When To Say No… And Be Labeled As Helpful.

This is a delicate topic and the key to success is to know when to say ‘No’ and how to say ‘No’.

To properly explore these topics, I’ve created two blog posts – one for each topic. This is the first post which explores, When To Say ‘No’.When To Say No

Most everyone I meet would like to do more interesting work, get ahead and enjoy more quality time… and often this translates to trying to find ways to get more done. Translation = more reward with roughly the same amount of time investment.

Fitting time management best practices into your work and living routine is a great way to stay in control and stand out in the crowd. As part of good time management best practices, a critical component is to know when to say ‘No’ … and not be labeled as unhelpful, unwilling or a poor team player can have serious negative impacts on your long-term career.

The first thing I think is important to identify is that all decisions are not weighted equally. For example:

  • Big decisions – Do you accept the promotion? You’ll have to move 1,000 miles and uproot your family.
  • Medium decisions – Do you accept the special project? You’ll work most nights and weekends for 2 months.
  • Small decisions – Do you help a co-worker build a presentation outline? It will take an afternoon.
  • Miniscule decisions – Do you proofread a co-workers memo to a supplier? It will take 10 minutes.

For you to decide your best course of action, I believe you need to explore the answers to 3 big questions:

  1. What is your goal / your objective? Does the request being made of you meet with your short & long-term plans, job objectives, personal skill set, and / or will it give you experience / exposure to want?
  2. What is your current reputation? Do you have a reputation? If you don’t have one you have to build it… and likely you should say ‘Yes’ more often than ‘No’.  If you have built a reputation as being earnest, hardworking, a team player, good time manager dedicated to quality service, you’ll have some good-will and therefore have a bit more flexibility to choose.
  3. How valuable / senior are you?  If you are new to the company / industry and / or just out of school and want to get ahead, be prepared to work beyond 9 to 5. If you’ve already made yourself indispensable to the company, you’ll have some flexibility to choose.

A Personal Look Back: Real Experience

When I was just out of university and working my dream job I said yes to almost everything that came near me. In fact I often went looking for new projects, and this approach worked out for me. I know that at times I overextended myself – and that working on special projects meant I didn’t always get an exceeds expectations performance rating (and so I lost out on a slightly larger end-of-year bonus), but I also know those special projects met with my intended goals to give me experiences and introduced me to people I otherwise would not have had.

And even though I sometimes overextended myself, the key to my early decision was that I never risked my job or my team. I never put the job I was hired to do in jeopardy… and because people saw I was willing to take on special projects, they identified me as someone who wanted more and was willing to work hard.

Building Your Reputation

As with my experience, new employees get more experience, meet important people, get their name heard by important people and have more opportunities to prove themselves when they say ‘Yes’ to many tasks.

To get where you want to be in your career as quickly as possible I believe most of us have to make an investment… and that might mean giving up things early in your career to meet your long-term goals. You’ll likely miss some dinner parties, weekends at the cottage, teacher / parent interviews, and perhaps even your children’s piano recital. And after years (not months), of hard work you’ll have created a reputation that helps you say ‘No’ (and create more of a work/life balance).


While saying ‘No’ will almost always help you focus on your immediate work, it might also narrow your long-term career options and reputation.

Being mindful of when to say ‘No’ and how to say ‘No’ is one of the most important opportunities for you to gain better control over your time management and personal productivity… and therefore help you achieve your long-term career goals.

Happy communicating.

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Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Email Etiquette, Managing Difficult Conversations, Multigenerational Training, Time Management and Mindfulness.

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About Bruce Mayhew
Bruce Mayhew is a Leadership Coach, Keynote Speaker and Corporate Trainer who builds strong client and co-worker relationships that give clients a competitive advantage. Our training and development programs include: ■Generational Differences ■Effective Business Email Writing ■Email Etiquette ■Phone Etiquette ■Behaviour Event Interviewing (BEI) ■Mindfulness ■Using Linkedin to Build Client Relationships ■Objective Setting Made Easy

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