I had an interesting learning experience this week, where I (with lots of trepidation) said ‘no’ to two different requests at work and some interesting things happened afterwards…
Interesting thing number 1:
A senior manager asked me to provide a summary of information regarding what we have done, and plan to do for a specific group of customers.
I was asked despite minimal involvement in the project.
I was definitely not the best person for this, others had been much more involved and already had a detailed understanding of what had and was going to happen.
So I showed appreciation at being asked, explained why I wasn’t going to do it and that someone else had agreed that they were better placed to co-ordinate the response and would pick it up (I’d obviously spoken to the other person first and agreed this!).
What happened next?
3 days later I was told that my current project was going to be closed in 5 weeks.
With my contract coming to an end the next week I assumed I would be leaving.
However I then found out that I’d been lined up with an extension and a move to another project at the insistence of (and working for) the senior manager I said no to!
Interesting thing number 2:
I planned to work from home on Friday (as I was attending 2 of my children’s school plays in the morning) and a 30 minute meeting came up where I was asked to ‘work around that’ and be in the office and attend in person.
Again I said ‘no’ and explained why I was going to work from home and that we could still have an initial meeting over the phone and follow up with a face to face meeting next week.
What happened next?
When we had the phone call, the project manager actually apologised to me for suggesting I had to be in the office for the meeting. Once he knew why I was working from home, he completely understood.
In both situations I had to fight the urge to say ‘yes’ and do what was asked.
I was worried about repercussions and what people would think of me.
But what I learnt was that if you have valid reasons, are honest, and can provide alternatives, then you shouldn’t be scared to say no.
It’s one thing to want to help get things done, it’s something else to agree to everything that is asked of us.
Just to be clear – I’m not talking about shirking our work, or making excuses for not completing what we are responsible for.
There a separate term for that called ‘being a lazy bastard’.
This is about not taking on extra work and not wasting our own time for the benefit of others.
If we do, it means our work load will constantly evolve as priorities change and distractions are rife.
When we say yes to a piece of work that we don’t have time to do, or are not the right person for, then we’re actually encouraging the organisations we work for to be dysfunctional, and we’re not helping ourselves either.
Saying no is surprisingly hard to do. There are literally dozens of training courses to learn techniques about it.
But I think most of us will intuitively know how to say no (just in case here’s a tip – avoid using the words ”screw you” and “are you having a f*cking laugh”).
I also think that most us will recognise an opportunity to put this into practise and try it out.
I did and was pleasantly surprised by the outcome.