1. Hader, Richard RN, CNA, CHE, CPHQ, PhD, FAAN

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The word "no" often evokes rejection and occasional hostility from the recipient to whom it's directed because of its authoritative and finite characteristic. We've all heard the phrase "No means no." When we experience it, we walk away from the interaction feeling dismissed and isolated. Why does the word elicit such negative feelings? As a leader, is it ever okay to use the word? What if I have to reply to a situation with this negative response because there's no other alternative and the answer must be a definitive no?


Mastering the skill of negotiation and consensus building can minimize the need to respond negatively. Difficult issues that demand a resolution are frequently complex and require an in-depth analysis and conversation to resolve. Listening and critically evaluating a situation to identify commonalities and differences require experience, objectivity, and patience to effectively sort through the issue. Establishing ground rules in resolving disputes will facilitate group dynamics by encouraging participation without fear of reprisal. Each person's perspective should be considered and valued as a contribution and not as inhibiting progress.


Identifying common ground is essential to building an agreement. Many times even opposing factions agree on an ultimate objective but differ on the path to resolution. Start the conversation by defining the objective that the group is attempting to achieve. Making sure everyone clearly understands the goal of the group is the first step on the road to reaching a mutually beneficial accord. Listing all the components of agreement will build camaraderie and emphasize commonality rather than dissension.


Once the objective is defined, the group must articulate its differences. Fiduciary disparities or lack of values clarification and constituent advocacy is often the source of dispute. Cultural beliefs and traditions are the foundation of values. They're often formed from childhood and aren't easily resolvable. As a leader, you must ensure that values are clearly voiced as they're frequently nonnegotiable, and a contract of mutual respect must be established. It's a reasonable compromise to agree to disagree on issues that demonstrate an intrusion in established core values.


Presenting the viewpoint of constituents is a primary role of the leader. Articulating the position of the group you represent is essential. Your subordinates expect you to clearly share their opinions and present a compelling case for the reasons why they've taken a specific standpoint. The argument should be convincing, clearly expressing those areas which are fixed and those of which are open for further discussion.

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The energy that fires disagreement is often caused by financial concerns. Fiduciary issues should be presented in an objective and factual manner. Finances shouldn't be distorted and can be used as a compelling rationale for the rendering of the final decision of the group.


Creativity in resolving differences should be encouraged and supported. Thinking outside the box, fostering an environment that supports and sustains originality, and respecting the opinions and rights of others are a leader's obligation. Discussion should be focused on the task at hand and not be allowed to disintegrate into differences in personality or prejudice. Sticking to the facts, identifying themes, and promoting positive interaction facilitate negotiation and ultimately lead to a successful outcome.


There are times when a resolution isn't possible. In these cases, we, as leaders, must act as judge and jury to make a final resolution to a problem. After carefully hearing all aspects of the disagreement and considering values, advocacy, and fiduciary responsibility, the ultimate decision is yours. Although it should be used prudently, "no" might be a reasonable and required response.


Richard Hader