When we say ‘yes’ too often, or don’t create boundaries to guard our time, it can leave us feeling frazzled, overwhelmed and stressed. This is often the case with ambitious and career-driven individuals. I know because I’m one of them. Often times, we want to be seen as the go-to person that can handle everything, which looks really good when it comes to end-of-the-year reviews where possible promotions and raises are being discussed.
To some saying “no” means we can’t handle the workload; however, it’s actually a sign of professional maturity to have boundaries and potentially push back. How and when you say no depends on the person asking. Your response will differ if the person asking is your boss vs. a colleague. In either case, you want to show you are a team player. You want to show that you are willing to help while at the same time being realistic about your already full plate.
Here are a couple of scenarios of how to say no at work (without the guilt).
- If your boss is asking, I wouldn’t immediately say no. I would ask where this project falls in priority to the other projects on your plate. If you have something that is due to your boss tomorrow and your boss wants your help on this new to-do, I would ask which one is the priority and renegotiate your timelines. This is especially true, if you know can’t get both done. So you need clarification on which one would your boss prefer to receive first. Ultimately, this should give you some additional time to get the next project done without feeling too stressed out.
- If your colleague is asking, ask questions and see what exactly they need and by when. If for some reason you can’t help, offer potential solutions for ways they can get the work done. Could an intern help or could you delegate the task to someone you manage instead? You may not be able to do the work with everything on your plate; however, offering up solutions shows that you are a team player. If you have the opportunity to assist you can say I can help, but I have to finish this project for my boss first. Will that work for you?
At the end of the day, it boils down to guarding your time. You accomplish this by creating boundaries and providing alternative solutions so you can always be seen as a team player. Remember you can always negotiate or renegotiate when things are due so that you aren’t pulling your hair out or headed for burn out.
What other tips would you offer up to others who have a hard time saying no at work? I would love to hear from you in the comments.