A hard lesson

This post is not going to be my usual personal indulgence. I won’t be psycho-analyzing myself or delving into the deep dark past. I won’t be discussing lovers, friends, or other casual acquaintances that exist in my gay, polyamorous life. Instead we will be looking at a business, management, leadership type topic.

I was working one particularly difficult job where I was responsible. I mean pretty much for everything. The owner and his family ran the business, but my name was on the license with the State so I was responsible.

A good friend of mine was a manager that reported to me and we were having a conversation one day and he happened to mention that one of the owners commented that they liked working with my friend a little more than they liked working with me because my friend never said no. Apparently, when I told the owners the reasons I could not do the thing they wanted me to do, they did not appreciate that very much. I am a rules guy. I research regulation for my industry. I understand what the federal government and state government expect from healthcare facilities. I worked for the state as a regulatory enforcement person so when I told them the reasons they couldn’t do something it wasn’t like I was just making it up off the top of my head. I knew exactly what they wanted and why they wanted it and precisely why it was not possible.

Nonetheless they liked him better. They still didn’t get their way, like I said, my friend reported to me. Until I left things went my way.

Fast forward a few years new job new boss obviously, much lower position. That new boss tells the story of how she’s earned the reputation of always being able to get things done. Her strategy is just not to say no right away. She will tell someone that she will have to think about it to figure out how she can best accomplish the thing she was asked to do, and then get back to them. She does her research, comes up with alternatives and goes back and presents what she can do...with this resource, or, have you considered doing it this way... at any rate the requester gets what they want (mostly) and she earns the reputation as the one that gets it done.

I have seen this strategy work amazing miracles right before my very eyes. Things that I would have bet real money the administration would never do got done quickly because my boss figured out what resources we needed in order to accomplish the task that the senior management was requesting.

So class, today’s lesson is don’t say no.

You may have 1,000 reasons why the boss is wrong, or it can’t be done that way. You may feel like everything about the situation is wrong. If you come at them directly with no, and a thousand reasons why, it will build resentment over time and not help your career, or win you friends.

If you don’t like it the bosses plan or approach, if you think it can’t be done, if you’re sure there’s a better way of doing it, just say yes. Do your homework. Come back with options so that they get what they want and you feel better about giving it to them. They win, you win, everyone is happy.

For the ever so slightly opinionated folks, like me, this is very difficult. When you know you’re right and it royally pisses you off that someone is challenging you because, after all, you’re always right, holding back what you really want to say, smiling, agreeing, and walking away it’s humbling.

It’s necessary though.

It’s worth it in the end.

Learn to say yes.

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