FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) is real, and it happens in both our work and personal lives. Because of this fear of missing an opportunity, it’s easy to find yourself on the “yes” train, only to feel overexerted and spread too thin. While taking advantage of opportunities that can help your career is great, it’s important to realize when saying no is in your best interest.
Here are four times you’re allowed to say “no” at work.
When your calendar is already crammed
When your schedule is jam-packed, saying no is probably the way to go. While you may be able to fit in a quick meeting or take on one extra project, it’s important to assess the obligations you’ve already committed to before saying yes to something else. Would taking on this extra task take a lot of time? How much would it cut into your current projects?
If saying yes to a new opportunity would hinder your ability to complete tasks you’ve already committed to, just say no. This can be hard, especially if you’re a people pleaser, but at the end of the day, taking on more is not always better. Instead, focus on putting your best foot forward on your current commitments.
When you’d be covering for someone else who’s always slacking
Are you constantly covering for a coworker who can’t seem to be bothered to lift a finger? When your boss recognizes you for your ability to pick up the pieces, it can be hard to put an end to things—but there’s a point when it’s not worth it.
If you continually cover for someone or finish the work that they were supposed to, you’re showing that person that A) you don’t mind that they’re slacking and B) they can continue to slack off because you will finish what they don’t. In this case, you’re doing yourself and the other person a disservice. Try talking to them directly, and if that doesn’t work, discuss the situation with your boss. Point out that you’re taking on someone else’s role and it’s impeding on your ability to get your own work completed to your standards.
Try approaching the subject like this:
“I’ve been doing x, y, and z to help [Name], but it’s getting difficult to get everything done to my standards. I’m happy to help, but it seems to be more of an ongoing issue than a one-off situation, and I don’t want it to affect responsibilities I’ve already committed to. Is there a better way we can delegate responsibilities or create more accountability as a team?”
When it’s a last-minute request and you already have other obligations
We’ve all had that last-minute work request that makes our stomach sink, whether it’s an after-hours event or a last-minute meeting. Sometimes you just suck it up and deal with it (yes, it’s part of being an adult), but it’s okay to say no if it will impede on other obligations.
If you’ve already made other commitments, explain the situation. Show that you would like to make it work but it’s not an option since it’s last-minute. You can say something like this:
“Unfortunately, I’m not able to make that work because of the timing. I’ve already made other commitments I can’t cancel; however, I’m happy to work with you to figure out another time that works better.”
If your manager can’t appreciate that that you’ve made commitments and you want to stick with them, you may not be in a work environment where you can thrive.
If it makes you uncomfortable (morally or physically)
This is simple: If something makes you uncomfortable, morally or physically, just say no.
If you feel like something isn’t right, trust your gut. You can always say “I’m not comfortable doing that,” or simply decline and say that you’re working on another project. Assessing the situation, your needs (both mental and physical), and how the request will affect you is essential to figuring out if the project is in your best interest.
If something makes you physically uncomfortable, get yourself out of that situation immediately and contact someone of authority. Whether it’s HR or legal authorities, if there is misconduct in the workplace, use your voice and be confident that no one should make you uncomfortable.
Michele Lando is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and founder of Write Styles. She has a passion for helping others present the best version of themselves, both on paper and in person, and works to polish individuals' application package and personal style. Aiming to help create a perfect personal branding package, Write Styles presents tips to enhance your resume, professional style, and boost your confidence.