Professional Development

Learn How to Say No

Being a project manager is a tricky job that needs a lot of people skills. Answers have to be given to clients, who often pressure for an acceptance even when the requested deadlines are almost impossible to meet or the allocated budget is too low compared to the actual efforts that will be spent. Subordinates also come with all kinds of requests like leave approval or change of work allocated. The project manager plays the tough role of decision maker.

Why Is It Difficult to Say No?

  • There is the fear of a bad performance review or, worse still, being stripped of the project manager’s role.
  • It is used to cover up a prior erroneous estimation or decision.
  • It is tempting to give in to their appeals to gain their favor and respect.

But respect is earned, not bought by saying yes when you mean no. Don’t give people the answer they want to hear, give them the truth. They may not like it at first, but they will eventually appreciate your honesty and judgment.

Tips to Saying No:

  • Understand that saying no is not the right way to avoid conflict. It will solve the problem for the time-being, but the consequences will be more severe in the long term.
  • Use the power of convincing, backed by solid facts. Numerical data is always the best, because it is not subjective and therefore, cannot be opposed.
  • Don’t give in to pressure from higher ranks or a large number of people on the opposing side. You don’t need support if you believe in your decision. Instead, encourage a group discussion to understand the problem and come up with resolutions together. In this way, you have truly managed the situation, converting the negative confrontation into a positive mutually-agreeable decision.
  • More often than not, the other party also knows that they are asking for something that is not achievable. The project manager’s decision to say yes to please them actually turns out to be a bad move, because it has jeopardized the manager’s future credibility.

The project manager, the team under him/her and the company will suffer if every request from clients and subordinates is obliged. Knowing when to say no is important, but it is more important to know how to say it firmly to assert authority, yet politely so as not to hurt anyone’s feelings. Learning how to say no helps in effective time management and allows for high-quality work being delivered.