When to Say No
During my almost 40 years in the business world I have seen a lot of people derail their careers by not knowing how or when to say no. I know this may sound strange because conventional wisdom says that to get ahead in the business world you should say yes to your supervisor and to your customers. While that is generally the case, I have seen a lot of careers get torpedoed because someone said yes to a request when they should have said no.
Many times people get in trouble by taking on tasks for which they are ill-suited or for which they don’t have the time to do properly. By trying to be perceived as a team player and taking on a task that they shouldn’t have, I have seen more than one career damaged or even destroyed. I’m not saying that you should say no to requests from your manager or a key customer often but when the request is for more than you can reasonably deliver you’re better off to nicely say no than to say yes and let down your supervisor or your customer.
When considering saying no, clarify the request being made of you to ensure that you fully understand it. What are you really being asked to do? How will success be measured, exactly what do you need to do to do the task properly? Do you have the proper experience to do the job? If you do all of the above and you conclude that you aren’t the best person to do the job, and that you might fail at the task, explain this and politely decline.
Sometimes you have the proper skills to do the task but you still should decline it if you don’t have the time to do the task correctly by the due date. I had a manager who once reported to me who tried to curry favor with me by saying yes to each and every task I assigned to him. This person thought that by accepting every task willingly that he would get ahead. Unfortunately, he took on more than he could do properly and after he made several major errors I had to terminate him. When I explained why I terminated him he was puzzled. He couldn’t understand how saying yes to my every request could lead to his termination. I explained to him that he should have told me that he couldn’t do the tasks properly rather than either doing them wrong, or late.
As mentioned above, if you decline a task presented to you by your supervisor you need to do so tactfully. Take the time to review all of the other tasks you currently are working on with your manager so that he or she can see that you are being prudent, not lazy.
Learning when to say no might just save your career!