being able to say no and hear no

No. One word, a complete sentence. We all learned to say it around our first birthday, so why do we have such a hard time saying it now when it comes to our work?

I read this article, No One Nos over at A List Apart, and really liked some of the thoughts it struck up. I work in security, infrastructure, operations. Saying some form of, “No,” is a nearly daily occurrence; and a nearly daily stressor (business always defaults to convincing “No” people to start being “Yes” people*). Whether it is a misguided project request, request for access to something sensitive, or configuration change without proper oversight. So any article talking about, “No,” I will usually read, even if I do so grudgingly.

I really liked this bit that was kinda left hanging:

Each one of us brings an area of specialization to our projects, and it is our responsibility to exhibit that expertise. …It is your duty to assert that capability and share your knowledge for the betterment of the final product.

Later on, the author talks about the answer, “Yes! No. Yes?” While I’ve never heard of something like that before, the concept itself is something I think many people naturally find, including myself. Rather than saying no outright, get on their side, but then basically say something isn’t possible or get them to realize the same. But it might be possible if we do xyz (which is usually hire more staff, spend more money, eschew policy/best practice…similar to pricing yourself out of a situation).

If I were to add something to the author’s message, I would emphasize the last couple paragraphs. I resent business in general that takes a, “Don’t say no,” attitude (irony?) on a general basis. We have to be able to (constructively, if possible) say no and also accept when a no is said to us.** (For deeper thinking on a Friday, one might draw some parallels to American culture and our legal system…)

I’m ranting a little bit, but really I agree with the author’s message.

Found via Jarrod Loidl’s blog.

* This ties in with my dislike of the “Give ’em the pickle,” business mantra. Avoiding “No” and also giving someone the “pickle” are fine, but only when the opposite party is reasonable. If the customer is unreasonable or the requestor is unreasonable, then cute maxims like these fall apart.

** I work or have worked in proximity to someone who doesn’t hear when someone tells them no. Few things in a job like mine are as frustrating as someone like that. This contributes to why sec folks drink and vent a lot! 🙂