Four ways to say “I’m not doing that” – that don’t get you fired.

Frankie Kemp

6 February 2023

“Could you just…?”

Oh no.

It’s 4pm on Thursday. You’re rushing to get data together for another team.

“It won’t take you long, ” adds your manager flippantly.

Actually, it probably will.

They don’t usually doesn’t see the trip wires or conflicting priorities when ask if you could ‘just’ do anything.

And where’s Larry? He said he was ‘popping out’ and that was 3 hours ago.

It’s not a given that you have to do whatever your manager or clients asks you.

Being the ‘go-to’ person eventually means you’re more likely to become over-burdened, make mistakes and hit the concrete hard when they see it.

The way to be good at what you do and get respected for it, is to know, then protect your boundaries.

There are ways round this. In the interests of ease, I’ve reduced this to a little acronym:

S – show; E-explain; N-negotiate; D-delegate.

Picking one of these is often all you need to do to reclaim your time.

Four ways to manage your workload:

1. Show:

Don’t assume they know what your’re doing, what projects or challenges you have underway.
One client would show their manager a list of post -it notes and say,

“This is what I’ve got on this week with the deadlines. Where do you suggest [requested project] go?”

You can use software such as a Miro board template: easily shareable and editable or a to-do list.

2. Explain:

More directly, tell the person what you’ve got on, explain the urgency then ask, “Is there another way, given my time contraints?”

3. Negotiate:

  • Can this be done another time? Ask how urgent it is.
  • Can the project be split into small sections? For example, you give a list of possible suppliers but begin contacting them at the end of the week.
  • What’s the minimum requirement to make this successful? Sometimes they want bells and whistles, when bells are all you need.

4. Delegate:

  • Is there someone who has a better skillset for this job?
  • Can it be passed over to someone else who currently has more time?
    (“Look Larry’s back from his lunch break. He may be more able to give this the focus it needs.”)
  • Is there another way we can do this? For example, outsourcing or automating.


Remember, it’s not a given that when your manager says “jump”, you “jump”.

If you wish to remain effective and do your job well, don’t go on ‘auto-yes’.


Your Action:

Use any of the below to manage your time, output and energy (S.E.N.D.):

  • SHOW

Go here if you really want to say ‘NO’ and I’ll tell you how to do it.

Need some help with managing up, down or sideways? I can help you.  Contact me here

Image by Dsr40 from Pixabay

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