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The 5 key points Harold makes in this video are:

1. Is saying ‘no’ a bigger issue?
2. You have to re-calibrate in any relationship
3. Intervene where you get the best leverage
4. ‘No’ is not always a bad word
5. Don’t burn out your best talent

Ask your question: http://www.drharoldhillman.com/ask-harold-show.html

YouTube Link: How to Say No to Your Manager and Improve Your Work Life | Episode 4

Ask Harold Episode 4 Transcript:

Hi everybody, Harold Hillman here. Thank you for joining me on episode 4 of Ask Harold. On this episode we talk about one person’s fear of saying no to their manager. So let’s get right to it.

Today we have a question for our fourth Ask Harold episode. This question is from Charlene, and it’s a pretty common challenge that most of us have faced – being able to push back and say no to your manager, somebody who you really like! Here’s Charlene’s question:

My manager and I get on really well. We have a great working relationship where I can be open and say most things to her. However, the one thing I cannot seem to say is “no”.

Things have steadily gotten busier at work and now I feel my workload is getting the better of me.
I built a reputation with my manager as someone she can rely on to help her sort through the clutter, to take things off her plate to help free her up. She relies on me a lot, probably because I have never said “no”.

I don’t want to damage the relationship; I’m not trying to step away from doing the hard work, but I may reach a breaking point soon!

What can I do? How do I say “no” without damaging my good working relationship with my manager?

Wow, Charlene, your question is a good example of a Catch 22. So in your effort to help free your manager up, you’ve taken more on to your own plate and now you’ve got to push more back in her direction without it ending up back at the same starting point!

This is a beautiful quagmire and dilemma; there are 5 things, Charlene, that I’d like for you to think about:

1. The first one is: well, the question “Is saying no a bigger issue”? Being the problem solver is a role that some of us take on right from the early days of childhood. Many of us have a reputation as a problem solver, a rescuer, getting things done under pressure – the go-to person. If this issue, Charlene, with your manager, is just a symptom of something bigger, you may want to spend some time reflecting on the broader ramifications. Do you need to do a reframe on what helping others really means? In your efforts to help someone, are you really enabling them? That’s a big, important question.

2. Charlene, the second thing I’d like for you to do is: to really think that you have to recalibrate in any relationship – that’s the whole thing around feedback. And it’s not just feedback coming from your manager to you, but it’s feedback going back up. It’s not just one way, but it’s you saying to your manager: “Here are some things that I need from you that will help ME be more successful in being able to do MY job”. And so, have you just become a work funnel where things are just flowing down or are you able to have conversations with your manager where you can influence how she makes some decisions. So Charlene, the ability to give each other important feedback is really about investing in the relationship.

3. The third thing I’d like for you to think about is: intervene where you get the best leverage. So I’d like for you to think through some alternatives before you go to your manager and say “I can’t do all of this”. Think through some alternatives. Does your manager also have to recalibrate with her manager? If it’s really some things that are trickling down, maybe the issue is really above her level in terms of things that have to happen differently. And, if things are trickling down to you, are you the best person to deal with them? Should it really entail a broader group of people? And, if things that are on your plate have impact across the broader team, maybe it’s time to spread some of that around as well.

4. The fourth thing that I’d like for you to think about, Charlene, is that “no” is not always a bad word. Sometimes there’s this sense that if you’re saying “no” – you’re not being cooperative or collaborative and that people will walk away with a wrong impression of you. I’d like for you to think that sometimes saying no means that it takes you back to the table to have some important conversations about trade-offs and the give-and-takes associated with the choices that we make.

5. Finally, the last thing I’d like for you to think about, Charlene, is: don’t burn out your best talent. Use this as a lesson. Clearly you are valued by your manager and in the organization. You are doing great work, and that’s one of the things that happens: when people do great work it attracts more work. Just be mindful of that, take this as a lesson, don’t burn out your best talent.

Thanks Charlene for your question and thank you all for watching Ask Harold.

On the next episode I’ll answer a question from a viewer who thinks that she’s becoming too cynical for her own good: she wants to do a reality check. We’ll definitely have some fun with that one!

Remember: if you like this video, tell others about it and subscribe to Sigmoid’s YouTube channel. If you have a question of your own, or want to see my other videos and articles, go to my blog at www.drharoldhillman.com

Take good care and see you all soon.