I’m embarrassed how often I do things I don’t want to do because I’m afraid of looking bad. I agree to things I don’t want to do. I even suggest doing things I don’t want to do, because I think it will look bad if I don’t. Then I have deep regrets.
If I’m aware of this practice, why do I keep doing it, over and over and over? I suspect the need to look good and be liked is so pervasive, it over-powers reason and self-talk. Telling myself, “Don’t do it. You will regret this,” doesn’t help. The need for approval is all-powerful (to me).
My old boss told me many years ago, “Your need to be liked will kill you as a manager,” and he was right. It’s why I can’t interview my own candidates. I want them to like me too.
I suspect I’m not alone here. I lot of us say yes when we want to say no. We extend ourselves and regret it later.
What can be done, at an organizational level, to prevent ourselves and fellow employees from over-extending?
Sanction, at a team and organizational level, that sometimes it’s ok to say no.
Suggest that at times people take 24-hours before agreeing to take on a new task or project.
Make room for negotiation, so people can say yes on terms that work for them.
Authenticity wins. Speak your truth and know that it’s ok.
Many people struggle to say no. As a result, when someone has a request that we can’t or don’t want to meet, we often say nothing. We simply don’t respond. Or we put the person off telling them we’ll get back to them. Then people wonder. “Did they get my request? Should I send the request again? Will I look bad if I ask again? How many times should I ask before I just let the request go?”
Saying no is better than saying nothing. No gives people closure. Silence leaves people in limbo wondering what they should do next.
Saying no is hard. We don’t want to disappoint or let people down. And yet, you can’t say yes to everything. You can say no and still sound like a responsible, easy-to-work-with, accommodating professional.
Here are ways to say no:
Thank the person for asking. “Thank you for asking me.”
Saying “thank you” acknowledges the other person and buys you time to think about their request.
Tell the person you need some time to think about their request. Ask, “Can I have a few days to think about it? I’ll get back to you by Friday.”
You don’t need to reply in the moment. I often regret things I agree to without thinking through the request thoroughly.
Consider what you really want and are willing to do. It’s much worse to over commit and under deliver than to simply say no or renegotiate requests.
Get back to the person in a timely way (when you said you would) and tell them what you’re willing to do.
How to Say No Option One: Simply say no.
Example: “I really appreciate you asking me to write the proposal for the __________ RFP. I’m not able to do that. Can I recommend someone else who has the expertise and time to do a great job?”
Don’t give a bunch of reasons for saying no. People aren’t interested in why we can or can’t do something; they just want to know if we will do it.
How to Say No Option Two: Agree and negotiate the time frame.
Example: “I’d be happy to do that. I can’t do it before the last week of the month. Would that work for you?” If the answer is no, negotiate further. Ask, “When do you really need it? I can certainly do pieces by then, but not the whole thing. Given that I can’t meet your timeline, who else can work on this in tandem or instead of me?”
How to Say No Option Three: Say no to the request but say what you can do.
Example: “I can’t do _______. But I can do ________. How would that work?”
A review of how to say no:
Acknowledge the request by getting back to the requestor within 24 hours.
Give yourself time to think about and respond to requests.
Negotiate requests to your and the requestor’s satisfaction.
Agree on what you can and are willing to do.
Keep your commitments.
Saying no is always hard. But it’s always better to say no than to ignore requests, or to say yes and do nothing.
“If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Most of us grew up hearing these words. Last week I used them with my six-year-old son, and instantly regretted it. He said something hurtful to me and I told him to keep those thoughts to himself.
I want him to keep his thoughts to himself if he doesn’t like a kid at school or doesn’t want to play with someone. Walk away, find another place to play, is often my guidance. But with me? With me I want him to be honest, always, even if it hurts.
Every time we talk with people, we train them how to interact with us. If I tell my son not to tell me the truth, I teach him to protect my emotions and stifle his. I teach him I’m not strong enough to handle the truth and that I’m someone who needs protecting. I teach him that he can’t be honest with me.
If you want your coworkers, boss, family and friends to be honest with you, make it easy to tell you the truth. Take in what others say without visibly reacting. Say “thank you” for whatever feedback and input you get, even when you want to say everything but. Take the time to ‘get over’ hard messages and then discuss further, when you’re not angry.
People learn quickly. If we react to suggestions, input, and feedback negatively, people learn that we can’t take challenging data and they stop giving it to us. I don’t want to be the person the people I care about are afraid to talk with because my reaction is just too hard to deal with.
