Have Something To Say? When the Answer is No

by Sharlyn Lauby on March 2, 2010

Even when you do everything right, the answer can still end up being “no.”  You can have a great idea.  You can present it beautifully.  It can be perfect timing.  And the answer might still be no.

There are lots of reasons for this:  company doesn’t have any money, the employees aren’t skilled enough to implement the suggestion, managers can’t embrace the change, or maybe even senior leadership feels threatened by your idea.  Regardless of the reason, you have to deal with the answer.

It’s possible that, at some point, the company will have an epiphany, realize the error of their ways, beg for forgiveness and implement your suggestion.  Please don’t hold your breath for this option.  It doesn’t happen often.

What usually happens is you’re faced with making one or more of the following decisions:

Let it go. Yep, just drop it and forget about it.  Sure, you might be bummed that the organization didn’t listen to you but you’ll get over it.  This is usually a good option when the suggestion isn’t major – like where to hold the company picnic or the team shirt color.

Going on the record. This is where you make the declaration that, if something goes kablooey in the future, it’s because they didn’t listen to you and it will be all their fault.  Be careful with this option.  Think about the probability of something going wrong.  And, the impact to you if (and when) it does (or, um, doesn’t) occur.

For example, let’s say you make a suggestion which will save your company $50K and senior leadership doesn’t listen.  You feel if the company loses $50K, people will think you were somewhat responsible and it could hurt your reputation.  So, to hedge your bets, you go on the record to say the company is being stupid for not implementing your suggestion.  Later on, if the company doesn’t lose the money…you look like Chicken Little.  On the other hand, if the company does lose $50K – as you predicted, well…while that’s too bad for them, your street cred is intact.  Senior leadership then takes the hit for not listening to you.

Which leads me to the last option:

Make some major decisions about the organization. I know, the labor market it tough right now.  But the bottom line is, if your organization isn’t listening to you then you need to decide if this is a good place for you to work.  Now if they don’t listen to you about shirt colors, I wouldn’t suggest packing up your desk.  But if they’re willing to lose $50,000 over listening to you…maybe it’s time for some self-reflection.

That goes for companies too!  If you’re always saying no to someone, ask yourself why.  And don’t act surprised if an employee leaves because you don’t listen to them.

How a “no” is handled says a lot about the suggestion, the decision and the people involved.  By handling rejection the right way, you can define yourself as a leader.

P.S.  Thanks to Workshifting blog for publishing my guest post, “7 Considerations for Setting Up a Home Office”.  If you’re not familiar with this blog, definitely check it out.  The blog is maintained by New Marketing Labs and Citrix and the content focuses on the nuances of working from your home, out of coffee shops, hotels, and airports every bit as much as in a physical office.  I’m very appreciative and excited to be a part of this group.

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