In the past, I’ve received feedback from my supervisor that I must learn to sometimes say “no” to others’ requests for my time on projects that aren’t necessarily within our scope. But guess what? The one time I did say “no” – in a nice way and offering alternatives – it was brought up in my next review in a negative light. Can I tell you, this was so frustrating to me, I didn’t even know how to respond.
– Just Say No? I Don’t Think So
Dear Just Say No,
The type of contradictory message you’re being given is not only frustrating and confusing, it can be demoralizing as well. Now that you’ve had time to process the comments made in the review, if you don’t regularly connect with your supervisor, ask for a moment of his time in order to gain clarity around the subject of when to say no. That way, moving forward you can know exactly what’s expected.
You can open the discussion by explaining, “Now that I’ve had time to process my last review, I realize there is an area I need further guidance (or feedback) on. You pointed out the time I (give a brief description of the instance, sticking to the facts). However, based on earlier discussions in which you encouraged me to learn to say no sometimes, I thought I was making the best decision that time, and proactively offering alternatives. Would you clarify for me the guidelines for when to say no?”
Then listen. If his answer sounds incomplete, feel free to bring up a couple of situations you believe might be forthcoming, tell him what you might say and ask if you’re on target. End the conversation by saying, “Thank you. It’s important to me to receive positive reviews moving forward, so I appreciate the clarity.”