The stereotypical corporate IT employee has a reputation for uncooperative behaviour. The most common manifestation of this is his tendency to turn down requests from the business with a resounding “NO!”1. Unfortunately, this trait doesn’t endear him to the folks upstairs2, and a few such refusals soon translate into a company-wide negative perception of the entire IT crew.
Now, as some say, perception is reality3. So, the employee, despite his ever-mounting frustration with (what he perceives to be) ever-increasing workloads, needs to handle his customers with a little tact. He needs to learn how to say “no…” in a softer, exclamation-free, corporately-acceptable manner.
How so? Well, by using positive negatives – i.e. by putting a positive spin on the refusal. There are two ways to do this. By presenting:
Alternatives: This essentially amounts to saying, “No, but how about <insert alternative here> instead,” or
Compromises: This is a qualified “yes”. For example, “Yes, but not before next week.”
In either case, our unnamed protagonist would want to ensure that he can actually deliver on the alternative or compromise.
Obviously, the technique of positive negatives works in any area (consultants use it all the time), and the naysaying, nameless IT hack is merely a straw man to illustrate my point. So – and particularly if you’re a present or erstwhile colleague of mine – be assured that he’s a figment of my imagination.
1 Some members of this mob are known to issue relatively verbose refusals such as, “No, that’s impossible because <insert random reason here >”.
2 We are talking stereotypes so the person’s a male, he’s overworked, and the IT department is in the basement – safely quarantined from the rest of the business.
3 See this post and the accompanying discussion for an interesting, if somewhat philosophical, counter-view on perception and reality.