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Honey, Just say "No"
Saturday, December 19, 2009
The word ‘No’ is definitely the most reviled word to hear when you were
a toddler. Nowadays, as parents this is the word which we use zillions
of times a day at home when our 4+ year old son, ‘invents’,
‘discovers’, ‘nags’, ‘screams’ and so on.
I think too much ‘No’s’
childhood might have created an aversion towards the word ‘No’ in me.
Whenever, my team members say something is impossible, my reply would
be, “ the word No’ is not in my vocabulary”. Everything is possible is
what I used to say to my team when we were stuck with either a
challenging task or a nonsense request from the client or occasionally
a situation arising from stupidity of others or due to a false
assurance made by someone who do not understand how things are
accomplished professionally. On a scale of 1 –10, I was right 9 times,
that “it’s possible”, I should say with pride.
However, may be due to
workaholic nature, many occasions, where I should have said ‘No’, I
either forgot to tell or I avoided telling ‘No’ or I simply accepted
the tasks or mediocre orders and later regretted. Some people used to
take ‘advantage’ of my only ‘Achilles' heel’ and most of them benefited
from it mostly in the form of ‘fame’, ‘status’, ‘money’ and other
Why I didn’t say ‘No’
research! I may blame it on our great Indian culture that teaches or
preaches the disciples to make the life meaningful through our actions.
Through metaphors from our epics and holy books we, Indians are
‘programmed’ to be tolerant, dutiful, respectful and to have all the
good virtues depicted in our holy books.
When I was a kid, I used
to quiz why the great Asura King, Mahabali
agreed to give the three paces (steps) of land for ‘Vamana’, the
incarnation of Lord
Why he didn’t say ‘No’? Even the King ignored the warning even from his
guru. The story goes on as Vamana measured all the worlds and the sky
with just two paces. Then, Mahabali offered himself as the third pace
and was thus banished to the Patala
the nether world.
Anyway, my guru
that always the ‘good will triumph over the evil’. But the irony is
that we are not ‘Saints’ or can’t expect incarnations of the supreme to
appear like those days to slay the evildoers. The only certainty is to
learn how to say ‘No’, in situations, where our conscience disagrees
with what you were asked to do by someone, even if s/he is your
superior or elder to you. You need to be the judge of your actions and
The best seller “The
Book of NO
(250 ways to say it – and mean it and stop People Pleasing Forever) by
Susan Newman illustrates plethora of situations that we may
at the workplace and private life and guides you how to say ‘No’.
Have you ever counted
number of times you said ‘No’ while at work? It would be very rare or
nil, if the requester always is your boss, right?
Recently, a legal
one of the UAE banks was asked by his supervisor to perform a diligence
exercise on a proposed merger of two banks. On a closer look, the
employee realized that the task has nothing related to the bank where
he is working and on further quizzing the ‘boss’ agreed that this is
his personal work and what he was asking is a ‘personal favor’. The
irritated employee said ‘No’ as this was not part of his job and also
has nothing to do with the employer, the bank.
In the corporate world
such personal favors or unethical job requests like changing of HR
records, manipulation of data and the like from unprofessional and
callous bosses come on a daily basis and the unfortunate subordinate
employees, most of the time, do not have much choice except to say
‘Yes’ instead of ‘No’.
Similarly, using the
as a Trojan and compelling him/her to reply emails to clients or
suppliers with the text dictated by the supervisor, just to create
friction or to convey to the Client or the Supplier what the supervisor
wanted to say is also not uncommon these days.
In such situations, the
employee should be saying ‘No’. However, if the employee is “weak” or
is a “saint”, then there will not be any end to it, as s/he will be
taken for granted incessantly.
The moment you say ‘No’
insipid supervisor, we can expect the countdown for employee’s exit
soon. Recently, I received an email from one of my female friends
working in a bSME (below the SME category business) explaining the
reasons that triggered her resignation. The major reason was the
attitude of her female toxic boss (trying to emulate the female CEO in
the 2006 movie, ‘ The Devil
wears Prada’; please
link to watch the clipping!)
who used to hate this female employee since the day the employee defied
Boss’s pressure to manipulate the core data ‘black box’ of the company.
Since then, boss catches my friend for wrong or fictitious or
unreasonable reasons such as not complying with the dress
carrying boss’s luggage during one of the business travels, her
personal hygiene etc. Even after the employee submitted her
resignation, the harassment continued in the form of delaying the
resignation acceptance and withholding of her end of service
entitlements. Sometimes, the ‘No’ bears a mega price tag!
An employee should
art of saying ‘No’ in a very diplomatic ways if the situation demands
such diplomacy. But diplomacy should not to be the criteria, if someone
is using you as a ‘tool’ to do bad or inappropriate tasks. Remember,
the requester may not have a conscience but you may be having one!
Even though I preached
diplomacy, but in circumstances where the employee feels that s/he has
been used or the request is unethical and against all known norms, then
definitely the employee with no hesitation should turn it down with a
‘big No’ giving diplomacy a vacation. The power of this two-letter word
(‘No’) is amazing, ‘yes’, if aptly used!
Do feel free to post your comments!
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