Tag Archives: personal branding

Saying No at Work – When and Why to Do it

Knowing why, when, and how to say no at work is essential to your career success and work life balance.    We may not want to say no at work for fear of not being liked or worse – being fired.  This is simply NOT TRUE especially when you learn how to say no tactfully.  Before we can talk about how to say no, let’s get on the same page about why and when you should be saying no at work and how this can benefit both you and your employer.

Why Say No at Work – Here are 4 key benefits

  1. Protect your work reputation – Saying yes at work is not always good for you.  If you said yes and then did a poor job because you had too much work then not only do you NOT get any credit for saying yes, but your reputation for doing quality work will be damaged.
  2. Maintain high productivity – Once you learn how to say no tactfully, saying no will lower your stress level and keep you balanced and productive for all the work you still have on your plate.
  3. Increase work enjoyment  – It’s hard to enjoy work if you are constantly overwhelmed.  By saying no sometimes, you can maintain a healthy work load and better enjoy the work you do.
  4. Respect for your word  – By judiciously saying yes or no to extra work, you can build a reputation for being your word and avoid easily being dumped on.  When you say yes, the work you return will be stellar.  When you say no, you have a good reason and people will respect you regardless.

When to Say No at Work – While it’s absolutely okay to say no at work, you will have to do it selectively.  It’s not healthy for you to say yes all the time, but it’s also career limiting if you said no all the time.  Here are 6 key considerations to help you decide when you should say no.  Remember there are benefits/consequences to saying yes or saying no.  It’s up to you to decide based on your career aspiration, health condition, and goals in life.

  1. Level of experience – if you are young or have limited experience at your current job, then you may want to error on the side of saying yes most of time.  It’s called paying up front to build a reputation for having a good attitude and willing to take on extra work.
  2. Quality – Can you complete this extra work at a high quality?  Can you still deliver the other work you have at a high quality?  Remember low quality work will affect your reputation even if you said yes.
  3. Stress Level – will taking on this extra work significant increase your stress level?  Are you already overwhelmed at work?  Having you burnt out will not help you or your employer
  4. Business reason – Do you have a good business reason for saying no?  An example of a good business reason is that this work is dependent on another piece of work and that one is not completed yet.   You should never turn down work for the sole reason that you don’t like the work or you don’t like the person requesting it.
  5. Frequency –  Is this a one-time urgent request?  If so, maybe saying yes is okay as it is temporary.  But if this extra work is a frequent request, then consider it carefully and decide
  6. Requester – who is asking you to take on this extra work?  Can their impression of you affect your work reputation?   What is your reputation with this requester already?  If they already think you are a “star” then they are more likely to accept a “no” if you have a good reason.

Stayed tuned for the next article on How to Say No at Work – 5 Tips.

Your comments:  Do you agree that it’s wise to sometimes say no at work? I look forward to your comments.

– Lei

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What to Do if Job Search is Taking Forever

In this economy, a long job search effort is unfortunately more the norm than the exception. It can be very defeating and job searchers can easily run out of ideas of what to do next. Here are three articles that may help: Can’t find a job – 8 side gigs that actually make you money…

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Starting a New Job – 6 Tips for First 90 Days

If you just got a new job, congratulations! This is a tough market, so getting a job is definitely an achievement. Now another type of work begins. The first 90 days on the job is critical to building a strong foundation for success at your new company. You may say, what do you mean? I…

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Success is about Working Smarter Not Harder

work smarter not harderGrowing up Asian, we are told that hard work is always what is needed to achieve success.Like a good Chinese girl, I followed that advice and worked my butt off at McKinsey, my first job.Fortunately or unfortunately, I learned quickly that hard work is not enough, and sometimes does not even help.

This took place just about a year after college. I was on my 3rd project at McKinsey, and my manager was a junior EM. He wasn’t officially a manager, but he was up for promotion soon. Anyway, this project was his proving ground. I was naive and eager, so I tried my best to do a good job. I worked almost every weekend on this project. I distinctly remember him asking me to work one weekend to summarize a mountain of research into two slides. I was diligent, and I worked about 10 hours each day. I was able to do it all that weekend, and sent them to him by Sunday night.

I remember feeling relieved and accomplished that night.Well, long story short, he didn’t use those slides for four weeks. When the Senior Manager finally saw the slides four weeks later, they used them in the client presentation. And guess who got the credit for it? Well, it wasn’t me. A few months later, when the client was not happy with some part of the project, guess who received the blame? Well, it was not my manager.

How did this happen, you may ask? I wasn’t in many of the senior level meetings as an Analyst, so my manager could say whatever he wanted about my performance. That included blaming me for the client’s dissatisfaction, and taking credit for my work. I only received an Average rating for that project, but I learned about office politics and what it takes to be successful. Here were my mistakes:

  • I spent 150% of my energy on doing good work, and almost none on publicizing my good work to anyone but my manager. I could have easily done some subtle PR and copied those slides to the senior manager and partner, too, under the guide of getting feedback or in case they needed to use them. Either way, they would have known that it was I who made them — and 4 weeks earlier, too!
  • I didn’t take any time to build relationships with the partner, senior manager, or the client. Nor did I take any time to build a support network at the office with other senior folks. I followed my upbringing, kept my head down, and worked hard. So, when the manager blamed things on me, no one could question him about it. They didn’t have any other reference point.
  • I also assumed that my manager would represent me fairly – a bad assumption that I try not to make again. He was up for promotion, so any blemish on his performance could affect that. He didn’t really believe in developing others, so I was a good scapegoat. Not all managers are like him, but they are definitely out there.

At the end of the day, I learned a lot during my two years at McKinsey. Years later, the Partner on that project met up with me in San Francisco for coffee (I learned and had kept in touch with him). He actually apologized for that manager’s behavior, and asked if I was interested in re-joining McKinsey after business school. I wasn’t, but it was a nice gesture.

Moral of the story:

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Your comments: Do you agree with this article?  Share your comments and questions below and let’s have a discussion.

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– Lei

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