Climbing the Ladder

The Quill Pen Pal

Can you say "no" and still work your way to the top?

Let's face it—most of us are on the receiving end of workplace assignments. And, the reality is that we almost always end up accepting them. But you really should make an effort to say "no" some of the time even though your inner voice is telling you accepting would be the right thing to do for your career. When it comes to the quality of your work and your sanity, the right thing to do is make sure you don't over-extend yourself and end up performing a large number of tasks with mediocre or disastrous results.

How do you determine what projects to commit to and what's right to pass on? This decision should depend on your actual workplace duties; you should weigh each request against your workload and decide whether agreeing to them would move you closer or further away from completion of your other assignments.

When you arrive at a juncture where you must refuse a request, there are several ways to say no without bruising feelings, appearing inconsiderate or sabotaging your career. By saying no in the proper way, you'll be able to proceed with no guilt on your conscience.

When you say "no" it may require some diplomatic phrasing. Here are some examples:

"I'd like to help out with this, but it's not really my area of expertise."

"Sure thing! But I'll need to have some extra time to learn how to complete your request. Is this what you'd like for me to do?"

"I'm really flattered that you're asking, but I have to be candid—I'm probably not the best choice for this particular project."

"Can I research this a bit before I give you an answer? I'd be uncomfortable taking this on unless I was sure that I could learn enough about it to complete everything properly."

"My plate is full right now, but in order for me to complete this project, I'd be happy to shuffle some things around to learn more about it. But I'll need some help in deciding how to prioritize everything."

If a project already falls within the realm of your job description, completing the work is just a matter of finding time. But if you're assigned work that's not something you were hired to do, it's an opportunity to discuss why it benefits the organization and whether you're the best person for the project. That's a sure sign of true commitment to success for your organization over your own professional ego.

Spreading yourself too thin can be a difficult habit to break, but it's an essential step in getting out of your own way so you can accomplish your career goals and successfully climb the corporate ladder.

Do you feel like you can say no in your job?

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