24

How can I say 'No' (politely or in a very smart way) to extra work after work time? How can I say no to work that isn’t my responsibility but my manager keeps throwing at me?

I’m terrible at communication and they perceive me as the weak newbie at office, the people pleaser, the youngest girl in the office (26y) with no work experience. And they are taking advantage of me non-stop. I don’t want be labeled as a 'Trouble maker' as I’m still in my probation period (the first 3 months). I’m doing the job of four people and everyone else isn't lifting a finger on a daily basis. My manager is one of the four and she’s a narcissistic manipulator, 100%.

I’m so overwhelmed and I have zero work-life balance and barely eat.

9
  • 18
    Most of the important stuff has been said in answers. Let me only add that good employers understand and treat "newbies" with respect (as do good employees). There is no easy way to say this, other than to just say it --> Look for another job, not all employers out there are narcissistic manipulators, and employees generally support their colleagues, they don't always turn a blind eye. Also, get some professional support and guidance/counselling, because a zero work-life balance and ending up not eating are not things that manifest overnight, and are not fixed overnight, either. Oct 13, 2023 at 19:42
  • 1
    Can you add more detail on how these responsibilities are thrown at you? How do they communicate that they want you to work extra hours?
    – Helena
    Oct 14, 2023 at 11:41
  • 3
    Can you add more concrete examples of what kind of work they are asking you to do and how that work isn't appropriate. Also how that differs to the things other employees are doing. This would be helpful for people to give you better advise and also to judge if things are indeed as you describe them (which very well can be) or if it's wrong expectations on your side. I'm not saying that is the case but many young employees that enter their first job have unrealistic expectations in my experience, because they can only compare it to uni or school, so more info would be very helpful.
    – seg
    Oct 14, 2023 at 15:54
  • 7
    Probation Periods are not a one-way thing, you know?
    – Fildor
    Oct 16, 2023 at 8:56
  • 4
    "I’m terrible at communication". This is something you must fix.
    – RonJohn
    Oct 16, 2023 at 14:38

7 Answers 7

83

You're in your probation period, if you don't think the job is a good fit, this is the best time to continue job searching before you have invested much time and energy into the company.

Once you have alternative employment you can give your notice and move forwards with your career.

2
  • 1
    Notice might not even be necessary. Especially in a probation period. Oct 16, 2023 at 7:51
  • 4
    Or be shorter than usual. eg: 1 week in probation period, 1 month afterwards. Check what your contract says.
    – Elerium115
    Oct 16, 2023 at 9:43
57

Start looking for another job. You really don't want to work in such unhealthy environment.

You can use the time you are left to exercise to prioritize tasks. From now on, I suggest you to tell your manager at the beginning of each day something like that:

Boss,

This is my to-do list (show them your task list). I can do X of them. Tomorrow I'll start the rest of the list. Which one you want me to prioritize?

After they indicated the X tasks to be finished by EOD, just state:

Perfect! We have a plan!

Please do know that if some other task arises during the day, either I'll take care of it from tomorrow on or you will indicate me one of the selected tasks to be deprioritized.

Doing so, you are acting with professionalism, can size X accordingly to the work-life balance you need and do not directly say "no" when work gets assigned to you.

7
  • 36
    I really like this approach and have successfully applied it in the past as well. However, I'd refrain from saying "I can do X of them". This just adds too many opportunities to go sideways. Examples include inaccurate estimates of the OP or perceived passive-aggressiveness from the manager. I'd just ask for a sorted list of priorities and work on that list in the given sequence.
    – VoodooCode
    Oct 13, 2023 at 19:59
  • 9
    "After they indicated the X tasks to be finished by EOD, just state" - I've used this tactic many times to clarify that I'm not superhuman, and never has someone responded saying "oh ok, then please do these first". I've literally had someone tell me that every task assigned to me is "a priority". Not that I'm saying this isn't a good answer, merely that what to do after management gives you priorities isn't relevant, since I very much doubt they will do that. If they could understand that, then the asker wouldn't have their problem in the first place. Oct 15, 2023 at 3:36
  • 1
    Exactly. Don't be a fortune teller. Do your best, and whatever happens happens. Employees are not paid for results; they're paid for effort.
    – Matthias
    Oct 16, 2023 at 0:42
  • 12
    I've found the that "which one should I do first?" is the safe way to do this. It clearly makes the point that you can only do one thing at a time. Oct 16, 2023 at 8:05
  • 1
    I like this approach in combination with the other top-voted answer (you're in your probation period, quitting is fine). Basically this should be the first thing you try, to try and fix bad patterns. Sometimes people who feel like bad bosses (or bad coworkers or whatever) aren't really, you just got into a bad pattern, and stuff like this can fix it. If it doesn't help, well, you learned something, and you can quit with more confidence. Oct 16, 2023 at 14:14
45

Practice telling your manager "I can do that, but I'm already pretty fully committed. Which of my other assignments can be deferred to make time for this one, or should I put it on the to-do list for later?" Delivered right, this makes clear that you're eager to help but also eager to complete the things you've already committed to.

If the person making the request isn't your direct manager, sometimes the right thing to do is ask them to ask your manager to assign it to someone rather than agreeing directly, so it goes through that prioritizing process.

"Quality! Service! Price! (Pick any two.)"

(Note that this is one of the reasons for using a task management system: it encourages setting priorities and due dates, and shows who is already committed to work on what.)

