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The Power Of No

Updated: Nov 19, 2020

I recently had a chat with an overwhelmed co-worker. She is new to the company and feels pulled in many directions. Because the company I work for is small, it seems like many of us are forced to be in multiple departments trying to keep on top of urgent tasks. While this is good for added skills to your resume, can be detrimental to your mental health long term.

Our conversation started simply enough. “Any plans for the weekend?” I asked.

“I’m working on Saturday.” Was her sorrowful reply.

I felt as though I was looking at a younger version of myself. The version that was desperate to do well at my job no matter what. The version that always said yes to tasks and overtime thinking that would prove my loyalty. The version of myself that was becoming jaded and oh so very tired. I took a breath and gave her the advice would I read about in books, but didn’t take seriously until I turned 30.

“You know that saying no is also an option, right? You don’t have to continue to work 10 and 11-hour days and give up your weekend as well?” She nodded, but seemed skeptical.

I continued.

“No, is a powerful word. It shows people that your time is valuable. For example, If someone from a different department that you’ve been “helping out”, that isn’t your boss, is telling you to give up your Saturday’s, you are allowed to say no. Or if you have put in a 60-hr work week and your boss is asking you to work on the weekend too, you can say no. Saying no to overwork and stress allows you to be a better employee and thus help make this company more money.” I said gently. Her relief was visible.

Some people may feel that this is terrible advice to give a new employee. They feel saying no is selfish or will get you fired or overlooked for a promotion. I disagree. I have found that a well-placed no will grant recognition and promotions. I am living proof of that. I have been able to grow from an administrative assistant to a marketing manager in less than 3 years.

I did this by working hard for my company and saying no when I couldn’t do a task. I subtly let people know that my time was precious, and I was not available to work 24/7 or most weekends. I didn’t allow my time to be taken advantage of. Instead, I nurtured relationships within the company, continued my education, and when the opportunity opened to show my skills in marketing I let myself shine.

It was only recently I realized hard work alone was not the secret to my success, saying no was. By focusing on my end goal of marketing, I made myself available for those tasks. If I continued to “help” in multiple departments, that “help” would be seen as a part of my job and I wouldn’t have been able to take the opportunities afforded me in the marketing department. Those opportunities lead to me becoming the new marketing manager earlier this year.

This is my number one tip for both your business and personal life. As a business owner, you will have many requests for meetings, collaborations, partnerships, etc. Say no to 90 percent of these. Yes, you read that right, 90 percent. Focus on the things that will get you closer to reaching your business goals and leave the rest alone.

Remember a well placed no can do more for your career than you might imagine.

By: Leslie Berry.

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