Smiling your way through No

I am standing in my office hallway, fingers are slowly turning into prunes as the nerves set in and I’m slightly sweaty. I feel my heartbeat faster, it’s almost like the moment I knock on the door, my heart could explode. I hear a faint, “Come in!”, and in I go. The mug on the table read “THE BOSS”, and I sit down for what feels like a grilling. The conversation opens with, “Lea, what can I do for you?”, and off I go.

After about 15 minutes of discussing my career and what I wanted to do, I made a bold move- I asked to begin supporting one particular policy project to help build my portfolio of skills. The look on the face of my boss was UNREADABLE. However, I heard the words that many of us hate hearing, “Lea, I don’t think this is possible”.


I put myself out there to see if I can create my happiness at work- and then THAT happened.

I remember walking out of the office feeling completely defeated, like there was this dark cloud over my shoulders for the rest of day, heck, the rest of the week.

I look back at the situation a couple of years ago now, and I laugh. I laugh a lot because I just walked out of a similar situation last week. I walked into two meetings with senior leaders, and heard NO. Yet, I felt a million times different, even EXCITED when I heard the word NO.

Here are my lessons, from then to now on how I went from REACT to RESPOND when the boss says NO!

What’s Worse?
It won’t always go your way when you approach the boss, but the worst case scenario is one where you don’t bring up your idea at all. Most of us envision the boss saying no before we even mention it. You never know what they are thinking until you talk with them about the topic. Depending on what you ask, the conversation can turn into possibilities and options rather than never asking and never receiving!

Problem versus Solution
Many times we think the conversation ends with the answer to the question, but if you’re proposing something new to the boss, frame it as the solution to a problem. If you have been lacking a challenge at work for example, explain that taking on new responsibilities would help you engage and pick up on new skills that are necessary for you to grow professionally.

Example: Hi Michael, I have noticed there is an increase in demand for breaking news stories and press releases in our communications team. To help support the team and grow my skills in the area of writing, I suggest that I spend up to 40% of my time on quick responses. I will not expect an increase of my duties for the next two weeks while I am supporting the communications team. When I stop helping them, I can support editing and briefings more effectively having worked on this skill.

Mind reading is not a skill found on most resumes
Even perfect preparation can’t help when the Boss still decides to deny your request. Whether it’s taking a training course or new challenge, bosses aren’t always thinking about where your career is going. If you find your Boss saying no to others a lot, think insightfully as to what they are thinking about when they make that decision. Some managers are simply NO people because they don’t like change, others have a specific reason to deny the request.

Defining what no means coming from your Boss is a great way to become objective to the outcome, and not take it personally.

Redefine No
The most important skill to know when you are told no is that it means it’s new, fresh, innovative, different, and those are creative ideas that are required to remain afloat today in the workplace. Navigating a constrictive environment allows you to flew your creativity muscles, to find alternative ways to make your solution happen. If you’ve been eyeing a training which has been denied by the boss, there are a number of sources you can still pursue to make sure you get what you need. Think of no as meaning Not Yet (as in the boss isn’t ready for it) or not the right avenue (if you want it bad enough you’ll find a way and prove it works).

I believe strongly that the universe gives up a multitude of possibilities and options to pursue what we desire. If you look at no as a guide, the Universe could be directing you inwards to gut check if you REALLY want what it is that you’re asking for. In cases where your WHY is strong, you WILL find the way- it doesn’t really have anything to do with the Boss anyway.

Open your outlook calendar, and set that meeting- asking gets you one step closer no matter the outcome!

Charge on Gorgeous!