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Workplace culture makes us believe that saying yes to every colleague or employer’s request somehow guarantees job security, promised raises and the title of team player. The reality is, it doesn’t. Saying yes all the time can actually turn you into the office gofer. Knowing when to say yes can add to your status at work, but knowing when to say no will decrease burnout, protect you from being taken advantage of and keep you more focused in the long run.
“We need to say no in the workplace for the same reasons children need to hear no sometimes — to ensure safety and to set boundaries,” says Jana Kemp, CEO of Meeting & Management Essentials, a company helping individuals and organizations improve time management and organizational behaviour.
Her new book NO! How One Simple Word Can Transform Your Life provides readers with strategies for saying no along with individual and group activities to further help them develop their no voice.
“No is a legitimate, time-saving and life-affirming word that can put you back in control of what you need to accomplish. Saying no helps you maintain balance so that you can complete a realistic amount of personal, professional and even voluntary commitments without wearing yourself out or having to let down people or projects important to you because you’ve over extended yourself," says Kemp.
Kemp’s book categorizes employees into three types: Master of No, the person who can say no and mean it; Waffler, the person who makes no sound more like maybe and who might pass the buck so they don’t look like a mean person; and the Yes-ism, the person who blindly says yes regardless of what’s on their plate. According to Kemp, many employees fall into the realm of the Yes-ism person because they’ve either bought into the myth that yes will get them the corner office or they haven’t yet felt the consequence of falling behind on everything and appearing incompetent in front of their coworkers because they’ve said yes to everything but completed nothing.
Kemp adds that saying no does not mean you are mean or are not a team player. “Saying no is often the most responsible response. When you say yes all the time some people will not only take advantage of your generosity, but can feel the right to say yes on your behalf even when you are not around to speak for yourself. Something that at both work or in your personal life can be very dangerous,” she adds.