Can you say “NO”?

no-yes“Some people just can’t say NO,” my friend said. He was talking about a potential client who strung him along for weeks with requests for proposals and information, but made no commitment. Why couldn’t the client just say “NO, I’m not interested”? Saying NO can be uncomfortable and many of us avoid it.

In the workplace, hourly employees often feel they should say NO but don’t quite know how to do this. For example, manager asks hotel room attendant to tend to an area outside the room (vacuum the hallway, clean a stain on the hallway carpet). This is clearly not part of his/her job, but how do you say NO to your boss? Room attendant may reluctantly complete the extra task, but fall behind in his/her other work. Co-workers are angry because now they will be expected to do the same extra jobs. Workers may involve Human Resources and/or the Union to clarify job duties, and the room attendant may be scapegoated and shunned by peers.

Incidents like the one described above are costly – in terms of time and productivity (employees on all levels working to resolve the issue) and customer service suffers (everyone is in HR sorting this out, rather than on the floor cleaning guest rooms).
SO, it is worth the investment to teach employees how to communicate effectively and handle difficult situations like this one. The hallway will be vacuumed and carpet stain removed in a timely fashion by the appropriate worker.

Just a glass of water

Last week I met a colleague for breakfast in a NYC restaurant. During the meal, I needed more water, so I looked around the dining room and saw my waiter standing a few feet away talking with his fellow waiters. I caught his eye, and gestured to the water glass, saying “Could I have more water, please?” He turned from me and called out to the busser (who was carrying a full tray of dishes to the kitchen), “More water, table 37.” The busser looked stunned and annoyed and kept walking. My colleague sighed and said, “I don’t know what the big deal is. It’s just a glass of water.”

BlogWaterMaybe, but to the server and busser, it was so much more. Power struggle, dislike, resentment, “not my job”. Any or all of these might be in the mix. And this “mix” is negatively affecting service.

The personal differences between the waiter and busser need to be resolved if business is to run smoothly. Working through their conflict or long time grudge will relieve stress and improve overall attitudes. Then maybe I can get my glass of water.