Back2Work: No Doesn't Mean No

Monday. You sneaky little bastard.
(This was my first waking thought. Well, third. First was giving thanks, second was wondering what I'd eat, and then the realization that I'm not ready for it to be Monday.)

I was going to write about how I can't post today because I have a presentation (and if you remember from my Presentation 101 post, that means nothing else in the world matters) but the truth is, I also had this wonderful thing called a Weekend (I think it's French) and I could've written my post for today then, but did not. 

So instead I'm going to write about how to graciously say no without looking unreliable, unorganized and irresponsible.

Jay-z has a song where he says "They never tell me no, the most they say is 'not here.'"

That's kind of how I look at things with work sometimes. Especially if you're an intern or junior.

Try not to say no. Say not now.

When you're just starting off, you have to be PAW. Present. Available. Willing.
(I just made that up.)

You always have to have your swimsuit/trunks on and be ready to jump in there and swim. The older folks have put in their work and now have kids and lives they want to attend to. You have a career you want to grow. So make that your number one priority and be prepared to grind.

There's a saying "To whom much is given, much is expected." And once you establish yourself as awesome, available and hardworking, people expect you to always be awesome, available and hardworking.

But what about those times when you're not? Or better yet, when you can't be. Maybe you've got 8 other projects and have been holding your pee for the last 5 hours. Or maybe you're sick, or your mom's in town or it's Easter.

So how do you say NO or I CAN'T?

Stop, look and listen. Do a little reconnaissance work and look at other people's workloads, look at the timeline. Do you think this is feasible and fair? Is everybody else swamped too? Take a look around and see what's going on in your team and really access the situation.

Check yourself. Can you really not do this? If you rearranged some things, ate at your desk and put on blinders, could you make it happen?

Speak up. Talk to the project manager and see if there is any wiggly room in the timeline. Talk to your boss and see if he/she can push to get you a bit more time or get someone else to help. Talk to a coworker and see if they can help. You have many options and don't need to be overwhelmed and at your desk til sunrise five days in a row or miss your best friend's wedding unnecessarily.

Don't just say No or I can't. Those are ugly words. Ugly.

Don't give excuses. "Excuses are tools of incompetence used to build monuments of nothingness." (I'm on it today with the quotes!) If you have a legitimate reason, such as a family emergency or three deadlines at noon, say that. But don't give any sob stories or too many details. If someone asks, elaborate. Otherwise, stick to the facts. "I don't think I'll be able to handle xyz because ______."

Suggest alternatives. If you can't do it now, then when? Can you do part of it? People are willing to work with you if you come with solutions and ideas. 

Stay involved. Ask how it went. Ask if there's anything you can do on the back end to help. 

Wow them next time. The agency isn't going to fall apart if you can't do something. They'll work it out. But you also just missed out on an opportunity to show people how awesome you are. So next time, go hard.

Great article to read: 8 Essential Strategies to Saying NO.

(Hmm. Looks like I did have something to write about and time to write it in after all. This is why #2 - Check Yourself is so important to do. You're far more awesome than you think. At least I am.)