“I am utterly over-worked but cannot possibly mention it to my boss! I have so many things on my plate but still cannot get myself to say no to my colleagues! My to-do list for this week has exceeded all expectations, and is still getting longer by the minute! So many things to do, so few resources and so little time! I am stressed out but I just cannot get myself to say NO! What if I lose my job? What if my boss gets infuriated with me? My colleagues will never ask for my help again!”
These are random statements we often hear ourselves/ colleagues/ friends say.
William Ury, author of “The Power of a Positive No” declares people often tend to say “Yes” when they actually want to say “No”. This illusion that working professionals are doomed to get “blacklisted” should they dare say “No” in the office haunts their minds today, probably more than ever before, with the economic crunch forcing many organizations to lay off people and thus, adding more responsibilities to remaining staff. Bayt.com’s recent “Employee Motivation at the workplace” shows 57% of Middle East professionals who have participated in the survey tend to suffer from excessive work pressure in the workplace, 32% of whom state the pressure they endure is almost on a daily basis.
Work pressure more often than not stems out of a combination of factors that include extended working hours, newly increased responsibilities, very tight deadlines and a lack of clarity on expected procedures or outcomes. All the above can be regulated with a crystal clear plan of where you stand, what you can offer, how much you can stretch yourself and what are the resources you require. Setting reasonable limits for yourself and your workplace peers will not only ensure you a much more lucid state of mind but will also boost your focus, and thereby your workplace productivity!
What can you say “NO” to at work?
- Getting buried with job responsibilities you cannot handle all at once: Most professionals dread saying no to the boss so that the fragile “boss/ employee” relationship keeps flowing smoothly. This is unfortunately a potential quagmire. Managers do not usually get involved in every tiny little detail of your working schedule and thus cannot possibly realize on every occasion that they are placing too much on your plate. You need to ‘’manage your manager’’ and professionally and calmly point it out. The equation here is very simple: Is there balance between your working schedule and the job tasks assigned to you. Are you working extra hours already and in danger of having to work weekends with an incremental project you have just been assigned? Managers do understand that work overload might eventually lead to poor quality of work, so lay your cards on the table loud and clear and respectfully backed with solid facts to support you. Based on Bayt.com’s recent Middle Eastern Professionals Motivation Survey, 91% of Middle Eastern professionals state a work –life balance is crucial for their motivation levels and consequently productivity at work. Should you be a usually productive and committed employee, your boss will not judge you or provoke you; he/she will instead appreciate your transparency, your commitment to optimal efficiency and the timely wake- call.
- Being asked to complete a task that does not relate to your scope of work at all: Middle Eastern working professionals have stated in Bayt.com’s recent survey “Employee Motivation in the Middle East” that 32% of them are mostly motivated at work when they have the opportunity to develop their skills. Does that entail you taking charge of filing employee leave applications when you are actually a graphic designer? Or maintaining the company’s blog when you are in fact the company accountant? As useful as the above might turn out to be, eventually perhaps, to your long term career development plans, analyzing the short run and taking into consideration the amount of time each task could consume of your working day may well warrant raising the issue calmly and openly to your management. It is, of course, both challenging and flattering to be entrusted with novel and interesting job tasks, even when they are in an entirely different department or field of work, but acquiring the relevant knowledge and resources could entail a considerable time investment, on top of the time you are required to allot to your regular job activities. If you are certain your schedule will not allow it right now, convey the message promptly and professionally to the executive concerned.
- Getting pressured by deadlines that risk leaving you wounded: Task 1 is quite urgent (needed end of day), task 2 is even more urgent (needed end of day). Task 3 and 4 have just been thrown into your plate (needed yesterday). You can definitely complete all 4 tasks, and complete them with pride and professionalism, but the deadlines are a bit too unrealistic. You fully understand the key here is prioritizing but since all 4 are matters of urgency to your management, you might want to turn to your management for help in prioritizing these specific tasks. This gesture will not only be appreciated, but will also take a bit of weight off your shoulders and help you abide by more reasonable set of deadlines. 32% of Middle Eastern professionals who have participated in Bayt.com’s Employee Motivation Survey stated the support of their line manager is crucial for boosting their motivation at work. Turning to your line manager whenever you are stuck will show you are committed, trustworthy and sincerely care about the wellbeing of your professional reputation and his/hers!
- Getting asked to do personal favors during work time: Pick up the boss’s laundry, dog and children during work time when that isn’t part of your job description? Run errands for your associate as she’s stuck in meetings all day and busy preparing for her glamorous party after work? Set your own priorities straight first and then, should you wish to take pleasure in stretching yourself a bit further and doing people favors in the office, make it clear that this cannot and will not interfere with your working schedule! Its great being helpful, flexible and cooperative in times of need, providing of course your favors are recognized and appreciated as such, but job responsibilities come first. Everything else can wait! Learn to politely refuse such requests should they repeat or become chronic. Indicate politely that your schedule does not allow you to entertain social favors while piles of urgent work under your direct responsibility accumulate at your desk. NO, it is not being rude: it is being frank and realistic!
To conclude, the workplace today is probably more hectic than ever before, and as much as you would want to please your colleague/boss/ upper management, you should first make sure your important deliverables would not be adversely affected. Do not entertain out-of-this world requests when your performance is at stake. Always ask yourself if the request is reasonable first, if your time allows it, if it aligns with your goals. Do not feel urged to profusely apologize or make excuses that weaken your position. Do not allow for manipulation or feelings of guilt or fear to rip you into pieces. You need not be provocative, you need not stress. Instead, stay calm but firm: Saying NO is not a taboo in the workplace any more than it is in real life. You will, interestingly enough realize, at the end of the day, learning how to say NO can very much be a win-win situation for all parties concerned!