Your spouse just called and told you that the weekend is now all booked up. You were hoping to have the chance to get some fun stuff done around the house, and now your hopes have been dashed. And you’re going to have to disappoint your friend you were going to meet up with.
Your boss met you in the hall, and mentioned that she needs that TPS report before the 4:00 meeting. There’s no way you’re going to be able to get it done in time, but then again, she’s your boss and this is important.
These are tough situations, with no easy answer. If you just comply, things may not work out well, and you might not be happy. If you argue, you’re damaging the relationship. Saying no is never easy, nor does saying yes, as a matter of fact…
Time to figure out if this is a battle that’s worth fighting. But how?
1. What’s the big goal of your relationship? With your spouse, it’s not simply about loving each other and raising a family. It’s also important to create an environment of safety where you’re supporting each other, sticking with each other for the long term through thick and thin, and helping each other through challenges.
With your boss, it’s not just about keeping your job. I would hope that you also want to maintain a professional and respectful relationship, accomplish things so the company will thrive, and to develop your professional career.
2. What are the true costs? You have to change plans – frustrating, but perhaps not as big a deal as you first thought. You might have to work harder for a little while, but maybe that’s an acceptable tradeoff for maintaining the relationship.
But if it really is impossible to get that report done by 4:00, there’s a big risk: That you’ll say you can do it, and then disappoint your boss. That’s worse than just saying “no” in the first place. So think through your options, and look at the risks around each alternative.
3. What are the true benefits? If you comply, then there’s a real possibility that the other party will end up happy. Heck, there’s even a chance that you’ll enjoy that weekend with your spouse, even though it’s not what you had intended to do. If you get that report done by 4:00, then the boss might view you as a hero, a great help that she’ll want to have around. Try to imagine the best possible outcomes.
4. What other options are there? OK, so the real problem with doing that TPS report is that you’re working on something else which can’t wait. But maybe there’s other people who can help out. After all, your boss just wants the report done, perhaps it’s not critical that YOU do it. Give her some options, and there’s room to negotiate a win-win result.
5. Does it have to be a “battle”? When you think that your alternative is to either engage in or avoid a conflict, you’re assuming three possible outcomes:
- We engage in the conflict, and I win.
- We engage in the conflict, and I lose.
- I avoid the conflict, so I lose.
There’s a very important fourth alternative: Together we look for a solution that’s acceptable to both.
The first three are win-lose or even lose-lose scenarios, while the fourth creates a very real possibility of a win-win outcome.
The Bottom Line
If there’s value to preserving relationships with those around you, then you should look to those principles to help you shift from confrontations into disagreements, from disagreements into conversation, and conversations into win-win solutions. Each step you take on this path increases the chance that you’ll maintain helpful, supportive relationships.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not telling you that compliance with others’ wishes is always your first choice. After all, you have dreams, needs, abilities and goals that are just as important as anybody else’s.
But not MORE important.
Look to find that balance where everyone wants to continue to work and live together, to accomplish important things, and to reach those big goals.
But when the house is burning down, get everybody out as fast as you can. Some things don’t need to be over-thought.
by Carl Dierschow