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From:  Denise K. Magner

Subject: The Quick Tip: How Good Leaders Say No

The economic fallout from Covid-19 means campus administrators will have to turn down a lot of good (and bad) ideas.

Rejecting a plan or a project is one of the most common administrative actions, and a minefield of personal and political risk. Behind every entreaty is a person (or a group of people) who — depending on the way you handle the transaction — may take offense. The challenge is how to say no while maintaining a long-term positive relationship, a bond of trust, and a sense of fairness. Here are some strategies:

  • Let the data say it for you. In some cases you won’t have to say no — it will become self-evident from the data and analysis you share on why you can’t OK an idea.
  • Don’t be mysterious about your reasons. Professors, by nature, resist anything that seems opaque or vague, and are justifiably frustrated when given scant information on a vital question. Being clear and truthful is not just a tactic. It’s the only option if you don’t want your decisions to be seen as arbitrary or unwarranted.
  • Look for an alternate pathway to yes. Some petitioners come to you with two demands: first, that you give them what they want, and second, that you give it to them in the exact way they want it. Handle such cases by disaggregating method from outcome. Maybe you can say no to the method and find another pathway to say yes to the request.

Continue reading: "How Good Leaders Say No," by David D. Perlmutter

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Suggestions for what you’d like to see here? Other thoughts? Please email Denise K. Magner, a senior editor who compiles this newsletter, at denise.magner@chronicle.com.

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