Enrique Gimnénez Sainz de la Maza

Saying “No” in business management is for free by Enrique Gimenez

Saying “No” in business management is for free.

After years of work experience, one of the saddest conclusions that is perceived in business management within medium-size and large companies is that saying “No” to interesting opportunities is for free, while there is an exacerbated fear of saying “Yes” due to the negative consequences that this decision may entail.

For instance, how many times we have found, either in our own business organizations or in third corporations, that the easy thing is to say “No” to interesting proposals, while it is hard getting a Yes, regardless of the rigorous analysis carried out.

“No” is often said quickly and thoughtlessly because of the fear of “what could happen to me if it goes wrong?”. Saying No, no one will know what great opportunity has been lost and I remain unscathed.” On the other hand, if we say “Yes” we are putting all the meat on the grill and we risk our reputation, internal promotion or even our job.

Saying “No” also has some great allies such as:

  • there is no budget (ground for an entire doctoral thesis in relation to budgetary policies that have not evolved, being punctual and static documents that function as gags, rather than as catalysts for growth and serve as a shield for obedient managers);
  • expressions such as “this issue corresponds to another department” (balls out);
  • at the moment our focus is on other topics (excuse for not spending time);
  • our company identity is different (those who do not want to leave the comfort zone); etc.

Additionally, and unfortunately policy within the company is a great cancer that makes organizations stop growing and eventually die and saying “No” corresponds to that bad policy of “He who does not do is not wrong”.

Still, the other extreme also occurs but the same “No” is obtained. When hard workers who have the same fear reach the paralysis of a decision due to the excess of analysis “to the paralysis by the analysis”.


Free “No” should be reversed in business management. It comes to my mind the British concept of “accountability” which has no direct translation into Spanish since it transcends the meaning of responsibility.

In essence “Accountability” is really that commitment. That extra mile that a professional should try to do so that his/her company grows in value beyond the usual or safe, thinking more about the good of the organization and not on his/her own good.

Years ago, the concepts of “quality costs” and “non-quality costs” were widely extended in business management jargon. Understanding the costs of non-quality as “those derived from the lack or absence of quality, non-conformity or non-compliance with the needs of customers or, simply, not reaching the required quality levels“, saying “No” on many occasions, in my opinion, can be considered as non-quality costs.

The question is when saying “No” is appropiate to avoid costs or when saying “No” means lossing a great opportunity?

Fear, risk aversion, comfort or even worse the “what do I gain by getting into this mess?”, is on numerous occasions the reason for saying “No”. Now, if saying “No” wasn’t for free, perhaps the situation would be different. If managers were judged for saying “No” every time they say “No”, perhaps the business environment would change. The next problem would be how do you measure each time you say “No” and should have said “Yes”?

As Lord Kelvin said: “What is not measured, cannot be improved. What is not improved, is always degraded.” This is the challenge.

If we think it carefully, perhaps the self-employed are people who have decided not to say “No” to opportunities or who one day were told “No” and did not accept it. So, if this were so, in Spain we have millions of nonconformists of the “No”.

There is a quote, I think from Steve Jobs, that have stayed in me: “what’s the point of paying large sums of money for executives to execute orders from others.”


Enrique Giménez Sainz de la Maza

CEO. Energía


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