The Power of “No”

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Malfunction Junction

Collaborative work is essential to most endeavors we undertake, whether we’re launching new products, helping patients, or winning championships. Collaboration helps us work smarter, come up with innovative ideas, and makes us happier than charging ahead alone.

However, sometimes we’re just too eager to jump into collaborations, as discussed in the above video by researcher Rob Cross. We now collaborate more than ever before, many of us surrendering to an instinctual need to help others, even at our own cost. Whether we feel pressured into helping or simply want to be a good teammate, a policy of constantly saying “yes” takes us away from our own tasks. There’s also the risk that some actvities might simply run better without extra hands in the pot.

Sometimes, though, we might agree to collaborate out of fear of missing out on a potential opportunity. Or maybe we fear that a project might not get executed properly without our contribution.

To deal with such exhausting pressures, psychologist Judith Sills advises that we become familiar with the power of “no.” We can delegate activities to others or instruct collaboration-seekers on how to perform certain tasks on their own, thereby helping our teammates become self-sufficient and more varied with their skillsets. A “yes” to one thing means a “no” to another, after all.

Collaboration is essential, but too much of it can lead to overload and, ultimately, burnout. It’s critical that we do regular burnout checkups, perhaps even through a tool like the MindTools Burnout Test. We can also take stock of our workload versus that of our teammates. Is the entire time overwhelmed right now, or is it just us? Are responsibilities being shared in a reasonable manner?

To ensure that collaborative work remains a positive force, we can remedy its overindulgence and overload through respect. We respect our teammates by believing in their capability to execute a project without us, or by being polite when communicating our priorities.

We respect ourselves when we exercise the power of saying “No.”

“Saying no is a skill; when and how to say no is an art.”
― Vikram Verma, You By You

Do you have an idea you want to share with an empowered community of self-aware professionals? If you’d like to contribute an idea or article to ‘In The Flow of Work’ on the Evolve blog, just send us a message or submit a post to our Head of Content, Adam Schneider

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