I’m in a pretty uncomfortable situation these days. With a big team, people come to get different stuff pretty often. At the beginning you take things as they are and agree most of the time but you establish your own view very quickly.
That’s when things change.
You actually start saying no.
I mean you probably don’t want to. Well, no one really wants. It would be just easier to say yes all the time and make people happy in every situation and be such a nice guy who is always supportive and never critical. Also it would be just easier if there was peace all over the world.
The problem is it doesn’t work that way.
You, as a manager, have some budgets, goals and other big hairy things which have to be in order or your manager, VP, or whoever is up there over your head, starts yelling at you. You don’t like when others yell at you, right?
So you learn how to say no pretty quickly.
Then no, she won’t get a raise. No, he won’t transit to other project. No, they can’t get the day off now. And no, it isn’t possible to add more people to the project. It is also obvious that no, there’s no freaking chance to change the schedule. And goddamned no, we won’t recruit more people to the team. Aaargh!
Except it does matter how you say it.
There are some unhealthy patterns I notice here and there when I hear no.
- No, because I said so. That’s the easiest one. I have the power and you don’t. It means that I can say no and you can’t do anything about that. Problem solved. Case closed. Next, please!
- No, because my boss won’t allow me to. That’s also an easy one. I’d like to say yes, but you know, my boss won’t allow me to. It’s just oh so freaking unfair, but what can I do? I’m just a poor little manager with no authority whatsoever.
- No, because I don’t care. Here’s my no along with some placeholder reason. I don’t really care what you think about it but since I gave you some argument I’m done here. Go cry somewhere else.
- No, even though I tell you yes. I mean if you bought that crap than you basically asked to be tricked so it’s your fault. It’s not me who lied; it’s you who allowed to be cheated. And I just got a few months of peace.
If either of those sounds familiar than you probably are on the wrong track.
If you say no, mean it. Care enough to share real reasons standing behind the decision. What’s with decisions you weren’t allowed to make, you ask. Um, you represent the organization, you want it or not. So take this responsibility and live with it. Sometimes when the organization, whether it means your evil VP or whoever, makes the decision it is yours. Even if you don’t feel comfortable with it there are usually some well-grounded reasons behind the decision. So go convince yourself first, it will be easier later.
As long as you’re sure you’re making the right call every, even most difficult, rejection can be handled well. You will be able to ground it, you won’t fear to discuss it and you will be ready to take it on your chest. So don’t hide behind your authority or your boss. Make your call and live with its consequences.
By the way: if you’re out of luck enough to constantly live with consequences of calls you don’t agree with, you probably are in the wrong organization, but that’s completely different story.