Are You Low Maintenance or High
By Michelle LaBrosse
I was recently
watching the movie When Harry Met Sally, and there’s that funny
scene where Harry tells Sally that she’s high maintenance:
Harry Burns: There are two kinds of women: high maintenance and low
Which one am I?
You're the worst kind; you're high maintenance, but you think you're
don't see that.
You don't see that? Waiter, I'll begin with a house salad, but I
don't want the regular dressing. I'll have the balsamic vinegar and
oil, but on the side. And then the salmon with the mustard sauce,
but I want the mustard sauce on the side. "On the side" is a very
big thing for you.
Well, I just want it the way I want it.
Harry Burns: I know: high maintenance.
In pop culture
and our colloquial language, we use the terms “high maintenance” and
“low maintenance” a lot. And like Harry, we’re usually not talking
about our cars. Instead, we’re talking about people -- those we work
with, live with and have to deal with as part of the grand adventure
So, this got me
thinking about the impact of high-maintenance versus low-maintenance
people. When I thought about the high-maintenance types I’ve worked
with on teams, two things immediately came to mind. 1) They suck up
lots of time, and 2) They lower the output of the entire team.
This column is
written as a wake-up call for the high-maintenance people out there
who really don’t realize the impact they are having. Is it you?
Here’s a quick way to find out.
You’re High Maintenance When…
around you, because they don’t want to deal with the detours you
rarely a travel buddy for business or pleasure.
and co-workers see you as someone who is always taking and never
quick to criticize without offering another approach or idea.
You talk and
problems to the table with no solutions.
You have a
hard time adapting to change.
inflexible, and compromise is not in your vocabulary.
your own preferences first, and expect others to conform to what
notice the “eye-rolls” that you illicit, because you are too
busy looking in the nearest mirror.
If that’s you --
or maybe just someone you know -- let’s look at key phrases and
questions that can turn high-maintenance behavior into low
“What do you
think about that…?”
“I like where
you are going with that…what if we…?”
“I’m open to
ideas. How would you like to proceed?”
“I chose the
meeting location last time. Who’d like to chose it this time?”
know the Chicago market, what’s your take?”
“You know the
best restaurants in New York…I’ll defer to you.”
“Jim had a
great solution he told me about. Jim?”
“How can I
“How can we
make this work for everyone?”
“How can we
do it better next time?”
gift you can give to the people around you is to turn the frame of
reference so it is not about you, but it is about them. See the
greater whole as more important than your individual role. When you
shift your perspective from you and your needs to the needs of
others, you start to see and hear things differently. You can only
truly listen when you are not in your own head thinking about what
you want to say next.
It is a proven
fact that people feel understood when they actually do most of the
talking and are being listened to. So, you want to be the
low-maintenance person who is doing the listening and who is
engaging others in solutions.
A great project
manager is one who can see the opportunities for improvements as
well as the strengths. Ask yourself: What can I do to better
understand others? How can I be more collaborative? How has my
behavior lowered the output or productivity on my team? What are
the changes I can make?
Be brave enough
to ask other people what changes you can make, and be ready to
listen and show others that you can move from high maintenance to
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