Friday, January 20, 2012

Say no to the boss

Hey, you! Yes, you! You're about to take on another project just because you're afraid to say no. I know how you feel. The economy's bad, unemployment's high, and one of the golden rules is to never say no to work and never say no to your boss. You're afraid. Maybe he'll be disappointed. Maybe he'll suggest you can't handle your current workload and that's a problem. Maybe (like some boss's I've had) he'll use scare tactics and indicate that more work is better than being out of job.

You don't have to be intimidated. Stop and think about it. They're entrusting you with this project for a reason. Your responsibilities and to-do pile is now higher than your door because, let's face it, you're awesome. I know you don't tell yourself that too often. You're still afraid. You know no matter how awesome you are it's not going to protect you from a layoff or your boss's disapproval.

But things are turning around and being a doormat is not how your boss got to be your boss. Remind your boss of the other top priorities you're working on and ask him or her where this fits in. If they say top priority, fine, let them know what other projects will slip as a result. They ask you to work late hours? Well most offices don't run on a single person. Chances are no matter how late you stay you're not going to be that much more productive. You need Jane over in IT to help get your project in this system and Bob in accounting to sign off on your numbers.

Also be sure that when you're taking on a project that's obviously a step up that your boss knows this too. Sometimes it just gets expected of us that we're moving on to the next level. Boss's use this to get you to do a lot of work ahead of time that's above your head. If you protest they can threaten that maybe that means you aren't interested in a promotion in the future. But you don't have to play their game. Just say, "Okay, I'll be happy to take this project on. This is definitely more of a level 3 lead kind of program than what I'm already doing so this will be a good opportunity for me to prove myself." There. You've said it. Then when you go ask them for a raise in six months you can remind them. "Remember when you gave me the Humboldt Project and we talked about how that was me proving myself for the next level?" Hey, did I just take their silence to mean acquiescence? You bet I did. Same as when you accept a project without saying anything your boss is assuming you're willing to take that on as part of your regular responsibilities without ever expecting anything in return. Sometimes you have to say no.

(Photo from Qfamily)

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