Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Learn To Say "No" At Work And Check With Your Supervisor Before Taking On New Assignments

Far too many African Americans have been conditioned to believe that we can’t say “no” at work, especially to a White person. So, no matter how much our gut is telling us that something can’t be done, might be unethical, isn’t worth the reward, is redundant, should be done by someone else or another department, can’t be done in the proposed timeline (no matter how many people work on the project) or is just plain wrong, we’ll agree to do it because we are too afraid to say “no!”

But, part of any person’s job is being able to discern appropriate vs. inappropriate work, informing people of limitations they may not be aware of or are ignoring, knowing that you should not engage in unethical conduct, being able to identify work that is fiscally irresponsible, etc.

So, it’s okay to tactfully tell someone about any issues that present themselves regarding your assignments or proposed assignments.

Yes, people don’t like to hear the word, “no.” But, that’s their business. Sometimes, you have to go there. If problems are encountered and you did not speak up, you will get all or some of the blame for not saying “no” to the request or for not checking with someone else to get authorization to proceed in a certain manner. You can also get in trouble for taking on too many tasks that prevented you from concentrating on the main focus of your job. You might be blamed for not providing a warning about issues you should have foreseen based on your expertise at work. More importantly, you can be blamed for all problems that resulted from someone else’s mismanagement of a project. Snowballs roll downhill. As a result, managers will not take the blame if someone else is available to be scapegoated.

Don’t let people bog you down, who are just trying to lessen their own workload by pawning it off on someone who will do it without question. Don’t let someone bring you into a project that is already going wrong without raising some concerns about any issues taking place and getting your concerns documented (e.g., sending an email with your concerns, etc.) Don’t allow someone to convince you to do something unethical. When you get caught, they are not likely to admit forcing you to break protocol.

More than anything else you should learn to have your own back by being proactive. If you have to tell someone “no,” offer alternative options (solutions) that may be available for getting something done, provide other staffing choices, get a second opinion or check with your supervisor for guidance and to address your concerns.

Don’t assume your supervisor approved work that you are being asked to do by a coworker or another supervisor or manager. Your supervisor may have approved the work request. But, sometimes people will just go directly to staff seeking assistance. Always confirm with your supervisor that they’ve approved any new assignment that someone has come to you for assistance with.

If your supervisor approved the work, don’t assume they realized how swamped you may be with work. It is quite common for a supervisor to think they know the workload, but they may not realize that there have been issues that have caused assignments to be more difficult or more time consuming than expected. If you can’t take on another assignment right now, explain what’s going on to your supervisor and let them know the quality of the work may suffer or a deadline might be compromised, if you must divert your attention to another project and a non-priority assignment. That puts the responsibility back on your supervisor, if things go wrong.

If your supervisor didn’t approve the assignment, inform your supervisor about the work request, tell them about any issues with the assignment, and have your supervisor deal with the person seeking your assistance. If your supervisor puts the responsibility back on you, let the requestor know that your supervisor didn’t approve you to work on the assignment for x, y, and z reasons.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mary, I like it when you always give examples for everything you say. I really appreciate you sharing your hard, bitter experiences.

5:17 AM  

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