Last week I wrote about saying ‘no’ in some situations but I’ve been feeling a bit uncomfortable about it.

There’s been a bit of a nagging feeling in my stomach (although it could just be last nights curry).

Anyway, I wanted to explore the other side of the coin to give a rounded view.

I read a great book by Danny Wallace a few years ago called ‘Yes man’, where a mystery man on a late-night bus told him to ‘say yes more’ and it had a profoundly positive effect on his life. It focused on his personal life rather than work, but my post last week got me thinking about it.

At work it’s very important to say yes.

Yes I will take that action.

Yes I can pass on that information.

Yes I can put a photo of a dead badger in the weekly report.

It shows you are willing to take part. It shows you are committed to getting things done. It creates opportunities to engage with people.

My post last week was designed to challenge that we should always say yes.

Like I’ve said in the past we are in control of our own destinies and have a choice about how we communicate.

It is very important to say yes, and we should say yes more than we say no, but it should not be our default answer to everything.

It’s dysfunctional to always say yes, because your work load will become very hard to manage and you will not have control over your own destiny.

It’s also dysfunctional to always say no because people will just stop asking and you will ostracize yourself. (BOOM – check me out, I used the word ‘ostracize’!)

So it actually would have been better to have said last week that whilst it’s important to say yes, it’s also ok to say no (sometimes).

OK, I think I feel better now. But I did just do a massive fart. Maybe I shouldn’t have gone for the Madras….



  1. Next week – Why it’s a good idea to say ‘maybe’, ‘ummm…..’ and ‘me habla no ingles, donde es la fiesta?’

    1. Author

      Damn it – I’ve been rumbled…

  2. Rather then saying yes or no, what would it be like to be honest? No I’d rather not do that, but I’ll do it anyway because you are my boss and you’ll be awarding my pay rise next year…

    How would people respond to such honesty? Would it be a safe thing to do? Or would it be viewed as odd?

    This whole thing about saying yes or no, has more to do with fear then anything else I think. People often say yes because they are afraid of saying no. People sometimes say no because they are afraid of saying yes.

    Is fear the best of motivators? And who truly wants to live their working lives motivated by fear much of the time? Yet most of us do.

    A No, or a Yes doesn’t mean much unless it is qualified with an explanation. Yes because I think I’m best placed to do X. Or No because I think Y is the wrong course of action and X would be a better option.

    How often do you have those types of conversations in the workplace? An open and honest discourse with a balance between inquiry (Why do you want me to do Y?) and advocacy (I think X would be a better alternative)?

    Chris Agyris a social psychologist calls this type of conversation Model II. The fact that Model II behaviour happens so seldom in the work place lies at the root of much of the dysfunction we see.

    1. Author

      Thanks for this insight. I’m going to check out Model II conversations right now.

  3. I tried out the model II approach recently. I could see a look of surprise the manager’s face, followed by relief and relaxation. We then had a proper conversation about what he and I wanted and why it was difficult to reconcile. Sadly though I don’t believe this works with all bosses, but you pick up a sense of who’s open to it.

  4. The main thing I take into account before ever saying yes to anything, is whether I can actually deliver on it.

    We’ve all had colleagues or friends who say “yes” to anything but rarely live up to their expectations. “Sure, I’ll have that report for you by midday.” or “Of course I’ll be at the pub at 5:01.”. (OK, so both those sentences didn’t include the word “yes”, but you know what I mean.)

    After a while people never believe them or they don’t even bother to ask.

    If you say you’re going to do something, it’s important that you either do it, or let whoever you promised know as early as possible that you are now no longer able to deliver, for whatever reason. If you’re asked to do something that could be impacted by external factors outside your control, be honest. It’s much better to be up front. Your manager or colleague may be able to unblock anything stopping you, but they can only do that if they know about it. And if you can only do something on a “best endeavours” basis, say so. Better than to say yes and fail.

    Saying yes is good, very good, but only if you can deliver. If you can’t, or are unsure, then the previous post is probably more appropriate.

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