No, no, no and nooooooo!

When a colleague or your boss ask you to take on more work, do you often find yourself saying yes, when you actually mean no?

And are you left with a feeling of frustration because you didn’t stand up for yourself?


The biggest problem with this kind of pattern is that you end up stressed and overworked. Or you end up on the other end of the scale where you are super negative and say no to everything and everybody. None of this will create a good atmosphere for you or for your colleagues so you need to work on finding the balance.


When is the right time to say no?
Start by investigating when you tend to fall in the trap of saying yes, even if you know right off the bat that you will never be able to do a good job. There are lots of possible reasons:

  • You may wish to make everybody around you happy
  • You might be afraid of letting colleagues or your boss down
  • You may not have a realistic view of your own time
  • You might not have your planning in place, so you don’t even know if you have the time

If the problem is that you are trying to be nice all the time, there is good reason to think about what happens here. Forget about making everybody happy – there’s no way you can ever accomplish that. It’s also a fact that neither your boss nor your colleagues will be thrilled if you get so stressed out that you end up sick. And no one is going to pin medals to your chest for doing a bad job, just because you didn’t really have the time.


But how do you say no in a decent way? The worst example is the coworker, who is never able to help or take on extra work. We all know that guy, and you shouldn’t aspire to be him. You have to know where your limits are and where to draw the line, which will only gain you more respect. You might consider:


  • If you have a tendency to say yes too quickly; then ask for time to think about your answer. That will give you the opportunity to consider whether you really have the time and resources to do a good job or whether you were about to say yes out of pure reflex. You might also prepare a thorough answer as to why, if you decide to say no the assignment.
  • If you experience this dilemma often, then it might be a good idea to round up a few of these cases and explain the problem to your boss. If you silently accept the assignments without letting your boss know that it’s a problem for you to actually get your stuff done, then your boss doesn’t stand a chance of knowing that you’re overworked. She or he can’t change things they don’t know about.
  • Be completely on top of your planning. If you have a good grasp of your overall planning, it’s easier to say yes or no to each new assignment and it’s way easier to explain how you spend your time.

In the comments below, please let me know: do you recognize this problem?

Front Page, Managing your projects

About the author  Lise Halskov

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