It's the end of the week and the to-do pile of work on your desk doesn't show any signs of getting smaller. Your boss walks into your office and asks you to a ‘little' job and you can't say no, which results in you taking on more work than you can realistically manage.
It is a natural response to want to accommodate the requests of your superiors, after all, they pay your wages and can help make or break your career. And, you don't want to disappoint them or give the impression that you are too lazy to help, or feel that you are letting everyone else down.
But, there is also the very real risk that you can sabotage your career by saying ‘yes' all the time. Your credibility and reputation can be irreparably damaged if you end up failing to deliver on something you've committed to.
So how do you decline extra work without offending anyone or risking your job?
If you have always accepted the demands of your manager without question, then it may be more difficult to break that pattern of behaviour and maybe even daunting.
If you are overloaded with work, you need to take steps to remedy the situation because when your workload is excessive, you cross over the line between ‘positive' and ‘negative' stress and start to feel out of control.
If you can't say ‘no' then you are in danger of becoming stressed, fatigued and even resentful of your peers or superiors, particularly if you end up having to work through your lunch break or staying longer than everyone else at the end of the day.
When saying ‘no', try to remember that the person making the request probably has no real understanding of what your existing workload might be or perhaps they don't fully appreciate the time involved for you to carry out their request.
The most effective tactic could be to avoid confronting your manager about your overall workload. Instead, restrict your negotiation to a specific task or project that is taking up too much of your time.
A blunt refusal to help will simply burn bridges and damage goodwill. Instead, simply explain your existing commitments and perhaps propose another way or another time that you could offer assistance.
If you say ‘no' make sure that you do not fall into the trap of being over-apologetic. Say what you need to in a concise way so that it doesn't sound like you are trying to make excuses to avoid taking on the extra work.
And, stand your ground. If people get the impression that they can talk you round then they may persist until you give in. Don't.
Saying ‘no' will get easier as you go along, just remember to think it through so that the person who is being refused can see that you have seriously considered their request.
Human nature dictates that we all have the need to feel accepted and liked by others. But, someone who is assertive and fully aware of their capabilities and limitations, who is able to calmly evaluate requests made of them and judge whether to agree and communicate their decision in a confident and clear manner is going to be looked upon favourably.