New Managers – What is the Pinball Effect?

New managers often find themselves being bounced between people, events, actions or controversy. Do this enough and you will feel like the proverbial silver ball in one of the old pinball arcade games.

If this happens to you, being named the Pinball Wizard will not be flattering.

 Micha Rosenwirth
Courtesy 123rf.com/ Micha Rosenwirth

Oh sure, keeping the steel ball in play was the object of the game so that more points could be piled up by bouncing all over the board. If you got near the end of the run, there were those last couple of flippers to knock you back into action. Not really a fun place to be. This is certainly no way for a team’s leader to act.

Being a manager can subject you to this kind of frenzied behavior. Your team members, your bosses, people from other departments… all of them can exert pressure to get you to change course. You can be reeling from a meeting with your boss when the next thing you know someone on your team brings you some kind of crisis. The list may go on and on.

Juggling the many different things that might be swirling around you as a new manager can be exhausting. Merely allowing the points to pile up by letting yourself bounce from issue to issue will not work for long. It may seem like you are getting a lot done, but in the end, you might just fall out into some black hole (just like the steel ball in our game).

So, why allow yourself to give in to the pinball effect?

First, it is human nature to react to new things. When I think about reacting, I love the wise old adage.

“When we are given a medicine, if we respond that is a good thing. But reacting is a bad thing.

So we need to watch how we react to the first news of a new item, event, or circumstance. Try to establish your own sense of balance that operates at more of a calm, consistent level. Take in new news with this sense of calm. Try not to overreact at the first piece of information you receive. If you bounce too high or too far right at first, then the rebound may be harder to control.

Pick your battles. Not every event needs the same level of response. Sometimes you just need to let it go (yes, I had to work that in here somewhere). As cliché as that phrase has now become, it is wise to follow.

Lastly, ask the key question: Is it me or is this place going nuts? I am being blunt for the dramatic effect here. You may be the force that is causing the pinball effect. If so, collect yourself and regroup. Get some feedback from others you have learned you can trust.


Introducing the WHY.os. Learn YOUR why, how, and what that drives your passion and motivation.


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