Have you ever been asked to do a project that’s outside the scope of your job?
Or how about “volunteering” for work that’s so not in your domain. And even if it is in your domain, it’s just not a priority yet you feel pressured to accept it for fear of looking bad.
We, too, fell prey to the notion of accepting everything that was doled onto our plate but then when the plate runneth over, it was time to push back.
Bob Burg, speaker and author of Adversaries into Allies: Win People Over Without Coercion or Manipulation, explains in her column, “Most people are generally nice and don’t like to disappoint other people. Where it gets counterproductive is when that impulse takes over and makes us do things that aren’t in our own best interests.”
So, what can you do?
Think of the word “no” as your ally. Although it’s more difficult to come right out and say the word since it’s a flat out rejection and can alienate people, he says you should call a meeting with colleagues.
Make it an informal, five-minute chat to set boundaries by mentioning you’ll be leaving the office no later than 6 pm. every day.
His advice: “Frame this announcement as an ‘I’ message. Prepare a little speech beforehand where you say something like, ‘I need to bring something up. I’ve allowed myself to take on a lot of extra tasks here and, while I’ve enjoyed helping out, it’s an issue now because I have to leave at 6 for family reasons.’”
Focus on the “I” instead of “you” as in you people have been dumping work on me! He adds in the piece, ”Focusing on the ‘I’ keeps people from feeling they’re being accused, which will just make them defensive.”
If you’re one of those people who have continuously said “yes” (and believe us, we were there at one point, too. So not fun.), it may be difficult at first to push back. Burg mentions the toughest part will be the first time after meeting with someone when they try to give you extra tasks.
“But be steadfast,” he advises. “Remind the person politely that you’ve already said you’re no longer the only one responsible for whatever it is. Don’t apologize and don’t give in. What gets rewarded gets repeated. We train people how to treat us, so if you always say yes, you’re training these folks to keep asking.”