Should you care about everyone’s feedback? No. Should you ask everyone for feedback? No. Should you be open to everyone’s feedback? No. Be open to feedback from the people who matter most to you. Open your heart and your mind. Close your mouth. Even when you want to do everything but. Strengthen your relationships and train people that you can handle the truth.
You’ve either seen the video or heard about the group think that happened before NASA’s Challenger exploded in 1986. One engineer felt strongly that there was a defect in the Challenger’s design. He spoke up, others disagreed. He continued to speak up, until it became very uncomfortable to do so.
Most employees don’t even get that far. Many employees are afraid to speak up at all, feeling that it’s not ok to have a counter point of view, and that those who disagree with ‘management’ are eventually fired. I honestly am not sure where this comes from. It hasn’t been my experience, and yet the fear of speaking up is pervasive. I hear it in almost every organization with which I work.
If it’s not ok to express different opinions, your organization will deliver the same-old products and services you always have. If staying the same works in your industry, great. But stagnation is detrimental to most organizations.
If you want more innovation in the workplace, you have to make it safe to speak up and offer a different point of view. Saying new, different, and even controversial things must be encourage and rewarded.
Five Ways to Encourage Innovation In the Workplace:
Wait until you get both. Don’t allow a meeting or discussion to move on until you get new, opposing, and different points of view.
Positively acknowledge people who risk and say something new or different from the norm.
Ensure people with new ideas and different points of view are allowed to finish speaking before they’re interrupted or before someone else tries to negate their ideas.
Create a few new awards in your organization and announce winners publicly and with great fanfare. You get what you reward.
Create Awards to Encourage Innovation In the Workplace:
Acknowledge the person who fails massively trying something new.
Award the person who brings new ideas to the table, regardless of what happens to those ideas.
Celebrate the person who willingly gives you the worst news.
The fear of speaking up and saying something new or different will destroy your innovation efforts. It will also squelch your employees’ ambition and ability to be creative. Make it safe to tell the truth, even when the truth is hard to understand or unpopular, and see what happens to innovation, creativity, and employee productivity and morale.
We’ve all heard about the great workplace exodus. Over the last two years, millions of people have quit their jobs in favor of doing something different. You too may have realized that you want something different from life and work.
Despite wanting something different, you may find it difficult to make those requests at work. You may be worried that if you ask for what you want, you’ll be fired before you’re ready to leave, or you’ll be seen as disloyal and unreliable, and thus not promotable. Many people suffer in silence fearing that speaking up will get them ‘in trouble.’
Regardless of your concerns, you aren’t likely to get what you don’t ask for. So how do you ask?
Here are five steps to ask for what you want at work:
Become very clear about what you need and want. Don’t have a conversation with your manager that sounds like a conversation with a friend. “I don’t know what I want. I just know it isn’t this.”
Lead with your intentions. Difficult conversations are easier when we start the conversation with our intention. “I really love this company and I want to stay here.”
Then make a clear ask. “I’ve realized over the past two years that I really want to be doing ____________. I’m wondering if there is an opportunity to do that kind of work here?” Or, “I’ve realized that I really want to live in __________” Or, I’ve realized that I really want to work a flexible schedule.”
Create a plan. “Can we make a plan to move me to ___________ department or role in next 12 months?” Or, “Can we make a plan to make that happen in the next 12 months?”
Don’t give ultimatums. No one likes to be forced. Negotiate a realistic time period to make your desired changes. Saying “I need this, or I have to leave now” isn’t likely to produce the result you’re looking for. “What’s a realistic time period to make this transition?” is better.
You can make requests as I’ve suggested and still not get what you want. Then you have decisions to make. But you are unlikely to get what you don’t ask for. Asking for what you want, in a professional way, is better than leaving, never knowing if your needs could have been negotiated.
So much has changed in the last year and a half. And what you need to be happy at work may have changed too. The question is, do the people you work for and with know what you need now?
You aren’t likely to get what you don’t ask for, but most people don’t ask for very much. We assume that the people we work with will do the right thing without prompting. We’ll get the recognition and compensation we deserve at work because it’s the right thing to do. We’ll be included in important meetings and decisions regardless of from where we are working.
If you read this blog regularly, you already know that I’m a proponent of setting clear expectations and asking more questions before problems occur. Consider what you want and need, anticipate what can go wrong, and plan accordingly before problems happen. Doing that sounds great in theory, but how does it work in practice?
