Are you at breaking point, but cannot say no to your manager or colleagues?

Are you are taking on work that is moving you away from the career you want?

If so, then I am going to show you how to say no so that both you and your manager walk away happy.

Set Expectations at the Start

Before you start a new job or when you get a new manager, then you should set their expectations on your work/life boundaries.

It ensures your manager has some criteria to apply when he wants to delegate a piece of work.

I tell my managers –

  • I work between x and y, but will work longer if it is critical to the business.
  • It is important for me to attend my children’s school and family events.
  • I do not answer emails when I leave work, but I am happy to take calls if it is urgent and cannot wait to the next day.

One of those managers delegated work via email and phone outside of work hours to many of my peers who would respond as soon as they could.

This caused them to have poor work life balances and even burn out.

I remember the only time he called me at home. It was about 8pm on a Friday night and I was enjoying a nice glass of red wine. I heard the main house phone ring and my wife answered.

She called out, Nick it is your boss from work.

I think the news that Lehman’s may go under and we needed to prepare a system plan for Monday was urgent enough.

When to Say No

  • You are already at capacity and cannot take on any further work.
  • If you take on this work, you will fail to deliver this or other important work.
  • Taking on this work will move your career along a route you do not want.
  • The extra hours required will have a negative effective on your personal life.

Why it is Hard to Say No

  • Your company culture is Just F…… Do It or something similar. If your company culture is like this, then saying no is not an option. I would try and find a company more suited to your work life balance aspirations.
  • Your manager will have excellent negotiation skills and knows what buttons to push to make you feel good on taking on this extra work.
  • You naturally want to please people by helping out.
  • You do not even have time to negotiate with your boss and just say add it to the pile.
  • You think your career will suffer if you say No.

How to Say No

1. Control Those Emotions

You may already be at your limit and stressed, but giving an emotional response will not look good to your manager. You also cannot think clearly when you are emotional.

Ask your manager for a couple of minutes to finish off what you are doing. In this time, take some deep breaths and get your emotions under control.

Then follow up with him in person, never by email. You need to be assertive and you cannot do this via email.

2. Take Time to Think

Do not rush into saying No.

Do you really understand the work in detail and it’s priority?

Ask a few questions to test your understanding of the work and its size. It may only take you 5 minutes to retrieve a previous piece of work and tweak it, but it may take you 2 weeks.

3. Layout the Alternatives

You have determined you cannot take on this work as well as all the other you have, but you manager will still needs to delegate it. The best way to negotiate is to offer alternatives and then both parties will be happy.

Are there any other people you can think of that can take on this piece of work.

Joe was looking to grow in this area, it would be great for him to pick this up and eliminate the single man dependency you have with this work.

Can you negotiate on time?

I can’t pick this work up at the moment as I have to complete some important client work by Friday and I am already working late to get it finished. Can I pick this up on Monday?

Ask for a priority call.

If I delay this other piece of work I am doing for you so I can get this done?

Ask for more help.

If Simon can help me with this other piece of work, I can pick this up.

Wrap Up

Saying no to your manager or even to your colleagues is hard to do. Learning how to say no will ensure you focus on what is important to both your professional and personal life.

Have you any techniques on how you say no to your manager or colleagues?

Categories: Personal Development