Whether it's a business decision or something related to everyday life, saying 'no' to something can be difficult. Even the most confident person may hesitate or feel insecure about, for instance, changing a decision or reversing someone's idea. However, the ability to stay strong is critical for decision-making and is a part of the successful business strategy. So why is it often so hard to say no?
The hesitation can exist at every company level, from junior positions to the C-suite, but saying yes to everything will cause nothing but problems. With each request or proposal, it's important to acknowledge what's important and what's not. Often, human factors may not let us make the right decision because we believe we should always be nice to people or we may want to give a second chance to that project that has been in the development for too long. In fact, saying 'no' has nothing to do with a bad attitude, it is simply a prioritization.
It's a good sign when colleagues make requests from people in the workplace as it shows they trust others and recognize their skill. Such belief in others should be appreciated, but it doesn't mean every request should be granted. No matter how capable or talented the person is, additional work may lead to failed promises or burnout from trying to please everyone. As a result, the trust may disappear quickly and more problems will be created.
Saying 'no' in a business context, will seldom be taken as rude and those who can manage their time effectively through being selective over their projects are often the most successful overall. It is not simply in the ways that people take on tasks or communicate with one another, but also how innovation is managed.
When it comes to innovation projects, ideas cannot just be ‘good enough’, they must be disruptive. There are projects that have got potential, but they need a kick. Let’s imagine the R&D department where one of the developers pitches a new idea during a meeting. The leadership team shows its interest in the new product, but there is no certainty that the investment will pay off. Instead of abandoning that idea, the executives say ‘no’ for the moment, but mention that it can become a ’yes’, if the product improves according to the company’s strategy. This then drives teams to work on their idea to make a better product in the future, increasing the potential for the product to be a genuine game changer.
There are cases where these kinds of projects are green-lit simply because significant amounts time and money have already been spent. Thinking like this is a recipe for failure because a product is introduced to the market that is likely to be raw, not as well thought out and not produce value for consumers.
There must be a careful balance in decision-making and rejecting someone’s idea for short term cost savings may cost you in long-term profit. Let's imagine another situation, where a member of the marketing team proposes to use a new marketing platform which requires the bulk of the manager’s time during implementation. After considering all sides, the Head of Marketing decides to say ‘no’, because sacrificing the manager’s duties and focusing on the idea with no reliable forecast is not safe. Any project is time-consuming, meaning the duties would have to be transferred elsewhere. Avoiding risks is a safe bet, but it won’t progress the innovative drive of the company. The company may well avoid significant disruption, but ultimately it will be losing out on the potential that the new marketing system will bring in the long run.
Saying ‘no’ is obviously not the answer to every problem. It’s a tool that can stop a company from making an important strategic decision based on gut feeling alone and those who utilize rejection within a company effectively are likely to reap the rewards in the long term.