How to get out of that special project at work

How to get out of that special project at work

We’ve all been there, that dreadful moment when your boss tosses you that top-priority “special project.” Despite your boss’s attempt at glorifying the task, it feels more like a hand-me-down nuisance you would rather just flick onto the next cubicle. You want to say no, but you just don’t know how to do it. Here are some tips on how to dodge the task without becoming the office’s official problem employee.

Think about it before saying no

You might be swamped with work and life responsibilities, but before you say no, take a moment to analyze the project and establish if there is any value in accepting the responsibility.

  • Career advancement – How important is this project? Will acing it open the door to a potential promotion or an increase in pay?
  • New horizons – Does this project fall into your day to day? If not, it might be worth considering. Taking on tasks that are out of your comfort zone will bring on new challenges; allowing you to learn new skills, and maybe even make new contacts.

Take some, drop some

Can this top-priority project enable you to drop another assignment you have been handed? Surely there is something in your workload you would love to magically pass-on to someone else. This might be your chance. With a well-thought argument and feasible action plan, this might result in a successful trade.

If you have decided to accept the project after all, make sure that you discuss your expectations with your manager. There’s a difference between daydreaming and making a well-defined strategy. Saying something like: “I hope that once I complete this project, I will be considered for the Senior Specialist position” will clearly state your expectations without making you sound entitled.

You’ve considered all the possibilities and still want to say no?

Here’s how to say no in a professional manner:

  1. Be generous about the opportunity

    This project might make you want to run out the door, but there might be someone else in the company that would jump at the opportunity. Maybe a junior employee could take on the task? Here’s a simple way to approach it: “I’m completely booked with X, Y, and Z. However, have you considered Julie for this project? She has the right experience and she did great on W.”

  2. Offer to take-on the consultant role instead

    This is a “smooth” way to say no. You are still offering to assist the team, yet you avoid all the time-consuming and tedious particularities.

  3. Negotiate your workload

    If you are worried about your workload, suggest only taking on a certain percentage of the task. Why has your boss assigned this task to you? Is it for your exceptional budgeting skills? Then offer to solely work on the project’s budget and suggest someone else do the rest.

  4. Think of alternate resources

    Can an online tool complete a part of the job? There are plenty of free online apps that can effectively reduce the time you need to spend on a task.

  5. Ask questions

    Regardless of your choice and how you decide to go about it, it’s imperative that you have a clear picture of the project that is being assigned to you. If you’re not sure, ask questions. Being well informed will enable you to make a better decision. Also, be ready to give precise information about your own workload, deadlines, and other special projects you are already working on.

Saying no do’s and don’ts

Here are nine do’s and don’ts when saying no at work.

  1. Do tell the person you’ll get back to them

    This will give you the chance to mull things over. It’s very easy for emotions to take over when you feel tired and overworked.

  2. Do look at the big picture

    Look beyond the X number of hours this project will take and think about the outcome.

  3. Do highlight the value of your work and of your time

    Managers respect employees who know their worth and can recognize priorities. Being reasonable is the way to go here.

  4. Do be assertive and confident

    If you have taken the time to examine all the elements, there is no reason why you should doubt yourself. On the other hand, remember not to cross that very fine line between confident and arrogant.

  5. Do pick your battles

    Remember that there will always be tasks you would rather avoid. Especially if you’ve recently dodged extra responsibilities, you might have to take this one for the team.

  6. Don’t whine about having too much work

    Ranting and complaining in your boss’s office will not get you off the hook. It will, however, categorize you as a problem employee.

  7. Don’t give “it’s not in my task description” as a reason to refuse an assignment

    Although you should not have to juggle the tasks of several different positions, we all know that, in today’s market, all staff members are expected to roll-up their sleeves and pitch-in when there is a workload surplus.

  8. Don’t refuse to work with specific employees

    Bosses want team-players who can put aside their differences for the greater good of the company.

  9. Don’t say the task is above your abilities

    The “can’t do” attitude will not score you points with your supervisor. However, it’s okay to ask questions and pick the brains of more experienced employees.

Remember that, no matter the situation, everything can be said. It’s how you say it that will bring the desired outcome. As a general rule, when saying no, it’s best to remain sensible and offer solutions that will solve the problem.