Being asked to take on additional work can be seen as both a positive and negative request. But given your current responsibilities and projects on your plate, there are just times when you have to say no to such requests. Here’s how to do that without affecting your credibility.
Q:I consider myself a high achiever and want to continue to advance in my organization, but I’m constantly asked to take on new projects that are not in my job description. When and how is it appropriate to say no?
A: Congratulations on both the good and bad sides of being known as a person who gets things done in your organization. They wouldn’t be asking you to do more if you weren’t delivering quality work.
However, I understand where you’re coming from. While it can be tempting to accept any request to be part of a new project or initiative, your priority is to your current position and workload.
If you can’t take on the additional work, here are some ways to say no without negatively affecting your career or credibility:
“I don’t have the bandwidth to work on this project before next Friday, but would you consider me having a smaller role? For example, perhaps I could attend your kickoff meeting and offer any ideas but not take on any deliverables until my current workload is lightened.”
“While the opportunity you present sounds great, I couldn’t do a good job for you and do my best work with the current assignments I have pending.”
“I am overcommitted right now. If there is any chance your timeline changes, please ask me again. I’d really like being part of this project.”
“Would you consider having me consult on the project and not have specific deliverables?”
“Thanks for considering me for this opportunity but I think that (name) would be better suited to your project. Here’s why …”
Your credibility is on the line every time you are presented with an opportunity that is outside your current job scope. You want to continue to be someone who does their best for the organization. I see so many high potentials get ahead of themselves in their quest to move up in their organizations. They focus on their next job, rather than continuing to do great work right now.
No matter what, continue to do great work and be grateful you are asked to do more. However, accept the new challenges when you can and say no to the ones that will prohibit you from achieving your current responsibilities. Stay true to yourself and your career goals, and you’ll continue to be the high achiever you want to be!
Barbara Mitchell is a human resources and management consultant and author of The Big Book of HR, The Essential Workplace Conflict Handbook, The Conflict Resolution Phrase Book, and her latest The Decisive Manager. Do you have a question you'd like her to answer? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.