What It Means When Your Engineering Manager Says No

“No” doesn’t mean “you’re not good enough”. Most times, it’s an opportunity to do more with less

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Remember the saying “the worst they could say is no”? Well, it makes it seem like the words “no” aren’t a big deal, but in fact, they are. To us, they often mean rejection. Like if we pitch an idea for a new project to our boss or we ask for more funds for a project. It makes us think that maybe our project wasn’t good or important enough to them.

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However, most of the time, it’s not the case. Bosses say “no” sometimes not because your project is bad or unimportant, but because they know what’s best for the company and what other things need to be prioritized. So next time you hear your boss say “no”, try to follow these steps instead of panicking.

Expect more, need less.

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When our boss turns down our request, we either think he or she doesn’t know the magnitude of the problem, and reason it out, or we consider ourselves a failure, that our project just wasn’t good enough. We feel like we won’t be able to achieve the best results without some extra budget or better equipment and that we’ll have to limit the scope of the project.

However, instead of looking down on yourself and reducing the effort we put into our work, take it as a challenge. A good artist is one who can make a masterpiece out of limited resources, so you should be able to work on limited resources as well. Use things more creatively. Think of more ways to make it work. Collaborate with others. You’ll also end up impressing your boss on how good you are at making things with limited resources.

Try something new

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Relating to the first point, we’ve become so accustomed to having all the resources at our fingertips. Why learn how to use them creatively and maximize their use when you have a lot of them? This makes it clear that we haven’t developed our skill for resourcefulness.

The more experience we have with scarcity, the more we have to use our skills to invent new solutions. When a boss tells us no, that gives us a license to try something new and see if it’ll work. Learn to adapt. Not only will we end up solving the problem, but we’ll also limit our dependency on needing more.


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Every minute spent fussing about that “no” is every minute that could’ve been spent working on more creative solutions. Remember, a “no” doesn’t mean that your work isn’t good or valuable enough. Learn to work with what you have. Remember, you’re an engineer, it’s your job to find the most innovative solutions there is. Move. Take action. Do everything you could to make things work.

Take every “no” from your boss as an opportunity to do more with less.

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Cielo Santos

Engineer. Writer. Artist. Gamer. Musician. She dreams of building a time machine and help kittens take over the world. Is secretly the pink power ranger in real life.


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