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Key to a Balanced Life

Learning to Say No At Work

Beauty woman showing her hand palms. Selective focus.
Beauty woman showing her hand palms. Selective focus.

“There’s a whole lot more to living than work and being afraid to say no to your boss. You need to evaluate what’s important. Teach yourself to say no.”

Saying no to a supervisor or boss is something that all employees need to learn to do. Most companies want team players—okay that’s fair. What isn’t fair is being the only player who bears the work burden. It is exhausting and throws your life out of balance. Ask yourself these questions: Do I have a problem saying no at work? Is it keeping me from living a healthy, happy life outside of the office? Is my personal life suffering because of my work commitments?

If you answered yes, you might just need a refresher course in how to say no and create a balanced work-home life.

You have every right to say ‘no’ when you need to do so. If you’re constantly being asked to stay late or take on more work-related duties than others where you work, it’s time to say no. You may find it difficult to say no the first time but it becomes easier each time you say it. However, keep in mind that may be wise not to say no all the time, since sometimes there are legitimate reasons for having to stay late or take on more work. Weigh your options and make a calculated decision. Be selective and know when to say know.

Stand up for yourself. Have a meeting with your boss and tell him or her that while you understand that there are some late nights required in your line of work and extra assignments or jobs to be done, it shouldn’t all fall on one person. Let your boss know what an excellent worker you are. Yes, you read that correctly. Don’t be afraid to make this statement about yourself—it isn’t vanity, it is fact. If you’re good at a particular job, you’re good, period. Let it be known.  

Be wary of the word ‘indispensable.’

This is a word that has a subtle psychological tug. If your boss is telling you that he or she can’t get along without you, that you are totally ‘indispensable to the business’, be careful. By believing that your boss can’t get along without you, you are giving him or her license to take advantage of you. No one is indispensable or irreplaceable. If you want to believe that you can’t be replaced in your job, think of a favorite show where an actor walked away believing he could not be replaced. Now think about how quickly he was replaced and how easily the show continued. Should you leave your job, you will be replaced almost immediately. Know your legal rights. There are laws against harassment. Being made to feel that you will be fired if you don’t work crazy hours is a form of harassment. Check into the laws in the area where you work. Be careful with what you learn. There are two rules to follow about this information when you do get it. Keep your info discreet and don’t make it part of the workplace gossip mill. Never tell a boss that he or she is breaking the law. Your boss is only human and may find another way to fire you usually by giving you a horrible work review and justifying it by stating that you are inadequate in your position. Not good for a reference. Be smart for your own self.

Is this your dream job? Seriously consider whether you want to stay in this particular job for the long run. If it is affecting your health or your relationships it is time to decide how long you must remain in this unhappy work situation. It may not be in your best interest financially to just up and quit, but, you can make the work situation tolerable by looking for another job while you are still employed. This is good psychologically because you feel empowered, you’re still drawing a salary, and you feel in charge of your life. Give yourself a timetable and deadline for when you will be able to leave. Six months to two years with a little leeway for any unforeseen problems is a good rule of thumb. You also need to be practical and have knowledge of your current pension plan, any financial deals which can be rolled over into a new plan, and any vacation days which, if not used, can be negotiated into pay. As upset as you are, you need to get advice on all of these things in order to make plans for the future. Knowledge really is power in this situation.

Reinvent yourself. If you have an interest in another field, now may be the time to seriously consider making a career change. Find out if your company has a tuition reimbursement plan or is willing to pay for you to take classes in something other than what you are doing at the present time.

One key thing to think about is that ‘the grass is not always greener’ in a new job. All companies have overbearing bosses and aggravating work rules and expectations. Take the time to find out what suits you and what you need to work to the best of your ability. Saying no gives you power over your own existence whether in your personal life or on the job.

The true key to a balanced life is knowing when to say no, when to leave the job, and what you truly want in your life.

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