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It is OK to say,"NO."

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Once again, I am sharing some classic remarks by a highly qualified Management and Work/Life Balance Expert. Colleen Contreras is my business partner and was co-author of our book, Build The Life You Want and Still Have The Time To Enjoy It. How Busy People Can Maximize Their Time In The Real World.

Is It Ok to Say, "No?"

While on-boarding new employees and team members, I heard a manger say, “I have three rules: it's okay to say no; it's okay to say I need help; but it is NOT okay to surprise me.”

How many of us really feel comfortable saying, " no?" It is hard enough at home, but at work….
And, how many of us really know how to say, "no?" While telling my four year old that he cannot have ice cream for dinner is relatively easy…. telling my boss no to something when I am up for promotion this year is an entirely different situation.

Interviews with professionals in the consulting industry give great insight into both sides of this topic. On the one hand, companies were often surprised to find that their biggest risk of turnover and/or burn out was from their top performers. This group tends to be over achievers and thus they have the hardest time saying, No," or asking for help. They often push through stress and exhaustion when they should take a step back or a break.

One interviewee shared that early in his career he was on a hot new project. He was staying at a hotel near the client because he was pulling such long hours. One night he went back to his room to get some much needed sleep. He started sweating. His chest was tight. His vision was blurred. He got scared. He called down to the lobby....not wanting to make a scene...and asked if they had a doctor in house. They asked what was going on and he explained. They immediately called 911. Sirens, flashing lights, and much embarrassment....he was advised it was a panic attack and that he should pace himself.

Slow down. Simple enough? Easier said than done when you are supposed to be at your son’s soccer match and you have a line of people at your door urgently in need of your attention.

We get this advice at home and at work, but it takes skills to implement. We know intuitively that it is impossible to sprint a marathon without losing your running mate(s) or injuring yourself. But how do you achieve pace when there is always another priority, fire, or opportunity?

1) Take a Step Back

If you feel overwhelmed or frustrated, if you are snapping at people, if you haven't eaten in the last several hours---your judgment is compromised. Physically stand up and take a break. When the urge is strongest to push through or you have the greatest sense that you can't afford a break that is when you need one the most. The only way to gain perspective is to have a way to clear your mind. A short walk and something healthy to eat or drink can help reduce the sense of being under pressure.

2) Communicate

Managers see it as their job to help their teams balance priorities, but unless you go to them, they can't help. How do you start the conversation? Below is a list of phrases. Practice a couple and keep them in your back pocket as they also help tamper the "yes reflex." Top performers are often in the habit of saying, "Yes," on the spot and sacrificing later to meet the commitments that may not be priorities to superiors. Many of the phrases on the sheet can replace a "yes reflex" and will give you the time to assess if you can do something,

2) Do an Emotions Pulse Check

Often we don't communicate because of a guilt or fear reflex. It may be fear of missing a chance, being left out, or being seen as not as strong as the others. Guilt...if I don't do it...who will or who can? Communicating or asking for help is not weakness!

In another survey, we asked managers what gave them confidence their teams would perform and what made them question a team's capabilities. Managers consistently stated that a team that communicates, or asked for help or ideas, gave them confidence. Teams or individuals that took on a project and then went quiet worried them. Did they understand what needs to be done? Do they need help and are waiting until the last minute, or are they spinning their wheels figuring things out whent they could just ask?

A final thought, anxiety is contagious; but so is one's perspective. What are you passing around? People do notice these things and pretty quickly connect them to their source. It never hurts to keep an eye on yourself and what you might inadvertently be communicating.

Be good to yourself... you are worth it!

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