Organisations are often striving to be the ‘best place to work’ or have the ‘best customer’ experience and being the best really requires us to be in tune with our employees or customers. In doing so, we may receive many suggestions for improvements or feedback which may not be actionable or aligned to the direction we are heading.
We may have some really valid reasons for not making those requested changes; such as the flow on impact the change has on other positive aspects of the business (‘that will slow our production run by half’), it may undermine the brand we are trying to create (‘we aren’t a ‘fries on the side’ sort of establishment’) or it may just be too large of investment for us to do something about that now (‘we know it would be great but it isn’t in the budget’).
So how do we deal with having to say ‘no’, but not disenfranchise the people that we were trying to get on side in the first place? Following is an example from my daughters experience, Esther (8 years old), whom completed a research project with her class about being more environmentally aware and using less paper. Having learnt the good message of ‘Wipe for Wildlife’ on one of our visits to the Healesville Sanctuary (nothing like an impressive bird show to drive home a good message), her follow up action was to write to the School Principal and find out if the school used recycled toilet paper (Exhibit A) and received a reply from the Principal (Exhibit B).
Which leads me to the 5 tips for rejecting your people’s change request
1. Provide timely feedback to the request
Unfortunately Esther waited 2 months for a letter that was written 3 weeks after the initial request made. Timely feedback helps to manage expectations and reduce the potential for pent up emotional energy being channelled into a cause. If it is not going to happen, nip it in the bud quickly with a respectful reason as to why not.
2. Be respectful of the original suggestion
“People think that recycled paper is always better.. But”. Reply’s that are condescending, or dare I say ‘poo poo’, the original request only serve to alienate the audience you are trying to keep onside. Try and walk in the requestors shoes and look to acknowledge the merits of the original request no matter how strange it may seem to you.
3. Know your audience
I’m not sure how many 8 year olds really care about “steam being used instead of water” in the paper making process (that is supplied from a geothermal source no less), but it sounds like a little too much vapour to me! Pitching a high brow response for an audience that requires the straight up facts, only serves to disconnect you from your people or customers. Showing you are in tune with your audience may actually win you respect even though you are saying no to their request.
4. Keep your message simple
So we know you may be really into the brand of toilet paper you are trying to defend, but pitching to me the company is ‘committed to purchasing virgin fibre only from certified sources’ and I am 8 years old? Simple is always good. Making things simple is not always easy, but it’s definitely possible and it can prevent you from appearing to be hiding the truth.
5. Tell the truth
Regardless of this toilet roll supplier being ‘internationally recognised standards for responsible forest management’, I suspect there is too much information here covering up what could be the real truth. If you have a locked in supply contract with another non recycled provider, well let them know the truth. Sometimes the truth is not the easiest story to tell, but when you try and bend it, chances are your stakeholders BS meter are going to go off really quickly!
Change that has been initiated on the basis of your customers or people’s feedback can be very successful change, as the people we want to impact are bought into the idea from the very beginning. So it is really important that when we are not going to act on feedback provided we let people know why, so those people are still willing to still provide feedback in the future, which may just lead to that really powerful change we are hoping to achieve.