now.

    • It’s all about making your voice heard. By asking questions you are showing interest, and I think bosses love to see that from jr. staff.

  2. I have long thought the best time to disagree with your bosses isn’t in front of the client, but before you even step into the meeting. Surprisingly, senior-level staff are rational people, open to ideas (from my experience at least). I’ve had the most success holding my tongue until we can discuss the point internally. I get shot down as often as I get a pat on the back.

    • I agree, but you also can’t rehearse everything. If a client asks for counsel on something that you didn’t prepare for then you might not all be on the same page at the time. I get what you’re saying, though

  3. I have found that 95 percent of the time when a junior staffer disagrees with me it is a positive experience. It shows ambition and indicates intellectual independence. You are definitely correct when you say to make sure the timing is appropriate. That is the key.

    Also, I have some good news for the PR folks who are regular visitors to the blog. I have some items I am currently looking to sell that would be very useful to those in the PR business. I have a desk that would be perfect for someone who has been in PR for years or even for someone just starting out. It is solid oak and has 6 drawers (smooth finish dovetail construction). There is a scratch on the top but it is not very noticeable. Currently asking 700 dollars but for an extra 100 I will also include pens, paper, and even some of my personal files. (Good for those just entering the PR field as the files DO include some contact information)

    College students looking to get into the PR business should consider purchasing this desk. It would be a good start to a career. Having the essential tools to be efficient should be a priority. Owning your own desk is something that would look good on resume. Also if you are on an interview make sure and inquire about the office furniture policy. Some companies may prefer you do not bring your own desk to work but some may see it as a cost saving measure and be impressed.

    Leave a comment here with your email address if you are interested and I will contact you. (Note, this does not constitute a formal offer.) Also, I am open to negotiation.

    Congratulations on another great post to PR at Sunrise. I enjoyed it and eagerly await the next. This is fast becoming one of my favorite blogs and I have started recommending it to friends and colleagues.

    I should also mention the desk has full-extension ball-bearing drawer glides.

  4. Good points as usual, but you can’t overlook the fact that there is hardly ever a right and a wrong in PR.

    Unlike most jobs PR plays out almost entirely in the shades of gray – nothing is black and white, so I’d say that most (like 96.7 percent) of disagreements should be done away from the client.

    Keep up the good work.

  5. Pingback: Job Titles In PR Are Worthless, Experience Is What Matters |

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