saying no at work

Saying “No” – Setting Boundaries at Work

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When your boss approaches you and asks you to take on an additional project, your first inclination might be to say “yes.” You want to be a team player, make a good impression, and show you are willing to work hard. But “yes” isn’t always the best response.

Extra tasks, outside what you were initially hired to do, can distract you from your primary responsibilities. In the long run, it can leave you feeling overworked and resentful. They can decrease your quality of work and end up hurting you professionally instead of helping.

On the other hand, “That’s not my job,” can make you sound uninvested in the company and just plain lazy. There are times we all have to step outside the strict list on our job descriptions, pitch in, and help. So how do you know the difference? Ask yourself…

Is it going to be significantly detrimental to your primary role at the company, with no apparent benefit?

If you’re required to be on call for customers, but you’re being asked to attend all-day conferences, it’s going to affect your performance. Sometimes all it takes is to point that out. Your boss may not even realize the impact that additional tasks will have on your ability to complete your core workload.

Is there someone else better suited to the responsibility being asked of you?

You want to be a team player, but sometimes there is someone better suited to what you’re being asked to do. If the project isn’t a good fit, who is more qualified to take it on or under which department would it make more sense? Be proactive in finding a solution.

What is the scope of this new task?

This is always something you should ask, whether or not you accept a new project. Know what the timeline is, how many hours you’ll be putting in, when you can expect to be finished, or what specific tasks you need to accomplish for completion. The answer will tell you whether or not fitting something new into your workday is realistic.

Is it going to help better your skillset or increase your networking?

Ask yourself if this new responsibility is going to strengthen or broaden your work skills in a meaningful or significant way. Or perhaps it puts you in front of the right people or will provide you with professional exposure in your industry. If neither of these is true, maybe you should pass.

Saying “no” and offering an alternative solution to taking on more work yourself won’t make you seem like less of a team player. It will garner respect with your superiors who will realize you are organized and thinking strategically. And in a competitive workforce, you have to advocate for yourself, making decisions that will benefit both your career and the company.


Photo by William Iven on Unsplash

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