Thursday, February 6, 2014

How To Set Boundaries and Say "No" Without Hurting Your Career



Every year we have a new group of interns and new staff that start in January, right before the busiest time of year.  As part of the onboarding process, we talk a lot about setting boundaries, communicating work schedules and not taking on more than they can handle.  But, its a struggle for our new team members to say no.

I find that accounting students are smart, driven, people-pleasing perfectionists.  This combination can create a person who never wants to say no.  These team members want to take advantage of every opportunity that comes their way.  They want to impress their supervisors.  They want to show they are a team player.  They want to succeed.

Most of us in public accounting have learned the hard way that saying yes to too many tasks ends up creating problems in the long run.  At some point in time, we aren't able to follow through on all our promises.  We may miss deadlines or produce low quality work.  We miss personal events to spend more time at work.  We get burned out, frustrated and overwhelmed.  In the end, we disappoint our bosses, family and ourselves because we can't do it ALL!

Each of us has a different tipping point.  We have to know ourselves well enough to recognize when we are getting close to falling off the cliff.  Pay attention to your stress levels, work quality and how you are feeling about coming to work.  Then, actively manage your workload so you can be successful.

So, how do we continue to move forward, take advantage of opportunities and be a great team player?  The key is to honestly communicate our capacity and limitations.  Here are some ideas about how to handle a supervisor bringing you a new project.
  • Share that you would like to help them. That sounds like an exciting project.  I would like to be able to help you.
  • Clarify what is being asked of you.  What are the expectations in terms of finished product, time budget, due dates, finished product?
  • Communicate your current workload, due dates and priorities.  I am currently working on projects X, Y and Z that are due by Friday.  I'm working on those projects with Supervisor A and B. 
  • Give options.  Would you like to talk the supervisors of my current projects to reprioritize their work?  I could work on your project next week.  I heard that Staff A was looking for projects; could they help you?
  • Bring in your mentor.  If you can't figure out how to finish all the projects on your plate, talk to you mentor or boss.  They've been there and can offer suggestions to prioritizing your workload.  They can also help facilitate a discussion with your current supervisors.
Using this model, you can help your supervisor without taking on more than you can handle.  Try it.  Share how it works for you.

The article below shares some other tips to saying "No".

The Art of Saying No - Convergence Coaching

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