Boundaries and the art of saying no
Earlier this week we learned that The Oldie magazine wanted to name HM The Queen its ‘Oldie of the Year’, an honour she declined in quite brilliant fashion.
The letter from her private secretary read: ‘Her Majesty believes you are as old as you feel, as such The Queen does not believe she meets the relevant criteria to be able to accept, and hopes you will find a more worthy recipient.’ A wonderful way of saying no thank you.
Whilst this is a very specific instance it reminds us of an everyday challenge we encounter in the workplace (and beyond)…the ability to set and hold our boundaries.
That may be around our beliefs, values and principles so that we’re showing up and acting in integrity and being clear who we are and what we stand for. Swaying with the wind of public opinion may save us from discomfort in a superficial sense but it erodes us and others’ confidence and trust in us. Of course, it’s a fine balance – if we aren’t doing the work to examine our values and principles regularly, ensuring they serve us well, we can slip into the rigid and inflexible that fails to serve anyone or anything.
Holding to our boundaries can be about resisting the temptation or pressure to take short-cuts, the expedient option, when a more thoughtful and thought-through approach is needed. Our target driven organisational culture is all too real a pressure in this respect.
And then there’s the whole minefield of saying no. Too often we say yes without really reflecting on whether we, or our people, have the capacity to meet the request. Whether we can do so without compromising quality, or failing to deliver on all fronts.
Yes can be uttered through habit, before we’ve considered whether that urgent request really is urgent and important i.e. is it critical to business performance. Properly probing the request will tell us much about importance, impact and right timing. We’ll have the right information to decide whether we can or should commit.
And if the answer is no then it will stem from a more considered and acceptable premise and for the right reasons.