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When No Means No: Tips for Rejecting a Request or Proposal

Nobody likes to hear the word “no!” It can produce whining, tears, and foot stomping, and that’s just within the CIO’s office. Of course, most professionals have spent their careers learning to accept a “no” graciously. However, there are many CIOs who haven’t learned the art of “no” even when it’s absolutely necessary. Kim S. Nash offers some pointers on giving negative answers without sounding like a chastising parent. 

Turning down someone’s request is a tricky thing. Like many aspects of leadership, it requires balance. Not every request can be turned down, nor can every wish be granted. However, the grounds for the yay or nay should look beyond the time and money necessary for the request. Try to figure out why someone is asking for this favor. What are they really trying to accomplish? Can you give it to them in a different, more reasonable way? People love it when you anticipate their needs, and that’s what good leaders do. A smart CIO will be in tune with the needs of different departments, supplying their requests before they ask for something outlandish.

When a “No” is absolutely necessary, sit down with the person and try to find the root of the problem. Find the good in the request, the need behind the favor, and the positive in the negative answer. Just because you’re not the company “yes” man, doesn’t mean employees should be scared to approach you with requests.     

About Rachel Ginder

Rachel Ginder was a staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success and joined the team in 2013. She also helped with social media and research.

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