Sometimes it seems like managers have two jobs. The first job is to say yes. The second job is to say no. Saying yes is easy. Everyone likes to get what they want; when they want it. Unfortunately a profitable business dictates, however, that an efficient manager cannot always say yes. Sometimes, many times in fact, the answer to their question needs to be no. How you handle the “no” will make a big difference in the attitude and actions of your employees.
When a “no” situation arises, provide the employee with your undivided attention. Give them the opportunity to present their request, preferably without interruption unless it’s for clarification. Once they have finished, ask any questions regarding the request. You want to make sure that you are fully informed on all of the details to provide a fair and informed response. Not all circumstances will have a lot of details, especially if the request is as simple as a day off. Requests for items affecting the budget will require more dialogue.
Once you have made your decision, provide the answer as quickly as possible. If the answer is no then let no mean no. Don’t try to sugar coat the answer. Don’t ask them to come back later while you think about it if you already know the answer. Prolonging the decision will not help the situation. Don’t beat around the bush. Most importantly, do not offer false hope. If the answer is truly “no” you need to stand firm. If you try to find a roundabout way of saying no, you will lose the respect of your employees and run into issues in the future when you’re trying to establish your authority and respect.
Express regret for the inability to honor the employee’s request, do not apologize. Apologies are not necessary if you are operating in the best interest of the organization. Most employees will not actually believe you are, in fact, sorry for saying no. If the feeling of regret is not sincere, however, do not offer it.
While you may not be obligated to provide an explanation for your decision, do so if possible. If it’s a budget issue, be honest. Providing a truthful explanation will help the employee to see the bigger picture as to why the answer is no. They may not always be aware of the circumstances requiring the declined request.
Provide an alternative if possible. If they ask for tomorrow off and you’re short staffed, is there another day they can take off? Do not offer an alternative if one does not exist. If there is a portion of the request that can be approved, do so. If the answer to the entire proposal is no, let it stand.
Being a manager is often difficult. When it comes down to denying a request and saying no, more respect will be earned if you are honest rather than appearing to be untrustworthy or indecisive. Sometimes no just has to mean no.