In The Workplace

What are the best management strategies of disapproving the workers’ requests without creating bitterness? It appears that there are many people, majority of whom are the so-called millennials who are too onion-skinned that it has become difficult for me to handle similar situations. Please give me your advice. — Blue Seal.

There’s a story about a woman, who while doing her weekend shopping in an affluent mall, sprayed on an expensive perfume from a counter’s tester bottle. She went on with her window-shopping, exulting in the pleasant fragrance. At home, as she was preparing the usual Saturday hamburger dinner, her husband said he had to run an emergency errand and asked his wife if she would like to ride along in the car.

When she grabbed her jacket, she noticed that the elegant scent of the perfume still clung to her sleeves. She slid into the front seat of the car next to their nine-year old son. He sniffed and exclaimed:

“Wow! You smell good, Mom!”

She replied: “Yes, I know! That’s the perfume I sprayed on my wrists while I was shopping early today.”

“No, it isn’t,” the boy replied. “That’s a hamburger scent!”

Sometimes, just like the boy in our story, management can be guilty of selective perception. We see it from different perspectives, depending much on our interests. The woman takes it from her pleasant experience with the perfume, while the little boy tells it from a hamburger dinner. This means our actions are based on past experience, subjectivity, and much on the workers’ personality, among other issues.

If management is careless, rejection could be misinterpreted as one without basis, resulting in some form of employee bitterness that may be difficult to resolve in the long term.

But that should not be the case. The overall circumstances, the nature of employee requests and management reasons for rejecting can be varied and wide. Although saying “no” may be difficult, it is the manner and pattern of delivering it to the person that is important. Now, let’s look at the general rules for managing employee requests:

One, remain positive in every step of the way. Instead of a blunt “no,” emphasize that there are more important things for the employee to consider. For example, in a situation where an employee attempts to fatten his take home pay by rendering unnecessary overtime work, you only have to say: “I’m sorry, but the company prefers you to enjoy your family after office hours or on weekends.”

Two, ask questions that would give you the right answers. Be clear about your questions to force the employee to give honest answers. When pressed for the approval of an overtime work, ask the following questions: “What are your challenges that make it difficult for you to complete your assigned tasks during office hours? How can I help you out of that situation? Please help me understand the situation.”

Three, maintain your composure even if the employee appears persistent. Hold your ground. Compensate by being an active and sincere listener. Look at the employee straight into his eyes. Drop whatever you’re doing to give the employee an undivided attention. Then, continue to probe for the basic issues, the circumstances and correlate them with the body language of the person.

Four, ask for more time to make a decision, if necessary. Don’t be rushed into making an instant judgment. If you need more time, be clear about it. And give a reasonable day or time when you wish to go back to the employee. You don’t have to explain your reason for the time you need, but more often than not, you’ll be justified by saying you’re in the middle of an important project that you can’t postpone.

Five, make a counter-offer by giving a conditional “no.” Say something like: “You can take a vacation, if Project XYZ is already complete according to customer specifications.” Be specific about the conditions so as not to create another problem. Let the employee know exactly what to do to be able to secure management approval.

Now, let’s try these approaches on how to manage a difficult employee request, say a promotion or salary increase. How would you attempt to do it? Check this out. Stay positive by starting with a welcoming statement like: “I’m equally interested in your career growth in this organization. And I believe that we are being fair with everyone here. If this is incorrect, then please help me understand your situation.”

Then, proceed to ask the following questions: “Why do you think you deserve a promotion or a pay hike? Is there a provision in our company policy that was not done in your favor? Have you also considered the value of non-salary benefits that you’re receiving from us? How do we compare with the industry pay and perk standards? You’re doing good in your job, and I think there’s more room for you to make it consistently better. Don’t you agree? How would you prepare to accept more challenging assignments? Or, are you willing to consider a transfer to another location that may be too far from your home, if only to give you the chance to prove your worth?”

This list of questions is not complete. You can improvise on them. Remember, there are many times that questions are more important than answers. Whatever happens, it’s important to do it without giving the appearance of being unreasonable to people.

ELBONOMICS: A reasonable rejection is much better than giving an unreasonable expectation.