By Mindy Wolfle
April 20, 2017
According to Brandon Smith of theworkplacetherapist.com, “One of the biggest hurdles to work/life balance is the inability to set proper boundaries. Simply put, it is our inability to tell others ‘no’ that is often the culprit behind our unbalanced and out of control lives.”
A wise advisor once told me, “It’s always best to have a solution to the problem, obstacle or violation, when saying ‘no’ to it.”
Smith adds, “The best approach to saying ‘no’ is simple. The opening 20% of the conversation should be ‘no’ and a brief ‘why.’ The remaining 80% of the conversation should consist of alternate solutions to help your boss (or whoever is asking) solve the problem without you.”
Content writer, production manager and strategist Justin Smulison adds, “The best reason to say no is due to lack of money or a plan that will put you in the red. No one will argue if something cannot be done due to insufficient funds. As a production manager, I have been pressed by sales executives to increase our space reservations with a vendor. But saying ‘no,’ would not fly, so I’d speak their language, which was a series of numbers and dollars: ‘Every page we reserve in XYZ magazine costs $2,500. The ad you want to sell is $500. So we’d be on the hook for another $2,000 just to break even. If you can justify that to our publisher, then I’ll work with you. But you have to be certain you can generate another $2,001 by tomorrow’s noon deadline.'”
In Justin’s situation, he spoke in terms that the recipient could understand; in this case, ‘money talks.’
Sheila Beckford is the pastor of the Westbury United Methodist Church. Her reflection is not delivered from the pulpit, but from her time in a corporate environment. “I was asked to train my supervisor. She was promoted because she was a friend of the manager, not because she had any knowledge of the position. I trained myself to make sure I earned the position when it became available, but was overlooked. The manager called me into the office and said ‘You will need to train the new supervisor, because she doesn’t know what she is doing.’ My response was ‘no.’ The end result: I did not train her, the manager did.”
Do you think Sheila’s direct approach would work for you?
Back to boundaries, professor emeritus at Hofstra University Arthur Dobrin, who teaches business ethics at the graduate level, states, “A proper boundary is not having a boss require you do something unethical. To say ‘no’ to this takes courage, as you are inferring that your superior isn’t such a good person. The potential price you pay for saying no to an unethical request can be steep; not only are you saying ‘no’ to your boss, you are implying that his or her character leaves something to be desired. Your objection isn’t simply to an improper boundary, but to the boss’ image as a person.”
The ethical quandary presented by Arthur may signal the time to move on – even from a company you like and a position that otherwise suits you well.
To paraphrase Shakespeare, “To say no, or not to say no, that is the question.”
Mindy Wolfle is the president of Neptune Marketing LLC, chief marketing officer of Vishnick McGovern Milizio LLP, and instructor of business writing and not-for-profit marketing in Hofstra University’s continuing education program. She is a member of Women Economic Developers of Long Island, Public Relations Professionals of Long Island, the Social Media Association and Direct Marketing Association of Long Island. Her LinkedIn profile describes her as a marketing/public relations/social media executive, writer, editor, educator, connection maker, semiotician and do-gooder.