Changing the Culture of No While Serving the Needy

This goes out to all my fellow workers in the service occupations  across the country and around the world.  Those of you who are off, I hope you’re enjoying your weekend.  Those of you still on the clock, don’t worry; it’ll all be over soon.

In an uncertain, economic environment with many businesses employing layoff strategies under colorful names like reorganization or restructuring, the American worker is at a disadvantage.

His job already in question, he’s virtually held hostage by managers, and often other co-workers, pressed to do more with less.  Yet he pays his ransom daily to the many outstretched hands by way of the work he performs, often thanklessly.

To say that today’s workplace is not overly empathetic to the human condition is an understatement.  Of course, you say that and businesses will boast of their 401K plans along with their pension funds, health insurance and other benefits.  They’ll also remind us of other incentive programs, Wellness initiatives and the like.

But the problem is that these inducements, a small example of the good that American businesses bestow on their employees, oftentimes exist within a toxic work environment.  So the question becomes how do you separate the good from the bad and be able to exist within such surroundings?

To do so, you’ll need a tool.  Like any tool, this one is solid, durable and easy to use.  But unlike its metal cousins, this tool is a lot more ethereal and not as substantial.  This tool is simply a word and that word is no.

No.  It is not the enemy of a can-do attitude nor is it a haven for the irresponsible.  In a word, no, is good.  Contrary to what you may have been told all your life, the word no can bring about positive change.

It literally can restore ones soul and ease earthly burdens.  It can balance economic budgets and provide sound parental guidance.  Used judiciously in the workplace, the word no affords each of us the use of good judgment and allows us to enjoy the subsequent serenity that employment is supposed to bring to the table.

But of course, one must be allowed to use it in an unfettered fashion in order for that sort of thing to occur.  And in today’s workplace, the use of the word no is anything but unfettered and if not done strategically, it can quickly become a big plate of nothing but trouble.

On the other hand, if employed efficiently, courteously and professionally, it can change your work environment.  But change, growth if you will, does not come without pain or the possibility of such.

There’s a better than good chance that any negative response to any type of request could be deemed as insubordination so care should be taken.  Besides being professional in manner and speech at all times, you should be knowledgeable of your company’s employee handbook and other human resource policies.

To succeed in your turnaround, it’s imperative to be proactive in understanding where you stand when you first decide to break from that yes mold.  Here are a few tips that should help you:

  • Semantics is important; the manner in which you state your refusal will determine how management reacts
  • State reasons for your refusal; aka health or safety concerns, time constraints, etc. Don’t just say no.
  • Investigate viable alternatives and present them at the time of your refusal
  • Maintain a professional, calm and courteous demeanor throughout the discussion
  • Look before you leap; know how forces will come at you; anticipate.

Most importantly, remember that changing this culture is a process to be won over a period of time and you may not win the first encounter.

We all want the same thing; to do good work, be rewarded for such and maintain peace of mind while it’s all going down.  This is another strategy that helps you get it done.

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Filed under Opinion, workplace relationships

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