Alternatives to "No"

people resource management Aug 22, 2021
Alternatives to

The best project managers learn to say “no” without actually using the word “no.”  “No” has an air of finality and dis-empowers the team.  It is also a good idea to avoid phrases like “Yes, but …”  There are some better ways to express negativity.

Try some of these alternative phrases instead:

  • Yes, and in exchange, I will need “x.” Will that work? (say yes and get something in return)
  • I’m worried about “x” now, so would “y” and “z” work instead? (suggest alternatives)
  • Given “x,” how would you like me to proceed? (point out a downside to “yes” and get input)
  • Would you please help me prioritize these actions? (support the priority of a “yes” to be considered)
  • May I make an alternative suggestion? (a more direct way to suggest alternatives)

Similarly, setting arbitrary limits and constraints can be equally challenging.  Rather than set a limit, take other approaches.  For example, in frustration, a manager may want to set a limit on the number of issues that can be reported.  Instead of a limit, consider these alternative actions:

  • Define multiple categories for issues and clearly define what goes in each “bucket”
  • Specify time frames for addressing items in each category
  • When there are more issues than you can handle, you can either wait it out or bring in more resources
  • If a higher number of issues than expected happens for a prolonged period, you can re-think quality plans and re-define priorities

Almost any limit can be avoided by more finely dividing up the target of the limit.

Using these techniques will empower the team and establish you as a respected and trusted leader.

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