But will make you feel miserable

Pic by@christiansterk

Telling the truth is tough. Especially when you need to say No to an employee request. Bosses don’t want to give bad news.

It’s not that I haven’t ever lied. But I’ve been confronted with my own lies too many times to realize how ignorant I was. I’ve learned that lying to your team is the worse news that you can ever deliver.

“I learned how blissfully naive I am about the insanity that goes on in most companies.” -Jason Fried, Basecamp founder

Don’t get me wrong, I am not encouraging you to pick fights with your boss. I simply want to provide you with tools to protect your initiatives from a broken system. Don’t let excuses stop you from being the best professional you can.

Managers Are Full of Excuses

“If it depended on me alone, you know I’ll approve your salary increase immediately”.

Excuses are an easy way out. Bosses tend to deflect responsibility, to avoid being accountable for the final call. “There’s nothing I can do”, they say playing the victim.

Excuses are white lies that managers use to hide behind. When someone says that they “can’t”, in most of the cases, it means that they’ve given up too easy. Or maybe they are buying into their own boss’ excuses.

It’s your boss responsibility to make things happen. To help you. Not to simply explain why things can’t happen.

Seven Lies You Must Challenge

1. “Sorry But No One Else Got it.”

What’s wrong: This a vague excuse based on the principle of generalization; if everyone else accepts a No, you should too. Managers use the “blanket principle” when they want an easy way out. The worst part is that they are applying the lowest denominators. They don’t care about your unique skills and contributions, they put you in the “everyone” bucket.

What to do: You deserve to be evaluated, challenged, coached and rewarded for who you are. Don’t accept being treated the same as everyone else. Just because someone else isn’t getting a budget shouldn’t stop you from getting yours. Call out your manager’s excuse.

2. “We Don’t Have Money”

What’s wrong: It’s a company problem, not yours (unless your compensation is variable or tied to performance). Many times not having money actually means not having enough money. Don’t get me wrong, if your current employer is not doing so good, and you like your job, you should be supportive. But many times, companies are making more than decent profit but because it’s never enough, and default to: “we don’t have money.”

What to do: Provide scenarios to overcome limitations. If your contributions are unique so should your recognition. If there’s no budget for salary increases, can they reallocate money from other budget items? Can your boss commit to a solution once things get better? Can they provide you with other perks that is not an actual increase (like training, etc.)? Those normally come from other budget lines. And if they commit to something for when “things get better”, get it in writing and with clear goals. Promises tend to be easily forgotten.

3. “We Don’t Have Time for That.”

What’s wrong: Organizations never have time to do things right but then they find time to do things for a second time. Leaders put unnecessary pressure on their teams to fight symptoms. But some how there’s never time to solve the real problem.

What to do: Push back. Time is not something you have but something you make. Move the conversation from not having time (we don’t care) to making your project a priority (making the time). Make it specific. Not having time is an absolute. Use facts, how much time the team is using for a specific project and define how much is required to manage your initiative. Can the team manage both? Can you reshuffle budgets?

4. “It’s Not a Priority.”

What’s wrong: Companies prioritize solving urgent/short-term needs fixes over important/ long-term impact solutions. Most companies don’t have clear priorities. Yet when a new idea is introduced, the easiest excuse to put initiatives to bed is because “they are not aligned with current priorities.” Unfortunately, some managers find it easier to hide behind every day fires rather than being exposed pushing new ideas up the corporate ladder.

What to do: Ask to see the company’s priorities. Question if they are real. How can you turn your projects into a priority? And who or even how defines company priorities? Make your voice be heard. Make what matters to you become a company priority. Don’t allow hierarchies to limit you.

5. “That’s Not the Way We Do Things Here.”

What’s wrong: The assumption that what worked in the past will continue to work in the future. Making you feel that you are going against cultural traditions is not fair. Your boss is giving you a guilt trip. Your “crazy ideas” can put the group’s well-being at risk.

What to do: Move on beyond the guilt game. Challenge the perception that everything is perfect by providing facts. Find other misfits who want to join forces with you. Prototype and test your initiative at a smaller scale. Let the whole team share the results with your boss. Fight old perceptions with facts and support. It’s harder to say no to a group than to one individual.

6. “Not Allowed by Company Policy.”

What’s wrong: Referring to company policies is a great excuse to avoid real conversations. Once again they are not telling you if your idea is wrong or not. You want to experiment, make something different and your boss tells you that you can’t because of company policies. End of the story? Nope.

What to do: Find a strategic way to use policies on your favor. Find the weakest link and work around the systems. Look for other company policies that encourage the kind of behaviors you want. Company policies are like Googling for data points, you’ll always find one to prove any theory right or wrong.

7. “My Boss Doesn’t Let Me.”

What’s wrong: When you believe every excuse or lie you are told, you let someone else’s excuse become yours. You are lying to yourself. And then you get stuck. And you become frustrated too. Soon you’ll use that same excuse to find an easy way from being honest with your team members. Or, even worse, with yourself.

What to do: Be honest with yourself. How bad do you want what you want? Don’t get caught in the excuses trap. Don’t let others excuses become yours. Fight for what you want.

Don’t Let Excuses Stop You

“Limits like fears are often just an illusion” — Michael Jordan

In most of the cases, excuses are just that. A rationalization. A vague reason of why someone doesn’t want to do something.

Excuses are an easy way out.

Excuses are distractions to drain your energy and passion.

Excuses will only get you stuck.

Excuses exist to stop you, to wear you down. Don’t let excuses stop you.

Don’t just take what you get. Keep fighting the system.

Stop waiting for others to make things happen. It’s on YOU to drive change!

Before You Go

If you are interested to learn more about our Change Leadership School, go here: http://liberationist.org

Follow our Medium publication: Stretch for Change for thoughts on Leadership, Innovation and Culture Transformation.


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