4
  • 2
    I would add a list of tasks that are currently already on the top of the list, as the manager might not remember.
    – Helena
    Oct 14, 2023 at 11:38
  • 3
    This. It's all about expectation management and pushing the decision back to the asker.
    – RQDQ
    Oct 16, 2023 at 4:18
  • 1
    Unless, of course, you have the authority to make that decision. Or can otherwise get team agreement on it, which is part of what ticketing systems are for. Even if it's all top priority and top importance (two different axes!), it can't all be done first by one person. Ticketing systems also save you from having to give a list to your manager; they can see what's already in your queue at the push of a button.
    – keshlam
    Oct 16, 2023 at 5:05
  • 2
    OP should know that they have more power than they think. First jobs are often like this. There's a good reason why that company needed to take on someone with no experience - lots of people have already quit and they're short of staff. They need you. Oct 16, 2023 at 8:11
22

How can I say 'No' (politely/in a very smart way) for extra work after work time?

I’m so overwhelmed I have 0 work-life balance and barely eat.

When asked to work late, just say "Sorry, I can't" and then leave on time.

Meanwhile, start looking for your next job. This one doesn't seem like a good match for you.

2
  • I'm going to need those TPS reports.... What if they just expect it done without mentioning that obviously they'd have to stay late? Sorry, I'll be clocked out by then? I might say that but I can't seem to get fired from freelancing.
    – Mazura
    Oct 13, 2023 at 18:46
  • 2
    @Mazura 'I'll get them to you tomorrow'. If they don't give a time today, then that leaves open the reply for you stating a completion time. If they do, then you ask what to drop or just state that there isn't enough time today to get it done, without stating how much time 'today' is. Oct 14, 2023 at 14:39
3

Beyond the very good advice of looking for a new job, which others have already given - If you want to say no in a polite but impactful way that doesn't look like you just want to get out of doing work, just say you have after-work obligations. Something innocent and unverifiable, like a family member or pet you have to take care of, a hobby class you have to attend, or something else that you wouldn't be able to easily get out of. Hard for them to push back, and you wouldn't seem rude since it's a prior and reasonable obligation.

7
  • 37
    No. First, don't lie. There's no need for it and it is a bad habit to start. Second, work doesn't deserve a suitable reason for you not to do extra of it. This approach implies that without these obligations, extra unpaid work would be fine and wonderful -- and it's not. Third, you can end up caught in contradictions and lies which cause more trouble than you originally had. "Sorry, I can't stay today" is a complete and true sentence which doesn't introduce complexities. Oct 13, 2023 at 14:09
  • 13
    "No." is a complete sentence. It needs no reasons to be given.
    – David R
    Oct 13, 2023 at 15:10
  • 9
    OP said that they are a people pleaser, newbie, etc. and didn't want to take a hit to work relations. Telling them to straight up say "no" is nearly objectively wrong as an answer because it doesn't solve the problems of the question and doesn't take OP's situation into context. It's about as sensible as the anti-bullying posters that say "Just say no!". It's also patronizing, because obviously OP has thought of "just say no", and is looking for solutions with more tact. They even said "(politely/in a very smart way)". Oct 13, 2023 at 16:01
  • 10
    The problem with explaining yourself is that it gives the other side hooks to latch on to. If you say you can't work extra time because you have to walk the dog, and the company offers to hire you a dog walker, what then? Oct 14, 2023 at 8:58
  • 7
    Jörg is right. Worse, giving reasons for needing to leave opens you up to the company making demeaning value judgements on your personal life. For example: “I’m sure your dog will be okay if he has to wait alone for four more hours for food, exercise, and company.”
    – VGR
    Oct 14, 2023 at 20:29
0

My answer is for the "how to say no to more work, not perse wether or not the job it a good fit

Don't aproach it as "amount of work", but as "task priority". The fact that there is more work than you can do is a good thing, that means you're needed for a longer period of time.

You can do a certain amount of work, which mean that there is a max workload. That does not mean something else is not important, the question is what is most important?

Hi Boss, I don't mind doing X, but I'm currently working on task Y and I cant do both at the same time. Do you want me to finish Y, then do X or should I put a hold on Y?

That might (likely) result in a "Both need to be finished! Both are imporant":

I understand, but there is only one day in a day, so I'd like to know what to focus on first. I'll try to finish both, but in case time becomes to sparse, which would you like me to focus on first?

It clearifies the time-problem without pointing any fingers. It offers an alternative way of thinking about tasks and it provides a simple form of control for the higher-up (which they often like).


When the prio starts changing everyday, you introduce the next step: Explaining that switching tasks isnt instant and that working on a task for atleast medium amount of time would be more efficient. Mentally and "physically" switching takes a bit of time, and switching back doubles it. Might as well've working on the first task 2 hours more.

0

The other answers have already explained why you should leave, since the atmosphere isn't going to improve after the probationary period. Your boss isn't going to stop being narcissistic.

I'll instead address the people pleaser paradox (also because it's a way to sneak in a neat alliteration). People generally evaluate others based on their relative status and availability as a resource. Whether this happens consciously or unconsciously is immaterial. The end result is that people pleasers think that they are improving relations by taking on more work, but their coworkers' and bosses' estimation of them actually decreases in subtle ways. They think that by being available, they are boosting their position, but they are in fact strengthening their image as a person to dump tasks on. They think that they are planting seeds of reciprocity by doing things for people, but those unspoken contracts are in fact unsolicited and not perceived in the way they are expecting.

If you are worried about your boss' narcissism, being a people pleaser will only intensify their boldness and attacks on you. The smell of blood in the water will never calm sharks.

That doesn't mean you should swing the pendulum into becoming disrespectful, but it does mean that you ought to set boundaries whenever possible, which will ironically achieve what you wanted to do in the first place: being treated with basic decency.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .