Saying “No” To Authority

Several years ago, I managed a group of engineers that tested the system developed by our organization. Most people we worked with didn’t exactly understand what happens when we test something; we didn’t build anything but added something less substantive: quality  As such, if someone wanted us to test something extra, saying no wasn’t an option.  After all our paychecks came from providing that very service.   But saying yes meant that we weren’t going to finish on time which was another requirement of our work.  My solution was not to say no or argue that we didn’t discuss this when we were doing the planning, but instead to say “Yes, absolutely,” and then quickly follow it with the cost to other commitments, like it’s going to take us 2 more weeks or we need to skip something else we were going to test.

Many times people in authority over us, our boss, or our customer, ask us to do something.  Most of the time, it’s no problem and we agree, but sometimes those extra requests will cause us to break other agreements because the request was not planned for. If we just go along and say yes, often the people who will be most disappointed are the ones making the request.  They don’t want the schedule to be late or the product to be of poor quality and neither do we. Especially if we think the request is a mistake, we can push back on the request by helping the requester see the tradeoffs that will necessarily be made in the process.  Often times, we’re in the best place to see the full cost of a particular decision and they need our help to understand the situation.

We can’t always just say no, but we can often help both ourselves and those in authority over us, be happier with the outcome.

Photo Credit: Reindb cc






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