Just Say No

In the 1980s, there was a campaign targeted at young people, “just say no”. It was started by Nancy Reagan as part of the war on drugs. It taught youth different ways to “just say no” without offering an excuse or reason. It must have been effective, because all of these years later, I still remember it….and it seems as though many managers and leaders do too because they are still practicing it when it comes to requests for flexibility.

My challenge to those organizations and managers – JUST SAY YES.

A Real-life Story

I’m sharing the story of a friend and colleague. She held a position which required she travel all over Western Canada on a regular basis. She was frequently away from her young family over night and often traveled in the evenings so that she could attend meetings the next business day. One week earlier this year, her travel schedule allowed her to be in town the week of her daughter’s dance competition.

She asked her leader if she could attend the competition, which required her to leave mid-afternoon and she offered to make up the hours later that same evening. The answer was “No”. Her leader advised that she would need to take a half day vacation because he was concerned about the perception of other team members. She was hurt and frustrated. She felt de-valued.

It did not take long (less than a few months) for my colleague to find a new role with a new employer. My questions: what are the perceptions of that leader and organization now? What would have happened if the leader just said yes?

Just Say Yes

My argument in encouraging leaders to “just say yes” for small requests like this is that the benefits far outweigh the small inconvenience. It will help build trust and loyalty with team members. It will improve morale. It sends a signal that employees matter. And, as in the case of my friend, it could reduce the costs of unplanned attrition.

Back to my challenge. Just say yes the next time that one of your team members asks for a little bit of flexibility. Just say yes. It can be easy if you let it be.