Never Say No

Have you come across a manager who never says ‘No’? I am sure many can relate to experiences with a manager, or some other executive in the corporate jungle, who is always smiling and saying, “Of course, will do” or “Not a problem” or a reassuring “Consider it done”.

As a novice, your initial reaction to interaction with such a saint, who giveth unconditionally, is one of elation. You want a two-week vacation starting tomorrow? Approved. Five thousand dollars for a company picnic? Go right ahead. Taking this a notch higher, could we hire a new contract programmer for a year? Yes, of course. And, how about an additional million dollars for the departmental budget – wink, wink, you know the answer.

Before you start wondering how rosy the world would be under such a benevolent corporate ruler, let us see how this actually translates into real (in)action. First, this manager would carefully ensure that he is not directly responsible for implementing his ill-thought-out decisions. He is depending, if not betting, on the convoluted corporate maze wherein someone else would block and tackle and actually stop the run (sorry, non-football folks, for the analogy). Maybe a HR manager will point out that the concerned employee has no vacation days left; or, no picnic locations nearby are available for the entire summer; and so on. The Machiavellian strategy is to make sure that the blame for inaction and non-implementation falls on someone else. In fact, the more experienced manager ensures that it is so, by being forearmed with relevant constraints and limitations.

A popular variation of the above theme is to give away things that are not in your domain or purview. A sales manager selling an expensive computer to a customer who does not want to buy extended warranty whispers to the customer, “don’t worry, you can always call our service department and ask for help”. When your Director asks you if you could compile an urgent sales report before the end of the day, and you are already up to your neck in other work, you obviously don’t say ‘no’ or ‘sorry’ but puff and pant and smartly state, “I am fully booked but no worries –  I will ask Beth in Operations to do this. I am sure she will be delighted to chip in”.

For more sensational, and, naturally, devastating effects, you need to move up the organization where C-Level executives are interacting with external entities. A customer manager, who is causing inordinate delays and is being diligently handled by your company’s project team, suddenly wants the project time reduced by half because she wants to go on a cruise. She approaches your VP of Projects and readily gets her wish granted. This then results not only in the frustrated project team members working weekends but sends a lot of other projects into a tailspin.

So, the moral of the story – learn to say ‘No problem’ and create problems!