When to say NO

The truth is too many people are afraid to say “no” in the workplace, especially to those in more senior positions.

Many individuals are ‘people pleasers’ and simply haven’t learned that it’s ok to say “no” at times, provided it’s done in an appropriate way.

According to William Ury, author of The Power of a Positive No, in today's world of high stress and limitless choices, the pressure to give in and say Yes grows greater every day, producing overload and overwork, expanding e-mail and eroding ethics. Never has No been more needed. 

There is a common misconception that a person who takes on everything and never says no, will go far and go quicker.

This may be true to a large extent, since which manager doesn’t like an employee who will never turn them down?

But here’s the problem;

  • What if you'd bitten off more than you could chew and missed out on other high profile work, because you simply didn’t have the bandwidth and therefore weren’t even considered?
  • What if you didn’t know how to say “no” and ended up half way across the country or world, and weren’t able to spend time with your family or loved ones?
  • What if you took on too much work consistently for years and were now exhausted, burnt out, and bitter?
  • What if it’s been so long since you last said “no”, that you don’t even know how to?

Being able to push back on workload and people is an essential skill to learn, for the long haul survival of a balanced yet successful career.

Here are 5 reasons why saying “no” will help you in your career

  1. Contrary to belief, when pushing back and saying “no” is done in the right way at work, managers and colleagues will start to respect and value you more.
  2. People who have clarity on their next career goal, don’t get distracted by additional requests of unrelated work.
  3. Being in a position to discern what to push back on, and when, helps keep laser focus on your vision, task at hand and goal, enabling you to get there much faster.
  4. Managing your workload will allow you to run the extra mile when it's really required, instead of getting worn down with extra work that you secretly resent taking on.
  5. Being unable to say “no” (particularly to clients or managers) could mean taking on more than you can realistically achieve, and end up under delivering, after setting expectations so high. This eventually affects the perception others have of you and can play on your confidence.

Managing expectations is something I talk about a lot with my clients. It’s no great thing to try and be a hero, taking on a task or workload that you simply cannot deliver on.

Here are 3 acceptable ways to say “no” and push back

  1. Prioritise & Negotiate

When managing expectations with a client or manager, first you must assess your current workload. If taking on this new work will stretch you too far, now’s the time to negotiate.

Prioritise your work and explain that something has to give if you are to complete on time. Then put the ball in the requester’s court, and have him/her decide the order of your work and realistic timescales for completion.

  1. Balance

Learn to get the balance right. Pushing back ALL the time is not going to get you far, so don’t swing to the other extreme.

Doing ‘favours’ and going the extra mile every now and then wins you points, but be sure to let the other person know that this is outside of your usual scope of work, and that you’re simply helping out on this occasion. They’ll think twice about continuously dumping work on you.

It’s the ‘people pleasers’ that pretend they have no issues taking on everyone’s load that get loaded the most, since everyone thinks they’re fine and dandy with it.

  1. Assess & Delegate

It’s always important to assess what is being asked of you.  If you’re in a position to delegate the task, you could consider taking it on provided it doesn’t interfere with your existing priorities and tasks at hand.

Remember, being able to push back also includes being able to push back on behalf of your team members. Constantly dumping on them is not good management.

Go ahead and ask yourself, are you a people pleaser? Are you too afraid to say “no” to your manager or clients?

To conclude, every professional must learn to balance the act of taking on work and being able to push back and say “no”.

This is imperative if the goal is to experience success through a happier, more work balanced career with longevity.

Hopefully the tips I’ve shared will help you manage this skill better, so that you’re not taken for a ride every time, but are still considered a valuable contributor to the team & firm.

 

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