Tag Archives: work-life balance

3 Ways to Say “No” to your Boss Using the Word “Yes”

business-man-modified-1241003For most of us, it’s hard to say “no”—if not all of the time, at least in some situations. One such situation is when you think it might harm your career.  Ironically, sometimes, not saying “no” might actually hurt your career more.

For example, it’s important to say no when you are being asked to do something illegal or immoral or something that you are not likely to succeed at.  You might not succeed at a task because you are too busy to do it well or because you aren’t skilled enough to do it well.  In either case, it will reflect badly on you when you fail.

When I tell people they need to be able to say ”no,” they often balk and say that they can’t say “no” to their boss.  Then I say, “How about if you say ‘yes’ to your boss?”  Their eyes light up when I tell them it’s possible to say “yes” and “no” at the same time.  Try the models below.

Model 1: “Yes…  If I do this then I won’t be able to do that…  Which do you think is more important?”

Example:

Boss: “Could you take on the budget proposal for the new product we’re developing?”

You: “Yes, absolutely.  I’m currently working on the financial analysis of the old product though.  If I take on the budget for the new product, I won’t be able to finish the analysis as quickly and I had originally estimated.  Which do you think is more important to do first?”

Model 2: “Yes…  If I do it in that time frame, however, it won’t be my best work.  I could offer to do this instead…  What do you think would be best?”

Example:

Boss: “Could you write up the 40-page report by tomorrow morning?”

You: “Yes, I’d be happy to.  If I write 40 pages in one day, though, it won’t be polished.  If I had till the end of the week, I’d have time to go over it a second time and proofread it.  What do you think would be best?”

Model 3: “Yes…  Would it be okay to delegate that to …?”

Example:

Boss: “Could you manage the offsite planning?”

You: “Yes, I’d be happy to be responsible for it.  Would it be okay to delegate the work to Marnie?  She’s looking for more leadership opportunities and is good with logistics.”

These exact phrases may not fit with your style, but you get the idea.  You accept the work with full disclosure of the sacrifice (not completing other work, not your best quality work, or not you actually doing the work) and give your boss the opportunity to decide what is more important.  If your boss says, for example, that she doesn’t need your best quality on a 40-page report, just a rough draft, or maybe even an outline, then you’ve brought it down to a reasonable task in a short time frame.  If your boss says he needs it to be top quality and would rather wait, then you have turned it into a reasonable time frame to complete the task.

Bosses don’t want their people to fail.  It reflects badly on them too when you fail.  They want the work done and done well and done on time.  You need to speak up when you won’t be able to deliver.  A positive way to do that is to help the boss find solutions, rather than raise obstacles.  Bosses like solutions.  And the bosses who don’t like to hear “no” like to be able to decide what is more important.  If you give them that opportunity using the models above, then you will be able to keep your head above water too.

How Meaningful Is Your Work?

meaning of life cartoonHow meaningful is your work? How meaningful do you want it to be? In a recent Gallup poll, 70% of people said their work was not meaningful. On the one hand, that number is alarming. Seventy percent of workers spend half of their waking hours doing something that brings no meaning. On the other hand, should our work be meaningful?

At a very minimum, our work is meaningful because, for most of us, it enables us to feed, clothe, and house us and our families. For many of us, it gives us purpose and focus. We have to get up in the morning and be somewhere and do something. Without that, we often become aimless and dissatisfied.

And then there’s the question of whether we live to work or work tomeaning of life cartoon 2 live. Some say it’s a generational thing—that Baby Boomers live to work while Millennials work to live. I actually don’t see it that way. Yes, Millennials want to have more balance in their lives. However, Millennials are increasingly demanding that their jobs have meaning and that their companies are socially responsible. In this sense, their jobs bring greater meaning, doing something that reaches beyond themselves.

I ask you to think about your work—deeply—and contemplate how much meaning it really does have. I think all of our work has meaning in one way or another. A bus driver enables people to get places. A web designer helps people communicate messages. A word processor may even help save lives, especially if he or she works for a company that builds medical devices, or a shipping company that delivers life-saving equipment to hospitals, or a law firm that litigates tort law, or a school department that educates children and keeps them off the streets.

I watch the elderly people in my neighborhood at the local grocery store some days. For some folks, getting dressed for an outing and walking into a store are big accomplishments. Interacting with the store clerk may be the only social interaction they have that day. A store clerk who is cordial, maybe even chatty or helpful, may bring deeper meaning into a person’s life than the clerk could even imagine.

meaning making illustrationThe meaning is there. You just have to find it. You don’t have to be a world-renown leader to have an impact on the world or to have meaning in your work. This is especially important for young people to understand to take the pressure off of “achieving greatness” at the expense of health and happiness. For the rest of us, dig deep and find the meaning that is already there.

Forget Physical Fitness, Get the Right Job Fit!

happy face in sad facesOne day, I was called in to give feedback to a company’s leaders on one of their directors who had been through our assessment center. The meeting was curious to begin with, since exceptionally high-level people were there. The meeting was called unexpectedly after being put off for months after the completion of the assessment center program. But, being a consultant, I was used to flexing to the whims of clients.

Within minutes, it was clear the meeting was not a typical collaborative evaluation of an executive, with people from inside and outside of the company bringing their observations to the table. It was a meeting to develop a case to fire the director for not being able to manage the relationships in a business alliance under his charge.

The director was a smart, talented technical expert. He was not, however, skilled at building rapport and managing conflict. In the field, we call this a “derailing” factor. In other words, he was derailed from his upwardly mobile track because he did not have people skills.

This is, unfortunately, a very common occurrence in organizations. It would have been better for the director if he had learned people skills or, even better, taken a job that better leveraged his technical skills.

