Even Rubber Bands Have Limits

Many of us have a hard time saying “no”, especially at work.  Sometimes, it feels like we’re doing more work with less time. We say “yes” because we want to be a team player, look eager and supportive, or simply be nice. Some fear that every “no” is a missed opportunity. This is not necessarily true!  Having the ability to say “no” can be an asset instead of a liability. There’s a big difference between feeling productive and being productive.

“I love when my employees say ‘no’ to me. It means they are thinking for themselves, as opposed to just following an archaic method of top-down leadership. However, I do not expect to receive a ‘no’ without an explanation. I want my workers to reason — to think intelligently — to transform our company, Royce Leather, into something better than it is today.” – Andrew Royce Bauer CEO – Royce Leather

“Your company is not paying you to say ‘yes.’ It is paying you to think. I’m known for telling my teams, ‘At least 25 percent of what I’m going to suggest is completely wrong. It’s our job to work together to figure out what that 25 percent is. If something feels stupid, it probably is. Let’s talk about it. Either way, we both learn.’” – Karin Hurt, Author and CEOLet’s Grow Leaders

Saying “yes” to every meeting, the new project nobody wants, and a few more hours at the office will not guarantee success. There is a price for every “yes” you, your team, and your company, make. Many times, saying “yes” to too many things – too fast, too soon – leads to feeling exhausted and unhappy. Deciding what not to do is just as important as deciding what to do. Business icons like Richard Branson or Bill Gates attest to one powerful philosophy behind their success: say no to other opportunities, focus on one big thing, and be good at it.

Every day, we are bombarded with things that fight for our attention: a favor asked by a friend, the upcoming 2016 presidential election, an interesting video on Facebook, or a new deadline set by your boss. So how do we empower ourselves, our employees, and our teams to say “no” without burning bridges or damaging our personal and professional reputation? How do we empower ourselves and others in the workplace with the ability to say “no” and the power to say “yes” when it matters?

  1. “No” is a good word – use it!

Saying “no” is a conscious, rational strategy. There is no right or wrong prioritization, but your decision to focus and strategically determine how much time you’ll need to deliver quality work and how an assignment fits in to your existing workload will help you to maximize success. Focusing your efforts and energy on those critical deliverables and tasks is crucial. Say “no” to that hour-long meeting that tackles operational problems when you’re in marketing and don’t offer any value-added. Say “no” to that Friday night out if you have an early Saturday flight. Now, don’t just say “no”, be gracious enough to give your reason. Most of the time, people will understand you only have so much bandwidth.

  1. Take a time out.

For me, staying productive, focused, and empowered at work means purposely scheduling one hour of unstructured time for myself every day. Saying “no” the right way during this time is in full affect! This block of time in my work day can only be moved in case of an emergency. During this time, I’m able to take a step back and think about projects, walk around the office or outside, and review pieces of work in depth without any distractions. This has been invaluable for me. Leaders may want to explore this approach and its implementation. This could help employees and teams by limiting interruptions and distractions, which lead to cluttered calendars, interrupted workflows, and scattered attention.

  1. Set boundaries. Create balance.

The work-life balance seems like an elusive idea, and at times, almost impossible. Being able to say “no” when your plate is full goes a long way toward staying sane at work and at home. Focusing on the things that are important, not the extraneous stuff, is a discipline that does not come easy. Taking care of ourselves both mentally and physically is critical to workplace success. If we show up to work stressed out, grumpy, and exhausted, we might as well not show up at all. Once you’re at work, there’s no escaping the stressors throughout the day. The amount of noise entering our lives every day is not controllable. But we can control how we manage and respond to these distractions. Balance must be a priority. Staying healthy, eating right, exercising, and getting plenty of sleep are all activities that lead to greater focus and energy. I find that starting my day off with a run and then allocating time for myself later in the day allows me to deal with even the craziest days.

Saying “no” can be difficult because we’re passionate about our work. Doing our jobs well, having a willingness to serve, and being a team player are all great qualities. But not having limits in place or not having a clear focus can leave you burnt out and frustrated. Saying “no” the right way is not looked upon as a negative. Of course, a blunt refusal is a no-no! However, employees who are assertive and fully aware of their capabilities and limitations, who are able to calmly evaluate requests made of them, and judge whether to agree and communicate their decision in a confident and clear manner are looked upon favorably. Be purposeful in your actions — learn to say “no.” Saying “no” means you know your limits. The tough choices you make today (saying “no” and creating balance) will help you reach a happier place tomorrow.

Meet our Author!

By Anthony Anderson | Sr. Sourcing Solutions Specialist
Anthony Anderson is a Rochester native. He studied Political Science at Bethune-Cookman College & Alabama State University. He has also studied abroad in London & Amsterdam concentrating on public policy, international affairs and diplomacy. Anthony has built a diverse background in recruiting, operations and public relations. Anthony has established an extensive network of business contacts over the years and is recognized as a trusted partner in the field of recruitment. Anthony is a member of SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) and has sourced and recruited top talent for companies such as Xerox, Disney, Allstate, JP Morgan Chase and the State of New York including the Governor’s Office.  Anthony enjoys running cross-country and loves Alabama football. Anthony is currently the Senior Sourcing Specialist for Sutherland Global Services, Inc. healthcare, Insurance and Mortgage lines of business.

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