Dear Orna: My plate is full but my boss always hands me additional projects. I always say YES because I don't want him to think I'm incompetent. How can I say NO without sounding like a loser? Signed: Burned Out
Many people today are paranoid of losing their job so they are afraid to say "No" to their boss. But keep in mind, if you're stressed and burned out, the quality of your work will suffer and that's a no-win situation all around. So it's a good idea to deal with this issue head on!
Approach your boss right away.
Often, the problem with extreme workload is that the assignments all have similar deadlines. If you can solve this problem, you might be able to relieve the pressure. So approach your boss, and express gratitude that you've been asked to take on something new, because it means he believes in you.
Now . . . without getting emotional, tell you boss that because you are juggling other time-sensitive projects, you need to look closely at this project to determine how it can fit in with your workload. Share your top 3 or 4 projects with your boss (great time to let him know what you're working on) and ask him to prioritize your list. You might even suggest that he stagger the deadlines so they can all get done in a reasonable period of time.
Oh…. you already said "Yes" and wish you said "No!"?
Be honest. Take responsibility. Tell your boss you accepted the assignment without having thought things through. Let him know that in hindsight, you realize you should have asked him what was most important, so you're doing that now. Remember, it's always better to "fess up" than "mess up."
Saying "No" wont' derail your career.
If you say "No" in a positive way, it might even help your career. Focus on your concern for quality. Share the facts. Let your boss know how much time it will take you to do a quality job and that you want to be sure you have the time to devote to this project. You might even let him know that you stayed late several days last week to complete another assignment. (toot! toot!) Emphasize that your greatest concern is meeting the deadline and ensuring the highest quality work. That's why you bring it up (of course!).
Should you do it anyway?
If you're feeling stretched but you believe that this extra project will improve your skills or get you promoted, then it might be worth losing sleep over. If your boss simply burns you out time after time, then it's time to speak up!
The best way to manage the situation is by giving you boss constant updates about the projects you're already working on. Now, if new projects arise, you can easily refer to your recent conversation and ask your boss where this new work fits in with the priorities you've recently discussed.
Come out smelling like a rose when you tell your boss your greatest concern
is to ensure the highest quality work for the organization!