I coached another mismatched director—a very smart and talented woman who was an extreme introvert, who preferred to work alone. You can only imagine how absolutely miserable this woman was, when her job was to manage personal relationships among her team, her peers, and the board. She was desperate to change jobs without burning any bridges in the process. Unfortunately, this is also a common occurrence, especially in technology-based companies.

Sometimes it is not about competence, but it is about job fit. The earlier you learn that, the less time you waste in unpleasant job situations.

Job fit is important at all levels in an organization—manager, employee, consultant, business owner, and so on. College students choose “majors,” fields of study that hopefully hold their interest and in which they get good grades. Of equal or greater importance, however, are the work environment and tasks associated with a particular job.

For example, I had planned to be a therapist before I applied to graduate school in psychology. But after talking to a couple of therapists, I found out that it was a very passive job, where you sit in a room all day and wait for people to come to you. It was not at all a good fit for me. I was so glad I had done the research ahead of time to learn what the work environment was like. I recommend you do the same.

To Have or Have Not

shoppingBy Joanie Connell

Have you thought about how ironic it is that Black Friday falls the day after Thanksgiving? One minute we’re appreciating what we have and the next we find ourselves seething for what we want. For some of us, it’s a game to win, for others, it’s getting stuff we wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford. The New York Times had a photo of someone buying a 50” screen TV at sunrise on Friday and a quote from another person saying she didn’t need any of what she bought but she got a kick out of the great deals.

Have you ever thought about how much all these savings cost us?

  • Buying more for less causes us all to have to work harder. To produce more for less, companies have to hire people for lower wages and make them work harder for every dollar earned. We all know what it’s like in organizations these days, having to generate higher profits by spending less, laying people off and requiring the remaining ones to do the work of 2-3 employees. This is clearly not good for people who value balance in their lives.
  • Collecting more stuff is creates more work for us to get rid of it all. What do we do with all this stuff when we don’t want it anymore? We throw it away! Even charities don’t want lots of the junk people are getting rid of today. While it’s good for the waste management sector, we are paying the costs of managing the waste that companies and households generate—through higher taxes, higher costs of goods, lower salaries, and longer hours worked. Obviously, waste is not only a cost for us, but for Mother Earth as well.
  • Wanting more makes us feel less satisfied. Research shows that materialistic people are less happy than non-materialistic people. When you constantly want more and do not appreciate what you have, you feel shortchanged, envious, resentful, unfulfilled, and so on. These are not healthy feelings and buying more won’t make them go away.

With all these costs, the question remains as to whether the benefits are worth it. It may well be a situation in which less is more. Owning fewer things lets us better appreciate what we have. For example, owning one doll makes that doll special. Owning a collection of dolls makes each one just a part of the collection and creates a desire for more every time a new one comes out. During this shopping season, consider having less to achieve more happiness.

Why It Is Important to Take Vacation

fete de la musique
Musicians play on the streets of Paris at Fete de la Musique
coupe de monde
World Cup fans outside my window at 2:00 a.m.

By Joanie Connell

Taking two weeks off in itself is a great way to gain perspective on life. Traveling to another country is even better. I just returned from two weeks in Paris. During those two weeks I experienced a very different way of life. I was kept up till all hours of the night by the Fête de la Musique, an all-night music festival that takes place on the streets of Paris. I lost sleep because the fans of the World Cup celebrated on the streets too, by driving around with their horns on at 2:00 in the morning. During daylight hours, I was slowed down by traffic that was gridlocked due to protest marches and demonstrations and by strikes that delayed trains and planes coming in and out of Paris

None of that bothered me. Rather, I found it curiously intriguing. What bothered me–at least at first–was spending over a week without WiFi. The router in our apartment broke and the landlord didn’t seem to understand the urgency around fixing it promptly. I was planning to work while on vacation and was shut down. Public WiFi was no option. In France, free WiFi tends to be so slow it is unusable except for email—another curiosity. The French just don’t seem to have the same need for speed that Americans do.

What was I to do? Well, how about enjoy my vacation! I gave up worrying about work. I didn’t blog for two weeks. I stayed off Face Book and I hardly emailed. Rather, I immersed myself into French culture and leisure.

A funny thing happened. In more than one conversation, French people asked me why I was only on vacation for two weeks. They asked what else I would do during the summer for the rest of my vacation. I kept having to explain that this was my summer vacation and that I would be returning to work when I got home and that I was fortunate to be able to travel for two weeks because many Americans don’t have that kind of time. Now it was their turn to find my culture curiously intriguing.

Even if we only have 2 weeks of vacation per year, as compared to their typical 2 months of vacation, it makes all the difference in the world to get away from work for a while. It gives you perspective. Realizing that you’re dispensable, that the daily crisis at work really isn’t urgent or earth shattering, and that life has so much more to offer than work is truly important. Taking vacation helps to broaden your perspective and refocus your priorities in life.

As a consultant, I get an external perspective of companies. More often than not, I feel the office tension as I walk in. I see the desperate looks on executives’ faces as they try to do what they think the president wants. If the president decides he/she wants X, the executives send their teams into a frenzy to deliver X2. The executives advise me on what words to use or not use to appeal to the president’s idiosyncrasies. They demand that I turn in work proposals immediately and be available to perform without delay. They expect me to work after hours and on weekends like they do. I’ve learned my lesson because, when I do, they change their minds or the president isn’t available to look at it or the project gets canceled or something like that. We have all rushed around with elevated heart rates and stress levels for no real reason.

vacationEvery time I return from vacation, I gain perspective and vow not to get sucked into this lifestyle when I return. Sometimes I succeed. If more of us took time out to relax and gain perspective, we would probably be much less stressed at work. I highly recommend giving it a try. If anything, you’ll be less stressed for a while. If it catches on, we might make the workplace a better place for all of us.