Every workplace has a yes man or woman – is that you? If so, you’ll be dumped on again and again and after a while resentment, stress and demotivation may start to kick in.

While you wrestle with the bitterness and guilt (at the same time), your colleagues are oblivious to the fact, and just keep throwing more requests your way…

It’s time to start saying no – here are some useful tips to do that with grace and remain professional:

1. Hear them out
Communication is a two-way thing, and a good communicator learns to listen as well as talk. So, when your colleague presents a problem or a piece of work to you that you don’t have the capacity to do, hear them out. Be empathic, give them the room to explain – don’t jump in with a solution immediately, as in their talking through the issue with you, they may realise their own solution.

2. Acknowledge the work that needs to be carried doubt
If there is a genuine piece of work, acknowledge this. Doing that doesn’t mean that you’re the one who will be dumped on. Acknowledging a piece of work exists doesn’t mean that you are going to do it. You can and should ask them how they plan to carry out the work.

3. Manage expectations
While you’re being empathic to their needs, remember that you have a pile of work that they and everyone else has dumped on you…along with your own work. Let them know that you’re also pushed with a mountain of work to do. Phrases like “we’re all up against it at the moment, but I’m sure things will settle down soon enough” can get the message across subtly.

4. Praise them for their commitment
Even if they are the laziest member of the team, a positive enforcement may empower them to actually do the work themselves or find another lackey. Say something along the lines of “I really admire your motivation to get things done, it’s really inspiring”.

5. Just say no
Some people will still be determined to push the work on you, and will still ask you point blank to do the work after you’ve used the strategies above to get the message across to them. So, you’ll just have to say no. Don’t apologise for it, because your refusal isn’t a personal one, it because you also have a lot of work to do. In as a polite and professional manner say something like “I wish I could help, but I’ve got deadlines coming out of my ears myself, I hope you can find a solution soon, though” and leave it there.

Having the ability to say no is an important leadership trait. Learn to use it early on and you’ll soon see the benefits.

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