Don’t say no, say “Yes, but…”

Seems like this is the year (or month or something) of saying no.  We’ve been enjoying Femomhist‘s series on the topic, and have been cheering Dr. Crazy‘s new found ability to say no to unreasonable requests.

#1 is a big proponent of saying, “Yes, but…” to unreasonable requests.  Think about what you would need to make something worthwhile.  If what you would need in return is unreasonable, so much the better.

So, “Yes, I will teach an overload this semester, but I will need a course reduction in writing in the future.”  “Yes, I will allow my section to be twice as large, but I will need grading support.”  “Yes, I will be chair of the department, but only if you double my salary.”  Maybe not quite that blunt on the last one, but you get the idea.  (Ideally you phrase it in a way that makes it sound like you need the thing in order to benefit the department, “As you know, my research agenda is very important for the department’s ranking…” “As you know, it is vital that the students get feedback on their homework, and without grading support…”  “Doing a good job as chair will take up a lot of time, and I’ll need to be able to make some cuts in time-use at home, may not be able to apply for grants,…”)

Sometimes they say yes, they can get you what you need, and the unreasonable request is no longer as unreasonable.  Often they say they can’t do that and move on to their next victim.

The big benefit to this strategy is that you are no longer the first or even the second person that they ask to do these unreasonable requests.  And, by the time they get to you, they may be desperate enough that they’re willing to give compensation.

#2 notes that her requests for compensation are usually also unreasonable given the monetary restrictions in her department.  So either she gets forced into doing it anyway, or else it becomes a hard NO because the thing that would make it a YES are unavailable.  For example, my college won’t pay me enough to be chair of our department.  I would need a WHEELBARROW more money than they’re willing to give in order to even consider it.  And also, the dean got annoyed when I made it clear that’s what I wanted.  For some reason I should just do it out of the goodness of my heart, I guess?  HAIL NO.  #1 notes that this is how it is supposed to work– that hard NO isn’t really a hard no, it’s a Yes, but it’s too bad you can’t compensate appropriately for what you’re asking.  If the dean really wanted you to do it, ze would have come up with the funds.  Fortunately for you someone else had a lower asking price.

How do you react to unreasonable requests?

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