Two modest letters combine to create one powerful statement - “NO”. Thinking strategically, we can selectively use “no” to stay in control of our time and resources. Amy Gallo’s HBR’s Best on Saying No to More Work reminds us to:
Days later, when I passed my boss in the hallway, he stopped me to say that his budget was approved, including my 5% raise. Shocked that it wasn’t a double-digit increase, I let my expression say it all – confusion, betrayal and fury. His talk of budget constraints fell on deaf ears. When he stopped talking I replied, “If I accept this raise, I will be accepting that you believe this is all my contribution is worth. So, I can’t take this – please work with your team on something more reasonable.” He answered, “I can’t do that.” I replied, “I bet you can. If it is impossible, then I’m not sure I want to stay with a company that doesn’t value me.” He walked away as he uttered a familiar string of unprintables.
A week later, he invited me into his office and presented me with the raise I deserved. I smiled and said thank you. He explained that nobody had ever refused a raise and cautioned me never to try it again. I smiled and said, “Don’t make me.”
A few years later, he and I laughed when we recalled that exchange as we walked across the Boston Common on our way to my farewell luncheon. Decades later, he’s still a great friend.
How can you wield the power of “no” – in your work or in your life?