This article comes from Entrepreneur.
The right move when you are asked to take on something new and are already overwhelmed is to tell the person simply and clearly that you can’t commit to it at this time. This sounds obvious, but we are often so concerned about being nice and not hurting people’s feelings that we tie ourselves into knots trying to find a way to say anything but “no” to avoid disappointing them. But most people at work, especially your superiors, will appreciate your honesty about your resources—it’s way less “disappointing” than having you overcommit and do a shitty job.
The next time you’re faced with another commitment that you know you just can’t take on, try these tactics:
Your boss: “Nicole, I’m looking for someone to update the handbook we give to incoming interns to reflect our latest projects and thought you might want to take this on. Can you do it?”
You: “Thanks so much for thinking of me—this sounds like a valuable project for our team! However, I am already committed to Projects A and B and want to keep my focus there so that I can knock those projects out of the park before our deadline.”
You: “I do have a handy outline that I created regarding our new social media approach, which I will send to you by the end of the day to include in the handbook.”
Your boss: “That’s great; I had no idea you created that. However, I still need you to update the handbook. Can you have it back to me, incorporating your social media outline, by Friday?”
You: “I understand, and I want to make sure I have enough time to complete the handbook in a thorough manner on top of my other projects. Is a Monday deadline acceptable?”
Your boss: “Yes, that works.”
You: “Thanks again for offering this project to me, and please do keep me in mind for future projects.”
Why this works: Notice the “thank-you sandwich” we created here, starting with an appreciation for the opportunity and expressing interest in being kept in the loop about future projects. Not only is this a gracious approach to negotiating with someone who holds a higher position than you do, but it also goes a long way to ensure you won’t be passed over for a future opportunity that you might actually want.
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