Advance Your Career By Saying “No”

You must learn when and how to say “no” if you really want to accelerate the journey on your career path. Because so long as you say “yes” to every request for your time and talent, you are allowing your friends and associates to consume your most precious asset–your time–to serve their agendas rather than advancing your own.

I know. It not easy to say “no.” “Yes” gives you that warm and fuzzy feeling. Your ego is really stroked when you are asked to lend your abilities to solve someone else’s needs. You come to believe that no one else can do the job. You believe that taking on more and more assignments is the road to success. You are reluctant (i.e. afraid) to use “no” with your boss.

Six Job Tips For Saying “No”

There are six steps to mastering the art of saying “no.”

  1. Recognize that if you continue to agree to every request for your time and talent you are certain to become overloaded and burned out. You will lose your focus on those things that are important to achieving the career rewards you crave. It is inevitable that the quality of your work will fall off. The positive qualities that caused people to ask for your help will erode.

  2. Understand that the more you value your time the more other people will value it, too.

  3. Learn when to say “no.” That time comes when you start missing deadlines; turning in less than your best work; showing signs of burnout.

  4. Learn how to say “no.” Be brief, direct and honest. Don’t beat around the bush when you have more on your plate than you can digest. Say, “I’m sorry. I would really like to help you, but I am so snowed under that I can’t produce the quality work both you and I would want. Can you give me a little more time or can we delay delivery of another one of my assignments?”

  5. Most people will respect your honesty and will try to set a new schedule or lighten your workload by reassigning the task or getting some help for you.

  6. If the requests that overload you comes from an associate you value offer to help that person learn to do the task himself. Suggest trading tasks. “You help me with X now; I will do what I can to help when I have more time.”

  7. Resist those chronic complainers who want to burn up your time telling you about their problems and asking you to hold their hand or intercede on their behalf. It’s okay to be Mr. Nice Guy for a brief time. But gently and firmly put an end to that role when you begin to lose productive time for your own responsibilities.

By learning to say “no” when necessary you make more time to say, “yes” for those tasks that accelerate your career.

Career Tip: If you are fully overloaded and your saying “no” doesn’t get relief, perhaps it’s time to look for a more accommodating environment.

About the Author: To get more common sense advice on how to protect and advance your career during tough times, sign up at for a free subscription to Ramon Greenwood’s widely read e-newsletter and participate in his blog. He coaches from a successful career as Senior VP at American Express, author of career-related books, and a senior executive consultant in Fortune 500 companies.

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