Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to say ‘no’ in the world of business? It’s almost as if there’s a default setting urging us to say ‘yes, of course’, rather than face the consequences of occasionally refusing to conform or acquiesce.
Okay, so it’s not always the case, but it’s certainly a well-trodden path on the quest to create client satisfaction. We might say yes to a fee we really know we’re not content with, or agree to a business tactic we just don’t sit all that comfortably with – but sometimes, that yes voice just seems to find its volume with more ease.
As a matter of mere experiment, I decided to clock how easy I and those around me found it to say no – both in and outside of work. Some of these were obvious. My niece would hear the word ‘no’ persistently from her dad.
From her mum she would hear the ‘no avoidance’ option of “ask your dad first…”.
My own mum would acquiesce yet again to a person who has already taken way more liberties than fair or just, with a “yes, of course you can borrow that again…”. My business-owner friend, meanwhile, could be heard telling a customer, “er, yes, I’m sure we could move other things around to accommodate that”.
It is, after all, so very easy to utter the word yes and to wind up disgruntled that we didn’t take the less popular stand. So how about when it comes to a client, insistent that they want a campaign or activity delivered in a way you know with your professional stance simply won’t work to effect? How about the customer who repeatedly lays down the law and states that THEIR way is THE way?
Well, it depends how much you rate your integrity, that internal moral ‘compass’, and your X many years within the skilled profession you’ve been employed to provide.
My not-so-scientific research with friends in various consultancy, advisory or management posts had this to offer: “I used to be the one who would immediately agree with my boss on a strategy approach, even when I knew it was bound for failure (or, at the very least, disappointing results).
I learned the hard way that being a nodding dog can be just as disastrous to your career. In my case, someone junior to me in my department put forward exactly the alternative I would have wanted to voice had I not been scared to speak out.
Her concept performed to a really great result…& I resigned not long after.”
“The day I took on a consultancy contract with one particular client – whose reputation everyone knew to be incredibly bullish and ‘always right’ – I vowed I would stand my ground and always be prepared to say no if I felt an idea warranted it. Yes, I came close to a stand-up row with the CEO once or twice, but he would always always calm down and tell me how much he respected my professional input and directive (which often he would go with).
He’s since moved to two different posts & brought me in as his advisor in my field on both occasions”. Clearly, there is no definitive as to whether you should dare to utter the N word in a professional environment, but most would argue that the mastery of the word no can deliver you untold long-term respect if deployed with consideration and consciousness.
Bear in mind the following pointers:
*Don’t use No to point score or pick a battle just because
*Do pick your moment, rather than deliver your No among a sea of faces when you’re likely to show up an individual
*Don’t forget you’re playing ‘the long game’. Think it forward and consider the consequences
*Do communicate in an appropriate tone and with the appropriate medium. Delivery makes all the difference.
And remember, when contemplating whether you will actually speak out for a belief, what one mentor once said to me and that I’ve never forgotten…
“Would you rather people in your workplace like you, or respect you…”. It’s an interesting question and one well worth storing for the next time you debate the chance to utter that N word to good effect!