Not only do I know that I have the potential to advance, but my manager has commented to me about it as well. My manager has started to push me, give me opportunities to enhance my career, and get the most out of me. Though I’m flattered by my manager’s confidence in me, I’m personally not ready to take on so much at this point in time because my husband and I want to continue growing our family. How do I push back on extra responsibility and travel without jeopardizing my professional future?
Your questions and concerns are very typical for both women and men. It’s never easy to balance personal life and career, especially when both are important to you. A few months back, a good friend of mine – Terri – approached me with an almost identical question. Her manager was pushing for her to take on more responsibility and travel; however, the timing wasn’t ideal for her and her husband’s growing family. Though Terri wanted to continue advancing, she wanted to first focus on family. :)
Though I know Terri came to me because I could provide a managerial perspective, I was also able to relate to her. The year prior, my husband and I went through both overwhelming and wonderful experiences that caused me to have to turn down responsibilities at work, even though my goal was to continue advancing at a rapid pace:
- We got married and went on a beautiful honeymoon to Italy (May 2010).
- We returned from our honeymoon to home that burned to the ground in a five-alarm fire (May 2010).
- We had to move into temporary housing… twice (June 2010, October 2010).
- We built and moved into a new home (January 2011).
- We had our first child (August 2011).
In just 15 months, I had gone from having no home or possessions to having a beautiful baby in my arms. These events made me feel like my life was part of a movie, but I realized that I needed to remain even, professional, and motivated when it came to work. Having both perspectives helped me provide the right advice to Terri. Here is how to say “No” to your boss:
The best option is to be honest, up front, and clear. By holding your concerns in and potentially jeopardizing your personal and family’s quality of life, this will end up erupting at work and in ways that you really don’t want. Remember, if you aren’t happy in your home life, it’s extremely difficult to be happy in all other areas of your life.
I encourage you to think about this is as the most professional approach, and not as though you are jeopardizing your career (as you stated). It would be unprofessional of you to take on too much and not be able to complete it successfully or on time, so – in essence – you are doing right by your manager and company by being upfront with what you can and cannot handle.
I recommend that you approach the conversation with your manager in the following ways:
- Schedule a formal meeting with your manager for 60 minutes, early in the morning. This will be sure that you have their full attention, in private, and before the headaches of the day begin. Hopefully, there will be nothing to distract your manager by scheduling in this way.
- Prepare your talking points in advance of the meeting and practice speaking them out loud. This will improve your confidence and allow you to communicate calmy rather than nervously. Your manager will take on the tone and behavior that you bring to this meeting.
- Your talking points should include strategic topics, such as:
- your appreciation for your manager’s confidence in you,
- your excitement in advancing in the department and/or company,
- your honest reason as to why you are not in the right personal place to take on additional work at this point in time (without getting into excessive detail) because it would interfere with the high-quality that you can produce for the company,
- how you would like to take on more in smaller ways that you can manage (e.g., lead an additional meeting, take on just one new project and not five, have your manager mentor and coach you, delegate some of your responsibilities to other team members, etc.), and
- you would appreciate their continued support until you are ready to truly take the next step towards advancement.
By having a well-planned discussion and being forthright about your ability to take on more for advancement, you will set a great impression that you: are honest and confident, can set boundaries for yourself, and are a strong planner. Additionally, learning how to say “no” to your manager – out of necessity and in moderation – is essential in your rise to the top. If you are unable to produce quality work because you are taking on too much (or your manager is asking too much of you), then you can’t expect to be anything but run down, stressed to the max, and frazzled. Take control of your career and life by saying no to some things rather than yes to everything.
Best of Luck,
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