The idea of teaching your employees to say no may seem counterintuitive. I mean, you’ve hired them because you want and need them to do certain things to help your business run successfully.
So how is it possible to keep your business running smoothly with people refusing to do certain things?
The reality is that it’s more complicated that that.
Having employees who say yes to whatever is thrown at them may seem to heighten productivity. However, the reality is that people who are not able to recognize their needs and set boundaries are much more likely to experience conflict, to become disengaged in their work, and/or to suffer a burn out.
What may seem like heightened productivity in the short term ends up being much more costly over time.
Once you consider the long-term costs of lost productivity, increased turnover rates, presenteeism and burnout that can be attributed to a culture in which people don’t feel safe speaking up, you’ll realize that it’s worth investing in this work.
Now, as you read this, you may find yourself feeling concerned that encouraging your employees to speak up and say no may lead to an environment where your employees start trying to run the show. You may fear that you’ll lose your ability to get them to do what needs to be done for your business to run successfully.
However, in an environment where everyone respects one another’s boundaries, this isn’t what happens.
Instead, when there’s an environment where employees feel that they can raise concerns and that someone will listen enough to try to understand their concerns, it becomes easier to identify the parameters within which everyone can work well together.
Instead of a climate of “us against them” it becomes one of people working together collaboratively, for the good of everyone.
For instance, if someone doesn’t feel they have enough time to do an urgent task that is being asked of them, looking at it from a collaborative perspective would mean brainstorming solutions where the task can be completed as needed, while also respecting the current workload of the person being approached. Possible solutions might include reprioritizing the other responsibilities the person is managing, reassigning certain tasks to another team member or finding someone else to do the new task altogether.
Respecting the “no” and looking at the reasons behind it can help everyone understand and adapt to the situation more fully.
At the end of the day, the more you listen to someone’s concerns, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to find a solution that works for both of you.
Here are a few things you can do here to encourage your employees to feel safe saying “no”.
1. Model how to say no
Work on setting good boundaries yourself – with senior management, your colleagues, your employees, your clients and even between home and work life. If your employees see you saying “no” to certain things, they’ll know they can safely do so when needed.
If an employee has said no or is arguing against certain projects or decisions, try not to bulldoze over them with your authority. This sends a clear message that their perspective doesn’t matter. Instead, approach the situation with curiosity and a desire to understand.
At the end of the day, when you’re in a leadership or management position, the final call will still be yours to make. Just keep in mind that the greatest growth comes when employees are allowed to challenge the status quo and give leaders some food for thought to reflect on as they are making decisions.
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