We can teach ourselves how to politely decline that unwanted extra work and save our energy for when it’s needed.
Do you find yourself taking on more and more work? Are you one of those people who gets dragged into every project? The one others always ask for help?
If you have people-pleasing tendencies or find it hard to say ‘no’, then read on.
Often people-pleasing comes from a well-meaning desire to help and be useful. Psychologists would say that it has its roots in an individual’s requirement for external validation and a need to be liked.
I’m a recovering people-pleaser myself. And I know the difficulties in saying ‘no’ at the office are not limited to those who have a deep psychological need to be validated.
I have seen it pop its head out to say ‘hello’ in many different work situations.
At work, fear of saying ‘no’ can be driven by a desire simply to keep your job. Or to be well placed for promotion. But accepting every little task can soon lead to feeling overwhelmed – and to burnout.
Claw yourself out of the hole
Healthy self-awareness will help create strong boundaries to ensure that you are in the driving seat in your career. And that as far as possible you control how you are treated at work.
If you understand your values and your career drivers you can use these as a compass to navigate what you will and won’t get involved in.
Check yo’ self
- Know yourself and values – take the free assessment to see what your values are at VIA Institute on Character or try Clifton Strengths Finder.
- Recognise your communication style and preferences.
- Be aware of your triggers and needs.
Check your job – what do you get paid to do?
- What is your core role and its required tasks? Boil it down to the three most important core components of your role.
- What extra stuff that is not in your job description do you do anyway? Assess that list. Does any of it come from perfectionism? Being a people-pleaser? Not wanting to say no or renegotiate?
- Once your job is boiled down to its core components, write it on a post-it note. If you can’t fit it into three bullet points on a post-it note then keep refining until it does.
Your post-it note is what powers you, it sticks in your pocket all day.
Communicate with your manager about what you’ve learned. I have done this many times in my career and in the past with this exercise I have:
- Received a promotion
- Demonstrated the need for new staff (three additional staff hired)
- Gained a new job title
- Been offered an out-of-cycle pay rise.
I’m not guaranteeing these outcomes for everyone but they’re more likely if you can explain what you’ve learned.
Power yourself up
Think of it like armour.
If you need help learning to say ‘no’, you’ll be pleased to hear that you don’t actually have to utter that terrifying word.
Make sure you understand what your core focus is. Then anything that doesn’t align begins to stick out like a sore thumb.
INCOMING! Here comes Shirley trying to get you to do her work again.
What does your post-it note say? If it’s not your core role, then move on to another victim, Shirley. ‘Thanks for the offer, but I’m focusing on my priority areas at the moment, working towards multiple deadlines.’
INCOMING! A shiny new opportunity has revealed itself, but your time would be stretched if you take this on as well as everything else.
Ask to be on the steering committee, which is only a 1-hour commitment once a month. ‘That sounds fantastic, I would love to be involved. I’m at full capacity at the moment. Is there a way I can be involved that wouldn’t be so time-intensive?’
INCOMING! Your boss asks you to do 50 things by the end of the day.
Take out your list of core tasks and ask what they would like you to stop doing in order to accommodate the new tasks.
- Understand yourself.
- Spring-clean your job.
- Get clear on what it is that you do and boil it down to 3 bullet points.
- Wear these like a badge and assess anything incoming against this.
- Hold your boundaries firm and reject anything that’s not in alignment.
Use these tips to clarify what inspires you and the core functions of your role. This empowers you to say ‘no’ and make the most of your time.