Being a team player, always raising your hand to tackle a new project, and consistently exceeding expectations can make you an invaluable employee at work.
But so can knowing when to say no.
“There are some situations where pushing back and setting boundaries is appropriate and a good career move,” said Lindsey Pollak, author of “The Remix: How to Lead and Succeed in the Multigenerational Workforce.”
Saying no means establishing boundaries, which can boost your productivity and help foster a better work-life balance.
“Senior leaders don’t want to surround themselves with a bunch of ‘yes’ people, they want to be challenged in their own thinking and get outside of their own bubbles,” said Liz Nolley Tillman, author of “Great Work, Great Rewards.”
Wait, that’s not my job
There are going to be times when you’re asked to complete an assignment or work on something outside of your role. Taking on the task can show you’re a team player who wants to help the company succeed.
But when it becomes a pattern, that can be a problem.
For instance, being the only woman in the meeting and always being asked to take notes, get coffee, book the room or make copies can hurt your career growth.
“That can impact your branding and credibility,” said Dana Brownlee, president of Professionalism Matters and author of “The Unwritten Rules of Managing Up: Project Management Techniques from the Trenches.”
She recommended agreeing to help, but also suggesting a rotating schedule where other colleagues take on the responsibilities to avoid looking uncooperative and getting saddled with all the office housekeeping tasks all the time.
The performance punishment
It’s great to be the go-to person at work. And when you consistently do a good job, managers tend to come to you with more projects
But when you’re too bogged down with various projects, deadlines and assignments you become less-efficient and productive, and the quality of work can suffer.
“The onus is on you to somewhat push back to benefit you and the organization,” said Brownlee.
If flatly saying no to your boss isn’t an option, take a more tactful approach.
Sometimes bosses don’t realize how much is on your plate, so let them know and ask how they’d like you to re-prioritize.
You can also let them know that by accepting a new assignment, another one might get delayed. “Sometimes we have to remind people of the consequences and put it back in their court,” she said.
Top performers can also end up getting promoted to management roles, but not everyone is interested in managing people or cut out for the job.
“Honesty is the best policy,” said Brownlee. “It’s perfectly fine to say you don’t think it’s the right fit at this time.”
But be upfront with your employer and set expectations about your career goals.
“You are going to have to be proactive and take on the responsibility of navigating your career path yourself,” said Pollak. “You want to make sure your goals and expectations are in alignment with what your employer is expecting of you, and that’s about communication.”
Try a helpful no
If you’re turning down a project or task, try adding value to the situation.
“You can say no, but be part of the solution,” said Pollak. Suggest another co-worker who might be more experienced or looking for a new project.
“You are showing you understand the person has a need and that you want to be a supportive colleague,” Pollak said.
Say yes, but on your terms
Don’t be shy about asking for certain terms or setting realistic expectations if you are going beyond your role or taking on an excessive amount of work.
For instance, if you are being asked to cover weekends, request to do it remotely.
Or if it’s a big project, ask for a team to manage in order to enhance your leadership experience or training.
“You want to strategically say yes,” said Brownee. “Sometimes that can be negotiating.”
Did you ever have a great boss? What traits made him or her so wonderful? Tell us about it and you could be included in an upcoming story.