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by Vault Careers | July 25, 2011


By Kristine Schoonmaker, MyConsultingLife.Com

Everyone hits a breaking point eventually…you’ve got too much on your plate already and the assignments keep on coming, you’re being asked to work the fifth weekend in a row, and there’s no way you can sit through one more team dinner. On the other hand, the thought of saying no to your boss has you shaking in your stilettos. If this is new territory for you, here are a few pointers to help you get the job done.

Be rational. Many times the first step to saying no is to get rid of some false assumptions on your part. Fear of reprisal keeps many from ever standing up for themselves. But, ask yourself “what’s the worst thing is that can possibly happen if I say no?” You’ll be surprised that the answer probably isn’t as bad as you might think, and the benefits almost always outweigh the risks.

Start early. If you wait to push back until you’ve hit your breaking point, emotions will be at a fever pitch and you run the risk of looking like a crazy person with your boss if you blow. Start drawing boundaries as soon as you start your job – and be supportive and respectful of those around you when they do the same.

Be bold. Yes, saying no can be scary if you’re not used to it. At some point, though, the time has to come for you to put on your big girl pants and boldly take a step outside of your comfort zone in to safeguard your sanity. No one else will do it for you.

Propose alternatives. Sometimes a plain “no” is exactly what the doctor ordered. However, if you’ve got a boss that you think might be less than receptive, throw an alternative solution on the table. It shows that you are willing to work with them and starts a dialogue around the options available.

Ask questions. We always assume everything is mandatory…but is it? Why not ask? You might also enlist their help to re-prioritize your to do list or get additional people to help get everything done. Don’t forget, sometimes bosses need a little help seeing the big picture too.

Focus on the impact. Ever notice that when someone explains why they are saying no to something it usually softens the blow? Your boss is no different. They care about you, but they really care about their business objectives. If there is a way to connect the dots and show them why saying no will actually yield better results, do it.

Pick your battles. While you don’t want to be a “yes man,” you don’t want to cry wolf either. Make sure when you say no, it’s for good reason, not just to be ornery. Then, the times you do take a stand, people will take notice and respect you for it. If this still seems scary, start small to test the waters. I promise, with these simple tips you’ll be well on your way to putting some boundaries back in your life!

Kristine Schoonmaker is The Career & Lifestyle Coach for Consultants and founder of Her bi-weekly ezine Accelerate offers practical insider advice and quick tips from a former consulting exec to help YOU take greater control of your career and stay engaged in your personal life from the road. If you’re ready to have it all – an amazing career in consulting without giving up the lifestyle, relationships and experiences you want, get your FREE subscription now at


Filed Under: Workplace Issues

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