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May 17, 2013 by Vanessa Fiorido in Project Management 101 & Tools

How to Say “No” and Not Get Fired

How to Say No and Not Get Fired

This morning, I woke up upset. Last night I had a nightmare that Lena Dunham kicked me off the screenwriting team for her hit television show Girls. I awoke in an outrage—how dare she! Then I remembered—I was never actually on the screenwriting team for Girls. In fact, getting fired from this position I never had might be my brain’s way of telling me to just let go of that dream.

Still, dream or not, there are few things that are as crushing as getting fired from your job. However, with project-based work, the potential for your client to cut his or her losses and find another project team sometimes looms at the back of even the most optimistic project manager’s mind.

Getting fired sucks, so instead of worrying about it, resolve to be such a great project manager that it just won’t happen. Say no and not get fired with these four job-saving techniques:

1. Learn from your mistakes

Every project manager, at one point or another, has made that one big cringe-worthy, project-destroying mistake, and if you haven’t, your time will come! But when these mistakes transpire, resist the urge to curl up into a ball and cry. Mistakes, instead, should put on you on hyper-alert. Why was this mistake made? What train-of-thought led to this bad decision? Was the plan wrong, or was it the execution that was flawed?

Rather than wait until the end of the project to conduct a retrospective, analyze mistakes as they are made. This way you can learn from your mistakes as you go. Don’t let one mistake cause a project fail by waiting to conduct a retrospective at the end.

2. Anticipate concerns

Okay, so you’re not a mind-reader, but the better you are at anticipating the concerns of project stakeholders, the more invaluable you become as a project manager. In the initial client meeting, clarify with your client the project expectations, budget, timeline, and resources to make sure you know the baseline expectations.

It is okay to let a client know there is a problem, as long as it’s not at the last minute. Keep the lines of communication open with your project client. Flag issues as you go. Rather than wait until they ask why the project is delayed, tell the client before the delay and explain why it has happened. A client understands that projects evolve in requirements and complexity. The client just wants to ensure the project manager they hired can handle it. So prove you are on top of things, and understand what needs to be done and your client will be happy to have you.

3.Be the favorite

It’s hard to fire the most likable person in a room. Never mind if it’s fair or not, it’s true. It’s much easier to let go of the office jerk when he makes a mistake, and it’s much easier to give the nice guy another chance.

Thankfully, being nice is a lot easier than balancing a budget: bring in chocolates for your team to snack on, ask your bosses about their weekend, smile, and remember to balance every piece of bad news with three pieces of good news.

4. Look like you know what your doing

Back in my waitressing days, I was captivated by one of my co-workers. At first, I assumed she had been there the longest and was somehow higher on the waitressing rung than I. But, after working with her a bit, it become apparent that she was completely average  at the job, and even had the propensity to slack off and steal a pastry every now and again. Still, my boss loved her and so she got lots of hours.

The phenomena at work with my waitress friend is one I’m sure you’ve all experienced in the project management world. Waitress friend was an average worker, but you’d never know by the way she acted. She radiated leadership, competence, and confidence in everything she did. If my boss had a question for her, she’d answer with a full explanation. Since she had such a strong belief in her abilities she never felt nervous to address mistakes she made, or problems she encountered. She looked in control, so my bosses assumed she must be in control.

Your client or boss can only have confidence in you as a project manager if you have confidence in yourself. Your belief in yourself will dictate how others see you. If you want to be seen as an indispensable employee, view yourself that way first.

Do you have any tips on how to keep your job and avoid being fired? Leave them in the comments below.

Image credit, davidyuweb, Flickr

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vanessa-fiorido
Vanessa Fiorido

Vanessa Fiorido watches a lot of YouTube at work. Sometimes she blogs about project management.

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