How to turn down work without compromising your position

When was the last time you said ‘no’ at work? There’s no shame in being the guy who says ‘yes’: taking on work indiscriminately is the sign of a healthy work ethic – but whether it’s a productive work ethic or not is another matter. And, unfortunately, the willingness to take on every task you’re assigned can sometimes be caught up in other, less positive attributes: fear of losing out, pride in handling everything that’s thrown at you, or simply the inability to assess and manage your own schedule.

If you take on tasks that you don’t have time to complete, or that will impact negatively on the rest of your workload, you are not just letting yourself in for a hard time – you are compromising the level of what you can achieve for your business, your boss and/or your client. If you decide to turn a project down, saying ‘no’ can be the most difficult part. If you fear the wrath of the person to whom you’re declining, try to remain confident in the knowledge that ultimately it’s the best solution for everyone.

Therefore, transparency is the best way to proceed. Take some time to clarify for yourself the reasons that you can’t take the work on, and potential solutions. Be bold and honest, and you will retain their understanding and respect. This isn’t the moment for excuses, but for reason. Meet them in person (rather than sending an email) – you can ensure you’ve been understood properly and it will be easier to make your point.

If you’re working as part of a team or community, you may know someone who is better suited to take the work on. Again, this may be what throws you in a quandary about whether to turn the work down: perhaps you’re concerned that redirecting work on one occasion may see you overlooked next time around. It’s a legitimate fear, but ask yourself: is it better to suck it up and submit inferior work, or to offer a better solution that keeps everyone happy? Pass along a tasty assignment, and you should be remembered positively by client and colleague alike: you will position yourself as a helpful and resourceful part of the ecosystem. It all comes back around eventually.

On the other hand, if you’re passing on a less savory task and you’re concerned your boss will think you’re shirking, face up to the music and ask for help. Arrange a meeting to discuss your schedule. Use the opportunity to discuss the implications of overwork and to try to solve the issue together: maybe you need more overtime, more workable deadlines, or perhaps some help prioritizing and scheduling. Approached with honesty and maturity, hopefully your boss should see sense.

If transparency is the foundation of this approach, gratitude is an element not to overlook. Whether you’re saying no to an appealing bit of business, or asserting yourself regarding your employer’s unrealistic expectations, these are the people that pay your salary. Expressing thanks at having been considered for the task is a valuable way of maintaining relations even as you’re forced to turn it down. A client should be thanked for the potential business and asked to remember you next time; a boss can be thanked for considering your talents to be suitable to the job at hand – and for having confidence in you to complete such a heavy workload! So finally, when you’ve met with the person, explained your position and offered alternatives, remember to say thank you. After all, having too much work can be a privilege that others would love to have.

These ideas and more are collected in a new infographic from The Business Backer. Be sure to read and digest them next time you’re unsure how to deal with a request too far.

This is a guest post from John Cole. John is a digital nomad and freelance writer. Specialising in leadership, digital media and personal growth, his passions include world cinema and biscuits. A native Englishman, he is always on the move, but can most commonly be spotted in Norway, the UK and the Balkans.

(Image Source: The Business Backer)

How to make yourself work when you’re not feeling it

This is a guest post from John Cole.

Being boss doesn’t mean you get to demand results – it means creating the conditions for those results to be achieved. If you’re running your own business and are responsible for a team, you’ve probably cast a judgmental eye over some of the trendy quirks and gimmicks that your contemporaries in some of the better-known start-ups have applied to their workspaces. Yet, these environments became famous because the businesses are successful. The management at Google, Vimeo et al. recognize that staff motivation is a complex beast. No matter how devoted your employees might be, there are certain mental and physical limits that affect us all.

At this time of year, when serotonin is scarce, it’s more important than ever to ensure that your team’s work environment is conducive to sustained motivation. Perhaps you already have some reward system in place for when projects are completed, but have you considered the idea of daily rewards – before work is begun? A morning morale-booster, be it a box of donuts, a shared video or song can actually provide a dopamine hit for your staff, so that they plunge into work all the more motivated.

When you’re done with the donut solution, you can also attack from the other direction: exercise! If you have team members who like to hit the gym in the morning, do what you can to facilitate it: allow them a bit of extra time to get to work, or even consider making a deal with the local gym to get memberships as a job perk. It’s not because you want a team of buff jocks, but because exercise in the morning can actually improve motivation to work. As long as they don’t overdo things, getting the blood pumping is a good idea. This is also why you should ensure your team have regular breaks, and do what you can to help them be active on these breaks. We’re back in quirky work environment territory here: think about making a small, private space for quick bursts of activity, for example with a ping-pong table or exercise bikes.

Getting results from your team requires the use of your imagination, but it also requires engaging with the basics of how we work as human beings. Check out this infographic which covers some great motivation tricks for individuals – they’ll work for you, and with some of that innovative thinking that got you where you are today, you can use them to motivate the whole office.

John Cole is a digital nomad and freelance writer. Specialising in leadership, digital media and personal growth, his passions include world cinema and biscuits. A native Englishman, he is always on the move, but can most commonly be spotted in Norway, the UK and the Balkans.