When you're forming new business relationships with team members, shareholders, mentors and others, it can be tough to know where to put your foot down and where to back off. After all, you're still learning about the other people, and both their needs and the needs of your business constantly fluctuate. But there are rights you always have at any point that, if asserted, ensure you aren't mistreated.
1. The right to ask questions or request more information.
Yes, deadlines can necessitate quick decisions. But don't let others withhold non-confidential data in an effort to undercut your authority or puff up their own control. You need that data to make informed choices you can feel good about later, and you shouldn't feel like you're in the dark about what's going on. This is where a strong culture of transparency starts, and the more you understand, the more you can build on and innovate with. Make sure you ask the question or make your request of someone who's in the right, authoritative position to understand and give you a thorough response. Keep the questions minimalistic with language that avoids any ambiguity.
2. The right to say no.
Some people have a hard time saying no because they want to give the impression of being friendly or a team player. But if you bend at every turn, you'll quickly burn out. Perhaps even worse, you'll get led away from the very values and ideals that served as the basis for your career or business in the first place. Not only that, but saying no at the right time is often necessary to protect the resources and interests of your company. If you have to refuse, always give the person you're dealing with a detailed why. This will help them refine future requests for you and reduce additional conflicts. It also ensures that you're thinking deeply and making decisions with real consideration.
3. The right to express your opinion without fear of retaliation.
A game of office politics never ends well. Don't play. Instead, you and those you work with should aim for all opinions and concepts to be on the table. This invites greater creativity that can translate to better decisions, products and services. It also makes it easier for people to understand the way you think, which can improve the efficiency and results of your collaboration. The keys here are to acknowledge the opinions of others first so they don't feel ignored or put down, and to give a thoughtful rationale about your conclusion. Don't fall prey to pure emotion and whimfully dismiss or attack what you don't agree with.
4. The right to efficiency.
Efficient work from others isn't just about keeping costs down, although it certainly does. It's also about freeing yourself and resources to do other jobs and pursue new concepts. If you've ensured that the other person has all the tools they need to produce quality results quickly, go ahead and politely call out the dawdling you see and ask for a rationale. Create clear policies that decrease distraction and waste, and communicate clearly about deadlines and progress reports.
5. The right to privacy.
Transparency has unlimited value in business, and a company legally can be entitled to monitor what you're doing. But you also need to set some reasonable boundaries for others. They shouldn't press you to reveal information that isn't relevant to the business (e.g., how you plan to spend time after work), nor should they disrespect your personal space as you work. Be honest about how any invasions of privacy make you feel or interfere with your work, and instead of saying what others can't do, offer what they can do to move forward. For example, if Nosy Nancy keeps popping in to the office, be clear that you're busy and schedule in some time to chat later.
6. The right to leave.
To be clear, you should meet contractual and ethical obligations whenever possible. But if you've met those obligations and are no longer bound, and if you don't feel fulfilled or just find a new opportunity, it can be the best thing for everyone for you to take a new path. Don't let others hold you back because they feel uncomfortable with change. At the same time, if you discover that someone else has violated your agreement, that's typically considered a reasonable justification for you to go. Just make sure there's evidence to support your move, and that you've given proper notice and done what you can to support a smooth transition.
The only requirement with these rights? Assert them with respect. Do that and you'll get what's fair and earn a reputation as a more amicable, intelligent leader.