Here are five ways to increase your job satisfaction:
Increasing your job satisfaction tip one: Be honest with yourself about what you need to be happy at work. Rather than tell yourself you won’t get what you need or try to convince yourself that you shouldn’t need something, just admit your needs to yourself.
Increasing your job satisfaction tip two: Share your needs with people who can help you get those needs met. Don’t make people guess. Chances are they won’t guess at all or will guess wrong.
Increasing your job satisfaction tip three: Don’t assume things will go well and just wait and see what happens. Instead, set clear expectations at the beginning of new projects and working relationships.
Here’s how that could sound: “We’re going to be working together for the next six months. Let’s talk about how everyone likes to communicate, what people’s pet peeves are, and the kind of information each person wants to receive.”
Here’s another example of how that could sound: “I’m excited to work on this project with you. There are a few things to know about me that will help us work well together and deliver timely results. I ask a lot of questions. Let me know if this frustrates you. I’m not questioning you; I just have a need to understand why we do what we do. And I work best with a deadline. I am happy to be available off hours, but you probably won’t hear from me before 9 am. You will get messages and work from me at night and on the weekends. Just let me know if you’d prefer I schedule messages to go out during regular business hours.”
People might give you what you need if you ask, but they likely won’t if you don’t. Train others how to work with you.
Increasing your job satisfaction tip four: Agree to talk about things as they happen. Don’t wait until you’re about to explode to speak up.
That could sound like, “I want us to work well together, and things will go wrong. Can we agree that we’ll provide feedback as things happen so we can make timely adjustments?”
Increasing your job satisfaction tip five: Renegotiate when you need to. If you realize you need or want something that you didn’t ask for, go back and ask. It’s never too late.
Here’s how that could sound, “We touch base about once a month and I’m realizing that if we could talk for about 20 minutes once a week, I’d be able to get more done. Can we make that happen?”
Job satisfaction and happiness don’t just happen. The people you work with are not you and they don’t know what you need. Make a regular practice of identifying what you need, making those needs known, and then speaking up when things go awry. You won’t get what you don’t ask for, but you will get what you allow.
It’s been almost two years that we’ve been looking into people’s homes on Zoom. Life and work have changed, and people have a variety of feelings about those changes. Some people miss working in person and can’t wait to go back to the office. Some people love working from home and never want to go back. What’s important is the ability to talk about how we feel and what we need from work – with the people we work for.
Most people suffer in silence, concerned to ask for what they want or need at work. Managers find out their employees are unhappy when they come across employees’ resumes on the internet.
The world has changed and how we interact needs to change to. Your manager may not be able to allow you to work from home all the time, but she certainly won’t if you don’t tell her what you want.
We need to cross the line, having conversations that perhaps we haven’t had in the past.
Managers, in addition to checking in on work progress, talk about how employees are doing and what they need going forward to be satisfied and do their best work.
Questions to ask during regular check-ins:
I’m not a fan of asking, “How are you doing?” It’s a vague question, and vague questions produce vague answers. But many employees will go their whole career without being asked how they’re doing. It demonstrates caring. It’s a place to start.
Here are some better questions to ask employees:
What’s changed for you in the last 18 months?
What have you learned about yourself in the last 18 months?
What has changed about what you need from work, if anything, in the last 18 months?
What would you tell me if you weren’t concerned about how I would react?
Managers, even if you ask these questions, employees may not feel comfortable answering. Managers can lead by example by talking about themselves. Share how your life, needs, and desires have changed. Share your own constraints. When managers show vulnerability, they convey it’s ok for employees to do so as well.
Also, tell employees that you really want to know the answers to the questions and assure employees there won’t be negative consequences for speaking candidly. Projects won’t be taken away. Careers won’t be impacted. You’re just talking. If employees never want to come into the office or travel, or want to work part-time, yes, jobs and careers may be impacted. But a conversation is just that, a conversation.
Companies want people who make things happen. And to make things happen, you have to speak up. Anticipating the train wreck and commenting after the train goes off the tracks doesn’t count.
What if you said what you thought, in a way other people could hear you, when you had the right to do so? Meaning, you have the relationship with the other person to tell the truth and you’ve asked permission to be candid?
6 Courageous Steps to Advance Your Career:
Look for opportunities to make things better.
Ask for permission to take the ball and run with it.
Find a way to say no, while engaging the other person in a conversation so a new approach is generated.
