Managing workloads can be a tough job – perhaps you’re the hard worker in the team who takes up extra jobs and stays up for another hour or so, even though load management can prove to be difficult especially during the onslaught of staff shortage in the last few years.
There’s definitely nothing wrong with being a team player, but when you’re already dealing with enough tasks, taking in more work than necessary can lead to work burnout which could inevitably hurt your team as a whole.
Most of the time, an increased scope at work can be helpful for employees who want to grow their skillset, although productive employees who become the prime target of increased workload should definitely learn when to say no when asked to go beyond their capacity.
Is it worth going the extra mile?
When organisations become understaffed, tasks are usually redistributed to the remaining team in order to balance out the responsibilities. With many employee lay-offs still underway because of the Great Resignation, more and more workers could be asked to handle extra work.
Sometimes, going the extra mile would be helpful, especially if your team is suffering from staff shortage, and if you’re up to the task, doing extra work from time to time will definitely give you more opportunities to grow as an employee.
But it’s important to assess if doing what you’re asked could hurt your main responsibilities. For example, if someone from another team asked you to do extra work that’s out of your department, saying yes might just completely hurt your work routine and your role.
Understanding when to politely decline a request for additional work is a must especially if you’re someone who really wants to improve on their workload management and prevent more burnout that reduces motivation.
When should you say no to extra work?
Having a strict and balanced work attitude helps you in order to avoid being overwhelmed by your tasks – there’s a fine line between overworking and being a productive team player.
When your main responsibilities are compromised. Being a hard worker means that you’re a productive member of your team. You’re the one handling the toughest tasks and your plate is most likely full already.
But if you’re asked to do extra work while having hard tasks yourself, it’s important to assess and ask yourself if it’s worth doing the request. Once your main role is compromised, you will have a tougher time with your primary work.
When you feel the extra work isn’t reasonable. Perhaps your manager has asked you to develop a strategy for your team in a short span of time, and you might feel pressured to do so. Think of how it can affect your work-life balance, and ask yourself again. If you feel like the request may be unfair and impossible to do, then it might just help to politely refuse the appeal. You can offer to introduce the work to another co-worker who you think is up for the task, or even a contractor they could possibly employ.
When you think it’s out of your area of expertise. Doing extra work isn’t bad and sometimes it’s inevitable to stay up for another round of work. But if you’re doing additional requests that’s completely out of your area of expertise, then it might do you good to say no. It’s easy to get sucked into doing someone else’s job, however, it won’t be beneficial for the team if you’re not doing what you were hired for.
When there isn't any clear exit strategy. When you’re offered additional work, you should at least understand it to the fullest extent. Having more tasks to do while not even knowing what it’s for may be a sign of miscommunication. Maybe you were asked by your employer to create a new initiative, but you don’t know how long it’s needed and if you’re needed at every meeting.
Ask yourself if that project’s meant for you, or it may end up in a bad fit. Once you gain some clarity, you can politely refuse their request and offer to help in a smaller way. This way you can still help with brainstorming or consultation which shows you’re a team player.