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Post by: Anna Brantley, Chief Revenue Officer of AnalyticsIQ

I say ‘no’ a lot.  But as a true southern woman, I can’t say it’s easy.  We southerns like to be pleasant, agreeable, friendly, and frankly, what part of ‘no’ says that?

I tell my kids ‘no’ – They can’t have dessert for dinner (and for some reason they are always shocked).

I tell the PTA ‘no’ –  I can’t volunteer to bake 6 dozen cookies for a school fundraiser when my schedule is already packed.

I tell my girlfriends ‘no’ – It’s a bummer but I’m on the road and will have to miss another night with my friends.

Learning that it is ok to say ‘no’ in my personal life has been liberating.  But it hasn’t always been that way. I actually used to be a ‘yes-woman’.  I over-extended myself with volunteer promises where I ended up feeling frazzled. I regretted making plans with girl friends when I really wanted to be cuddled up at home with my family.

It may seem counterintuitive, but learning to say ‘no’ in my professional life as well has had a powerful, positive effect on my career.

As I reflect on over 20 years of experience, without a doubt, my ‘yes-woman-ness’ delayed my career success.  I was the one that always said ‘yes’ to taking on the difficult clients that resulted in late nights and more travel.  I was the one who said ‘yes’ to a significant decrease in annual salary when coming back after maternity leave because my current manager thought that a decrease in my compensation would help me fly under the radar when management was looking to cut jobs.

Through all of these instances and many more, I should have known that my stellar client feedback scores and my consistent sales overachievement should have been my justification to decline these requests.  I thought that by continuing to say ‘yes’ to these demands, there would be a reward in the end. I would be seen as a team player and my career would continue to rise.

After years of this approach and not seeing the results I expected, I decided to be bold and change things up. I finally decided to say it… ‘No.’

I left an organization that absolutely helped me grow, but had also become quite content with my yes attitude with no end game in sight.  I started fresh with an organization that embraces my ‘no’s’.  Of course, I don’t just go around saying ‘no’ to everything, but I look at each situation and evaluate:

  1. Does saying ‘no’ align with my career goals? Will the project or task I am being asked to take on help my career move into a direction that I want it to go from both a professional development but also from a compensation standpoint?
  2. Will I regret saying ‘no’ later? If I don’t take on a responsibility, will I miss out on a new experience or learning a new skill?
  3. Most importantly, do I have the time to take on the task? If I can’t give 100%, it isn’t worth giving only a portion of my time. When I commit to a responsibility, I want my work product to be complete and my decisions respected and that can only happen if I have the time to do it right.

Learning to say ‘no’ has been the best two-letter word to help me not only balance my personal life but finally excel in my professional life. If your ‘yes’ approach has you hitting a dead end, I suggest giving ‘no’ a go.