Dear Peter:
I am writing to you because I am really concerned about the high burnout rate among my colleagues. I have lost three very capable colleagues over the last month that moved to rival consulting firms with more accommodating work culture. My discussions with both former and current colleagues reveal many often take on more workload than they can efficiently handle because they do not want to be perceived as disloyal, ineffective team player, or disobedient . Most of them are concerned their refusal, no matter how legitimate, would seriously jeopardize their access to promotional opportunities within the company even if they somehow don’t lose their jobs.

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It is my responsibility to bring important issues like these to your attention so that these issues can be tackled in a timely manner. It will not be easy to convince employees to produce the courage to say no but we can take certain measures to increase their confidence. First of all, the management and the managers can help create more open communication environment so that the employees don’t fear a potential retaliation. We can also provide training to everyone so that it is easier for them to say ‘no’ or recognize when someone may not want to take additional responsibility but is hesitant to say ‘no. The training may focus on effective ways to say ‘no’ including appropriate tone and body language, providing a rationale behind ‘no’, and saying ‘no’ in a timely manner .

Encouraging the employees to say ‘no’ under a good reason will also benefit the company. The employees will be less likely to take assignments they cannot complete in due time, they will also be willing to say no to unethical requests, and they will be more willing to express their opinions even if such opinions are unpopular in the team.

Your Name

  • Puleo, Geri. Have We Lost the Ability to Say “NO” at Work? . 27 April 2015. 18 February 2016 .