Enough is enough. Learn to say No.

Somehow I don’t know why the mentality in India is that people working late are the ones who matter.

It to be found in almost all major companies in India. Working till well past 2AM , 7 days a week seems to make people think that these guys are real good.

I on the other hand don’t hold to this belief. Yeah some people like to stay back in office – they don’t have a personal life to talk about. No friends – no groups etc . And they enjoy working in office and web-surfing. I have no major issues with these folks.

But the problems start when they start getting promoted to a more responsible role – and they think that other people should also be staying late just as they do. And if a person is leaving early – he is not working. The appraisal systems work this way I think in many Indian companies.

Recently people have started making snide remarks about my leaving early ( i was leaving at 8pm). Get a life dudes.

I am a big believer in Extreme Programming, and one of the main ideas is 8 hrs a day , 5 days a week. anything more for a couple of weeks – and you need to rework your project plan. Oh, and if you are one of those who think people need to continuously work take a page out of google – where you can spend 20% of your time on activities other than your project.

Earlier it was a problem with a few people only. I remember getting a bad rating in an earlier project by my manager ( a tech person – promoted to PM … a horrible people’s person). I had put in maximum effort – delivering everything before time – with no quality issues. Everyone was happy with my work – but I got an OnPlan rating (you are average). This was given at the yearly appraisal cycle and came as a rude shock. I had a big discussion with my manager why inspite of my work accomplishments I had not gotten a Significantly Above Plan rating. Ultimately it all boiled down to the fact that I was leaving early which was not a good thing as I was a senior team member and it gave wrong signals to the other team members. The other team members used to stay back to surf the net as at night they used to get good browsing speeds.

I did not say anything. The next few months I did nothing much – except that I used to leave after my manager left (good thing about having a bike is you can leave 10 mins after the bus leaves) – giving the impression i was working late ( was working on getting wine configured on the linux partition to play caesar 3). The impression the manager got was that I was a very hard working guy – and the appraisal had lots of praise about me. Of course I shared my learning with all my team mates – and each one of was a ‘hard working’ person as far as the manager was concerned.

Thankfully my next manager was a gem of a person. A stark contrast – and boy was he supportive for everything. In that project we were actually getting free by 4pm – work was getting done before hand. People only used to stay late if they had some personal work – and no one could ask for a cab request. The client was real happy with our work – and it was one of the very few questions where the client wanted to know of our views and abide by that , instead of the other way round.

Another reason it happens is because of deadlines. Many times I have seen projects starting off with unbelievably unachievable deadlines. Most of these projects are taken up because the sales people just have to meet their sales target – whatever the cost. And the cost is worker fatigue.

Why is it that Indian’s cannot say a very simple word – NO.

To all the people who are having to work late – learn to say this word.

Do you have a senior making your life tough by sending assignments to you just as you are about to leave ? Learn to say No.

Do you have a sales rep trying to get you to reduce the timeline that you know is required to complete a project ? Learn to say No.

The first speeches I had heard when I joined WIPRO straight after college was by a lady (I don’t remember her name) from GE ( I think ). And the speech started something like this :

Welcome to your working life. I think enough people have already told you what you are expected to do. I am going to tell you something which I don’t think any of your bosses would have tought you. My speech is to be about how to say No…

Something which stuck in my mind. I don’t know how many times I have thought back to that speech and thanked the lady who put out such a powerful message.

And I know it works.

I have said no to having to work insane hours – and I have enjoyed my personal life too. And professionally also I am not doing bad.

I have said no to cleints about features they want – and have built a trust relationship with them. Even though I am not working on their projects , we still exchange emails and keep each other updated.

How is this possible you ask ? How can we say no to clients – they are our customers – and their word is law !

Its not like that. The customer first and foremost expects us to honour our agreements – a relationship is built on trust. When you say that something will be done – it better get done. It should not come to pass that you are slipping on your work items and still telling the customer that you will get it done on time. But if you already have set a resonable expectation – you will deliver everytime on time. And the customer gets confidence in you – and is willing to listen to you more and more.

But that does not happen. We say ‘yes sir’ to everything that the client says. At first he is happy that you will do everything – but then the honeymoon ends. Everytime you have an excuse to cover up for what you are doing. And the client gets more and more worried. He starts to start demanding status updates on a more and more frequent basis. He worries about statistics – cause he does not trust what you are saying. At the end it leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.

Be honest with yourself.
Enough is enough. Learn to say No.

Get a life.


~ by Vibhu on December 13, 2005.

One Response to “Enough is enough. Learn to say No.”

  1. I totally agree & identify with what you have written. I sometimes feel that i am fighting a losing battle…but am still keep plugging away…..

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