Be willing to go out on a limb, work hard, and fail.
Here’s how to speak up for change without being labeled as the problem person who finds flaws in everything:
Look for and present solutions, not just problems.
Offer to do the work to move towards a better way of doing things. Don’t drop problems at other people’s doors.
Ask questions versus overtly say that something is wrong. That could sound something like, “I’d love to help. Tell me more about how this works. Maybe we can insert a step to make the process better. What do you think of trying ________?” No one likes to be told he’s wrong. Asking questions elicits participation more than overtly saying, “This is broken. We need to fix it.”
Many people are afraid to speak up at work and believe that people who speak up get fired. I haven’t found this to be the case. People who work hard and produce results are typically the last people to be let go.
Say what you think in a way that is not critical. Offer solutions not just problems. Be a force for good and take an active role in making things better. And my hunch is your career will accelerate faster than you ever thought possible.
“If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at
all.” Most of us grew up hearing these words. Last week I used them with my
four-year-old son, and instantly regretted it. He said something hurtful to me
and I told him to keep those thoughts to himself.
I want him to keep his thoughts to himself if he doesn’t
like a kid at school or doesn’t want to play with someone. Walk away, find
another place to play, is often my guidance. But with me? With me I want him to
be honest, always, even if it hurts.
Every time we talk with people, we train them how to
interact with us. If I tell my son not to tell me the truth, I teach him to
protect my emotions and stifle his. I teach him I’m not strong enough to handle
the truth and that I’m someone who needs protecting. I teach him that he can’t
be honest with me.
Do I want him to be a kind, empathetic person? Yes. Do I
want him to measure himself with others, watching what he says and how he says
it? Yes. Do I want him to do those things with me? No. I’m the mom. He’s the
kid. And that will always be the case, even when he’s 45. I can take whatever
he has to say. And if I want to have a real relationship with him, he needs to
Every time we react to what others say, we train them how to
interact with us. If you want your coworkers, boss, family and friends to be
honest with you, make it easy to tell you the truth. Take in what others say
without visibly reacting. Say “thank you” for whatever feedback and input you
get, even when you want to say everything but. Take the time to ‘get over’ hard
messages and then discuss further, when you’re not angry.
People learn quickly. If we react to suggestions, input, and
feedback negatively, people learn that we can’t take challenging data and they
stop giving it to us. I don’t want to be the person the people I care about are
afraid to talk with because my reaction is just too hard to deal with.
Should you care about everyone’s feedback? No. Should you
ask everyone for feedback? No. Should you be open to everyone’s feedback? No.
Be open to feedback from the people who matter most to you. Open your heart and
your mind. Close your mouth. Even when you want to do everything but.
Strengthen your relationships and train people that you can handle the truth.
Note: I know this blog is not what my weekly tip said it
would be about. I write the weekly tips before the blog and this blog just went
a different direction. Everything I write is inspiration driven. I’ll write
about the courage to speak up in a future week.
My four-year-old son Grayson likes to narrate. He gives instructions
to people he doesn’t know, tries to be “helpful” and keeps everyone informed.
Today we rode a miniature train Grayson has ridden many
times. He has the instructions memorized. “Keep your arms and legs inside the
train. Stay seated while the train is in motion, etc. etc.” While we were
waiting to ride the train he informed everyone standing in line of the rules. The
other parents were patient and indulged him, smiling and asking questions. When
we got on the train Grayson continued to give instructions, and I became
embarrassed. Self-conscious that my son
was irritating other passengers, I told him to be quiet. He looked at me and wisely
asked, “Why are you shushing me?” And then I was even more embarrassed.
He was right to ask. Why, indeed, was I shushing him?
Before I had children, I always hoped my child would be one
of those kids who wore superhero costumes everywhere, who didn’t care what anyone
thought, who was unabashedly himself. And I wondered, at what age do kids
become self-conscious? When do they begin to lose this level of self-expression?
And then I had one answer, when adults tell them to.
I imposed an old ‘rule’ on my son, “children are meant to be
seen and not heard.” Sit quietly. Don’t stand out and don’t inconvenience others.
Where are you sitting silent, stifling your views? What do
you know a lot about, but keep your skills or expertise under wraps? When do
you have a solution or a better way to approach a problem, but you don’t share?
Share your ideas. Do it in a way that doesn’t tell others they are wrong. It’s ok to have the answer. You can be right without being righteous. It’s ok to speak up.
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