When a demanding customer asks a penetration tester to provide the exact commands on how to remediate the issue, what should the penetration tester do?
When an angry boss insists on the unreal deadlines, what should the employee do?
When a junior colleague allows themselves to produce low quality outcomes and then asks for the salary raise, what should the manager do?
Without doubts, they should communicate. And most probably, some of them should say “No”, without a guilt.
The actual choices
In many situations, unless you say “No”, you make the wrong decision. And your choices look like:
- Say “no” and feel like a rulebreaker.
- Wait for some time, and feel like you’re an old wise owl who is capable to amazingly listen to other people, like all the experts do all the time.
- Say “yes” and bring problems to your business, to your team, and to yourself.
- Say “you are idiot, don’t fork that repository but go fork yourself”. Feels fantastic, by the way.
What I experience in my coaching practice is that the options 3 and 4 are not really valid most of the time, fortunately. Moreover, if anybody consciously chooses between options 3 or 4 – it might be too late for the rational decision making. This person should ask for time and then ask somebody for help.
Thus, the actual, real choice there – is a choice between “say no immediately” or “wait for some time”.
How to discover the right choice
The big trap at this stage is to make the Pros/Cons analysis in the head. This approach is not applicable there, as we should work with people. Otherwise – we would have to make a Pros/Cons table for every participant there, we should consider their responsibilities, desires, emotions, and so on… Too many tables. And too many thoughts in a single head. It’s just too complicated to think there in this way.
We should switch from Pros/Cons approach to considering the most important factors:
- How this request aligns with your responsibilities?
- Considering the opportunity costs, are you available to do this in this way?
- How this additional task will affect the customer, the supplier, and personally you?
Remember, that, it’s completely normal to feel uncertain in uncommon situations. Strange behavior is a valid reason to feel uncomfortable, but is not a valid reason to give up.
How to act accordingly with the right choice
Here we are. You see that you have to say no, but you can’t. You just can’t. Why?
I believe, that the actual reason is that there’s a chance, that you might just wait and the problem will fade away, of course. And to be honest, that’s exactly what happens most of the time. You just wait, then someone else solves your problem (or you suffer for some time, but you’re innocent of course). So the situation: you have a real chance to do not say “no”, but still do nothing. If you have this chance, why do not try to use it?
The real answer there lies in the sacrament question – who you wanna be? If you wanna be the top performer, you should say “no” and then go and perform what you really have to do. If you wait, you’re counterproductive, even if you will wait for some time. While you wait, your competitors might decide to do something useful. While you feel the blame all this time, they feel it for a few minutes only. Do you want to be a leader in your field? Perform well and live an exciting life, otherwise – feel free to wait.