We can feel trapped in this struggling economy. Fear of being laid off. Knowing that there are hundreds of qualified applicants for one job opening. Understanding that clients can make a different choice in who they hire. In the best of economies saying “no” could mean the loss of a client or saying “bye-bye” to a promotion. How the heck is “no” even an option now?
Using your healthy “no” wisely can make the difference between feeling trapped and setting healthy boundaries for you, your work and your family. Realize that I am speaking to those of you who 1) give 110% on a daily basis, 2) have already paid your dues in your chosen profession, and 3) will weigh the all possible consequences carefully. There are times in our lives and careers where “no” is not an option. We must pay our dues. We must prove ourselves to gain trust and respect. Finally, it is how we tell our bosses and clients “no” that makes all the difference.
There are five components to a healthy “no”. The first, and most important, is a pause. Your boss asks you to work late to finish a proposal for a client. Your child has a performance that evening. Ask your boss for a few minutes to consider his/her request. During the pause you ask yourself the following questions: Do I want to help this person? Do I want to do this task? What are the potential consequences of me saying “no”?
The second component to a healthy “no” is that there is compassion for the person making the request. Your boss might be under pressure from his/her boss or the client. The client might have just shortened the deadline. Your boss might have already submitted a proposal that the client would have denied, but is being given a second chance. They might be asking you because you are the best in the department to produce a proposal that will be accepted by the client. It is situation where the task needs to be done, and either the boss can’t do it him/herself or you will do it better. Unfortunately, you, as an employee, don’t need to have all of the background information. But you can hold compassion for your boss as a person who is under pressure.
No Anger & No Whining
The third and fourth components of a healthy “no” are that you hold no anger and have to give no excuses for your “no”. Of course your boss is going to come to you to finish the proposal. Of course he/she is coming to you at the last minute. This might be part of the job. This might be because your boss is not good with deadlines. This might be why you were hired in the first place. Get rid of the anger – you chose this job. Get rid of the whiney excuses – they just make you look bad.
In this case, you might go to an either/or scenario. Either you stay late and miss your child’s performance or you say “no” to your boss and see your child’s performance. Both options stink. Are there other options? Of course there are.
The final component to the healthy “no” is to present choices to your boss or client that create a win/win situation for all parties. It’s time to put on your creative hat and think outside the box. It might play out like this:
“Sir, I have been thinking about your request and I have my daughter’s performance tonight. I could stay for another hour to work on the proposal, be on time to see the performance, and then work on it when I get home. I could come in early tomorrow and work through lunch. If you need it done tonight, I could come back to the office after the performance. Do any of those options work for you?”
In presenting these choices you are showing that you want to do the task and be a team player. You are also making it known that there are times when a happy child and happy family compete head to head with business. It is your job as a partner, parent, and business person to find as many win/win scenarios as you can to balance work and home.
If your boss digs in their heels and poo-poo’s all of your options, you will need to decide how to proceed. Only you know your boss, the client, the company climate, and the consequences of going or missing your child’s performance. You can feel better that you tried. It might work better next time. As my momma used to say: “You don’t ask, you don’t get.”