No one likes saying “no” to a new assignment, lest they seem lazy or incapable. Unfortunately, this results in people taking on impossible amounts of work, leading to undue stress and poor performance that ultimately hurts both employee and company.
So how are you supposed say “no” to your boss?
A young corporate lawyer — who works in an industry notorious for crushing amounts of work — recently advised us that the key is to appear open to new assignments while conveying how busy you are.
“No one knows how busy you are better than you do, and you have to communicate that,” he says.
“If somebody asks if you can do something, you say, ‘Yeah, I would be happy to help. I’m working on this, this, and that. I would be able to meet with you [days later]. It’s a weird dance of expressing enthusiasm, while pointing to factors outside your control that would inhibit your doing it, but making clear that you’d be willing to do it,” he says.
Strike the right balance and you will come off as eager and capable, while your boss may make an informed decision to give the project to someone else, give you an extended deadline, or reassign your other work.
If your boss still gives you an overwhelming amount of work, then you should either reevaluate your work process or look for a new job.
“It’s really the people you work with who decide between a sustainable and unsustainable work environment,” the lawyer says.
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