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Learning how to say no at work to avoid burnout

Woman suffering burnout

With the pandemic causing businesses to scale down and rely solely on key staff, you're probably dealing with a never-ending to-do list. You've become a vital link in the chain of command, making it impossible to delegate or delay any of them.

It's tempting to just get into the thick of it; the sooner you do the work, the sooner you're done, right? Unfortunately, that list isn't getting shorter anytime soon. There will always be something new that needs doing tomorrow, not to mention a separate list of responsibilities waiting for you at home. It's time to learn how to say no at work to avoid the ultimate burnout:

Burnout in the Time of the Pandemic

As many workers across Asia enter the second year of the Covid-19 pandemic, the realities of social distancing, lockdowns, economic insecurity and job losses are taking a toll at home and in the workplace. A recent study on women in the workplace by McKinsey showed that women are more likely to experience "burnout." Burnout is defined as the state of being mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted due to chronic and prolonged stress.

In the study, female respondents explained that they felt more pressure to balance their duties at work and at home. If they couldn't, they reported feelings of guilt for not being committed enough to what they saw as their main responsibilities.

It's not hard to imagine how this pressure is further exacerbated during the COVID-19 situation. The stakes become higher as women do their best to perform and avoid losing their jobs; and then they have to return home to take care of their families. All while keeping themselves safe as well.

Burnout may seem like just another part of the new normal, but it shouldn't be. Long-term burnout poses harmful effects on your body, whittling down your immune system and mental health. Burning the candle on both ends isn't worth it when you still have a lot of goals to reach and dreams to achieve in the future.

Say No to Burnout

While we can't do much about the current situation, we can change how we react to it. One of the most direct ways to ease the stress is to maintain a consistent and manageable workload. It's intimidating to tell your boss that you can't handle more work, but it is necessary and possible to say no and still get ahead. Mental health in the workplace isn't always regulated in many companies, but you have the power to manage your own.

Tips For When You Need to Say No At Work

1. Evaluate The Task At Hand

Don't refuse right away. Hear the other person out first, then try to evaluate the work being given to you. Not only is this more respectful, it also gives you a chance to take it in case it's only a small request.

Your priorities can change, and you might be able to free up some time for the new task. It's important to consider this because you can't predict the repercussions of refusing your boss, for example.

2. Be Direct

When you try to explain the reason for your refusal, give them the real reason behind it. You might feel that it's too heavy to tell others, so you decide to offer a lighter, less serious reason. This plan could backfire, however, since it's easier to challenge it and write it off as a small concern.

According to experts from Harvard Business Review they recommend sticking with the facts. If you can't handle extra work because of an already overloaded work schedule, simply tell your boss: that you will be unable to do a good job on a new request without your other work suffering.

3. Sympathize With Them

Ease the process by showing compassion. Let them know that you understand the consequences they'll face since you couldn't help. You could also offer to help in other small ways at a later time.

This isn't just some lip service; by showing that you care about what happens, you maintain the spirit of solidarity between you and your coworkers. It's no guarantee that they won't react badly, but it can soothe their disappointment.

4. Be Firm

You can't please everyone, and when you have to turn them down, be prepared for a negative reaction. Don't bend, but don't be too dismissive either. It's all in the tone of your voice and posture of your shoulders.

Stand with your back straight and speak clearly and calmly. Don't use a meek voice or have an apologetic expression. Others may get the impression that your "no" can be changed with some convincing.

5. Practice, Practice, Practice

It might seem odd to practice but it's the best place to start! Practice with a friend or in front of a mirror. Ask your friend what impression your "no" makes. You can save yourself a lot of trouble and frustration once you spot any weaknesses and make changes accordingly.

Final Words

In these challenging times, we are loading a lot more on our plate. Sometimes, we might not even be aware of these additional burdens we've taken on. And no matter how tired we feel, it can be impossible to put them down, even for a short break.

But that is just it. What is pushing us to overwork and get burnt out are these feelings of guilt and yearning for achievement. Work pays the bills, but your health is what allows you to work. Give yourself a break and you will be back on the job in no time.

Half the Sky's mission is to supply the tools that can give every woman the ability to build a successful career and be fully prepared for the future of work. So, that they can lead a healthy, prosperous and more balanced/blended lifestyle of their choosing.  By building your confidence, you’re setting foundations to empower yourself and your career.  The world is your oyster, and it starts with you. 

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half the sky (HTS) is a career platform for women connecting you to career opportunities at companies that care. Providing you with information, tips and strategies to navigate the rapidly changing workplace.

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