The HR Juggler

Day 5: Just Say No!

Posted on: December 5, 2012


Today’s post is by Nicki Williams, who runs the rather excellently named Tall Poppies Consultancy and answers to the Twitter handle of @HRAssassin. Nicki is someone that I haven’t come into online or in person contact with prior to to this series of Advent blogs, andI really value the way that running this type of guest post series enables my network to expand and brings people together, who might otherwise remain quite separate.


When a year is almost at an end, it’s a time which can usually bring a sense of nostalgia or sentimentality. Feelings which encourage reflection on the highs and lows, what went right, or wrong, through the year and provides the opportunity to make changes, to set new goals or resolutions for the next and, most importantly, to remind you of the dos and don’ts, to move forward and to improve.

It is the realisation of how these dos and don’ts effect our day-to-day lives and how these opportunities remind us that the most important proprieties, quite often the little things, are actually, quite often the big things. Hopefully you all found 2012 sensational and productive? 2012, for me, has been the most challenging yet, since those long forgotten, green and painful years of business start-up.

After much reflection (some of which involved gazing at cute boys in the coffee shop!), more than a little soul searching and painfully poking at what caused recent events, 2012 has taught me many lessons. Firstly, these calamities, like roads, lead not to Rome but to the absence of a little word with a big impact. Growing up in during the Zammo era of Grange Hill*, 20+ years of cutting my teeth in some pretty tough HR environments and 8+ years as chief chai walla within my own consultancy, you’d think it would be easy for a seasoned old bird, who could give Sir Alan a run for his money in the “you’re fired” stakes, to ‘Just Say No’.

Think it, say it, do it. Right? How difficult can it be to put into practice? It’s been done before, to great effect! Its not a big word, it may not have the initial impact of Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, yet for all its bijou-ness, this little adverb has had an impact adversely proportional to its size.

2012, The Universe, the word ‘No’ and common sense seemingly conspired against me, their mission to re-teach and re-enforce principles, boundaries and priorities paramount to the business, my team and myself. All of which, in repeated moments of insanity,  were ignored in pursuit of a greater client good. Their collective kick in the pants lessons (which I thought I knew, respected and practiced) were delivered will all the rug-pulling grace of a leaded breeze block.

Three specific situations, which from the outset should have been a No-No-way-No-how-Never-not-on-your-nelly-No somehow turned into a Yes, somewhere between: brain-engaged and the north-south nod. Not even the “I have a very bad feeling about this” made a difference to countermand the “Oh, don’t worry it will be alright. You’ve acted for the right reasons, with the best of intentions. Its good to help, more people should. Paying it forward should be more commonplace. They’ll appreciate it.” Hmmm. Really? Um. No.

For the record, agreeing to significant discounts, taking on pro-bono employee tribunals and providing services with a good-will price tag can be beneficial for a variety of commercially, ethically and morally sound reasons. However, out of the thousands of daily actions this hat-trick of decisions, in reality, nearly sent my business, my sanity and myself under, in a ‘do not pass go’, ‘do not collect £200 pounds’ kind of way.

On reflection, that little word ‘No’ doesn’t seem quite so difficult to say, or do, now and what’s more, it has highlighted, in glorious technicolour, the difference between caring for clients and carrying them. If you get complacent and don’t value your own services, then clients who get them freely; even delivered with the honourable intentions of being helpful, certainly won’t. Human nature is to do what you can get away with and businesses with people in them are no different. On the upside, we’re still here, still live and still kicking and now that ‘No’ has worked its magic in reminding and reinforcing my own, personal and commercial values; with these lessons learnt, again, 2013 will be our best yet.

With next year and those all important resolutions in mind, as the old Chinese proverb goes “talk does not cook rice”, so 2013 will start with me keeping it real, embracing the fear, saying ‘No’ to my little heart’s content, and leaving regret for some other sucker!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


* I couldn’t resist a trip down memory lane…..!

2 Responses to "Day 5: Just Say No!"

Aha, someone else there has had the same experiences of agreeing to significant discounts, taking on pro-bono employee tribunals and providing services with a good-will price tag and so on. That is gratifying (for me, not you) as I thought I was the only one. Here’s one of my stories about doubtful morals at work on the HR zone on a day when I decided that enough was enough.

Great post which I identified with strongly.


Good read – I too struggle with No. It’s partly why one of my three New Year Evolution words is finish. I am taking it to mean complete stuff, and stop stuff too. So far this year I’ve taken courage and put an end to a relationship that just wasn’t working, and I’m about to kill off my old LinkedIn group – because the world doesn’t need it any more. Part of saying No is helpful to avoid us getting stuck into too many things, and of equal use, part of it is knowing when to No your way out of something ongoing too. The challenge is in knowing when to jump – and which way eh?

Cheers – Doug

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