6 Reasons Saying “No” Can Be Fantastic For Your Career!

May 25, 2016

Picture this…you’re in a meeting with several respected co-workers, your boss and your bosses boss. The meeting was billed as a brainstorming session to solve the latest problem that’s keeping everyone up at night.

You all take your seats and listen intently as the boss kicks things off. He shares that a lot of research has gone into this topic and today he wants to share with you his idea of how the problem can be solved. Ok, well so much for the brainstorming portion of the meeting!

He proceeds to distribute a project plan complete with milestone dates, deliverables and a goal to rid the world of this latest problem by the start of the next fiscal year. Then he does the unthinkable…he asks each attendee individually what they think of the idea.

One by one, your trusted colleagues fall prey to the expectation and utter a resounding “yes” I think this will work. The inner voice is your head is screaming WHAT?!? Are you guys nuts? This is never going to work.

The seconds tick by as the last co-worker before you falls unceremoniously on their sword as well. Suddenly you’re on center stage. Do you line up safely with all of the other “yes” votes in the room, or do you step out and stand alone?

While it’s admittedly tricky to navigate, saying “No” can actually be a great career move for a host of reasons.

  1. Not all ideas are good. Realistically some ideas are just bad. And it’s important to realize that a “yes” response places ownership for the success (or failure) squarely on your shoulders…even if the idea wasn’t yours initially.
  2. “No” shows confidence. Admittedly, it’s always easier (at least initially) to say “yes.” But understand that a “no” vote shows a great deal of inner confidence. For those with their eye on leadership positions, demonstrating confidence is a pre-requisite to that next rung on the proverbial ladder.
  3. Weak leaders crave affirmation. Some leaders truly work to surround themselves with team members that support their every whim. The problem is that teams of “yes” men rarely accomplish as much as those who are free to disagree, challenge and improve each other’s ideas. If you’re working for a leader who expects full agreement of their every whim, most agree your future is limited anyway so it might be time to dust off that resume.
  4. Prioritize your results. Look, the reality is that none of us ever have enough time in the day. So saying “yes” to every request simply means that you have less time to spend on efforts that will produce greater results. And hello…move your career to the next level!
  5. Generates opportunities. When you have the courage to disagree, leadership often offers the opportunity for you to explain your position. Where as a “yes” vote leaves you squarely with the pack and no chance to showcase your abilities. When you use this time to highlight your ability to think strategically and pose a more viable solution, you’ve maximized the chance to “rise above” the head-nodders.
  6. Stay Engaged. Realistically if you want to achieve long-term success at work, you simply have to stay engaged. Being engaged means you enjoy the initiatives you’re working on and can easily see how they positively impact the corporate goals. But when you say “yes” to crazy ideas that you honestly believe will implode, you’ve effectively set yourself for a roller coaster of frustration and dissatisfaction. Not to mention possible performance problems.

Keep in mind you also don’t want to be the proverbial “Negative Nelly” that disagrees with every idea. The whole point is that your employer pays you to have a brain, talent, intelligence and gut instinct.

So when things don’t add up, trust your gut, choose your words wisely and share a better idea!

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