I’ve spent a fair portion of my career working with a CEO or two that weren’t overly comfortable with saying “no”. More than once I was responsible for sorting through two or more yeses on our charted course when there really was only one.
Many of us don’t like to say no to a coworker or a boss—for instance, when the boss asks for a tighter deadline, or a team member needs a longer one—because we’re worried about damaging the relationship. That’s because it often feels synonymous with confrontation. And whether you are conflict-averse or conflict-ready, your counterpart may not always handle hearing no the way you’d hoped.
For any of you that might occasionally struggle with “no” there is a good article on Harvard Business Review that offers some good tips that might be of some help, including the neutral no and not giving false hope.
Saying no neutrally doesn’t necessarily come naturally. To get better at it, practice ahead of time with someone who will push back. Eventually, it’ll become easier to say yes to saying no – without destroying important relationships.
In my experience it’s critical to be able to communicate both “yes” and “no” effectively. Don’t be the “yes man” or the “no guy”. If you can’t manage both effectively, in relatively short order staff will begin to question your leadership, corporate culture will take a hit and your results will eventually falter.