We’re all very busy people. Reports and emails and meetings and deadlines and … you understand. That’s why it’s crucial to company success that people have the leeway to acknowledge their capacity and have opportunities to turn down work that will put them over the edge into overwork. These tools will help you figure out when to say when and if it’s time to re-evaluate your internal work distribution.
- Know the signs of stress. Stress can manifest in many different ways, and sometimes it’s hard to differentiate symptoms of stress from general fatigue or the beginning of an illness. Pay attention to how your body and mind feel at work compared to other less stressful environments. Distractedness, agitation, and physical symptoms like recurring headaches or even nausea are key signs of stress. As employers and managers, being aware of your team members’ behavior changes and maladies can help you make decisions about when to lighten the workload.
- Communicate regularly about your projects. Your team is only as informed about your individual projects as you let them in on. Workload transitions are much smoother when team members are informed along the way and are aware of any potential problem areas. Sharing your project statuses can also be a sounding board strategy when you run into a tough situation, keeping you from internalizing stress-inducing conditions.
- Be honest about your capabilities. If you’re offered a project you’ve never done before or are introduced to a new tool, express that newness to your supervisor or teammates. Knowing where everyone stands helps to more evenly distribute workflow and helps to prevent a “blind leading the blind” scenario. It’s also easier to pardon missteps or small errors when others are aware of the learning curve.
- Say no. If you really don’t have the time to commit to a project, meeting, or deadline, say so. It’s OK—and arguably better—to say no straightforwardly, but professionally, to your teammates or supervisor instead of waffling around a project because you want to be seen as the “doer.” If saying yes will put you in a bind, then saying no is the next best option. However, that’s not to say you shouldn’t offer in-the-moment suggestions or alternatives.
An open and honest workplace will organically breed an atmosphere where people feel comfortable saying no when they really can’t take on more. Do what you can to support your teammates before there’s a reason to.