I Had to Say “No” to Relieve the Stress in My Workplace
There is a simple way to eliminate the stress in your workplace and create a new narrative around how you manage your work.
Hey there friend. Happy Thursday (or whatever day you may be reading this article). Today, we’re going to talk about why saying “Yes“ to everything and everyone isn’t always a good thing. And, I strongly believe that this topic is really important, both for us as leaders as well as human beings.
Recently, I’ve been thinking about the easy pitfall of taking on more and more and more work until eventually everyone burns out. Many of us have that inner hustle, driving us to say yes to every request. We constantly try to cater to everyone’s demands and make everyone happy. It’s that feeling that you and your team, you’ve got to do it all. Not only that but you’ve got to do it quickly.
And my hope is that you’ll walk away from this article willing to shift how you show up for work – both for your teams and for yourself.
Workplace Stress: The Silent Killer of Your Well-Being
Back in the day, in my early years as a product manager, I believed that every single thing that was being asked of us was important. Customer requests were constantly coming in. We were overpromising and underdelivering over and over again.
I felt like we were always behind. I felt like I was always letting everyone down. That’s how badly overwhelm manifested for me during those times. Eventually, we burned out trying to manage unrealistic expectations. One after another, my teams started to fall apart.
Our customers began looking for alternatives on the market which created the need for additional demand in order to stay cost-effective. This vicious cycle landed us in very hot waters.
Things didn’t look good from a personal perspective, either. That constant pressure that there were so many commitments to deliver and they were all important, was killing me. At the same time, we couldn’t really finish any of it because we were constantly interrupting what we were doing to start the new request that had just arrived.
I felt paralyzed by overwhelm. It seemed that I was just going to stay stuck in this feeling. I felt like there was literally no way out, there was no way to move forward.
Did you know that when you have this feeling of overwhelm when you feel like you can’t move, like you are frozen, that is a real response of your nervous system to fear and anxiety?
While, for some, this can mean physical symptoms like shaking or sweaty palms, for others, this can show itself as a mental shutdown. This is what the stress in your workplace is causing you.
When you’re not being able to sleep properly, if your heart is racing, if you can’t take deep breaths, or you’re getting headaches, these are the physical symptoms that signify that you are under severe pressure. This is always a sign that there’s something off, and that you need to make a shift to release that pressure.
Simple Tricks to Manage Stress in Your Workplace Effectively
Nowadays, when I’m consulting managers and business owners, one of the things I hear a lot, especially from my super ambitious clients, is that this is just the way it is.
So, the expectation is that we’re going to be available twenty-four hours a day. We’re going to start working on whatever is asked of us immediately, and we’ll ideally deliver it that same day.
We are going to be there for every meeting and say yes to all the fancy requests. And, what is it that we are aiming for? We want to maintain our level of success, we want to reach the level of recognition that we aspire to.
What we don’t really realize is that, we also have to make a sacrifice. And that sacrifice is usually our physical well-being, our mental well-being, our emotional well-being, our spiritual well-being, and our relationships. Both ours and those of our teams.
And it only takes a certain number of years of going down this road to realize that this is not going to be the path to long-lasting success.
Eventually, your health falls apart, or your marriage falls apart, or your relationship with your kids falls apart, or you just find yourself shaking on the floor at 3am and you can’t function properly.
And I think that we don’t talk about this enough. These things happen a lot, and we simply aren’t talking about it as much as we should.
We’ve been brainwashed to believe that our value is based on how busy we are. It’s not, and it has never been so.
Do we have to go through these really tough times before we’re able to wake up and say, “Wait for a second, something needs to change. Something feels off here”?
I want to encourage you to take a stand. Instead of trying to do all the things all at once, really, just say “No”. Or at least say, “Yes, but later”. Respectfully but firmly.
If you need permission to just stop saying “Yes”, I’m happy to be that person. You can just stop now.
And if you are a people-pleaser or a recovering people-pleaser (like me), if you’re someone who doesn’t like to get into confrontations or difficult conversations, there are two very simple things that can help.
Firstly, play a little trick on your mind. Just say, “If I continue to say yes to everything, if I continue to pretend that we have it all together when we don’t, eventually I and everyone else in my team won’t be able to show up for the people we love the most.”
So, every time you say “Yes, we’ll handle this, but later. Our process is fully utilized at the moment” or even “No, we won’t handle this at all because it doesn’t fit within our business vision”, if you can then reframe each of those occurrences as a little investment in your well-being, you’ll be in a great place.
Just think about how these small actions lead to a relief in team overburden, take you a step closer to a good work-life balance and how they enable you to be present for the people you love. With this approach, you can actually trick yourself into getting better at saying “No”. Most of us need that when we’re just starting out with this transition.
Secondly, provide the evidence. Start measuring your team’s capability and your demand. Then, show your customers the results.
No one can argue with numbers.
When your demand outstrips your capacity and you’re able to demonstrate that pushing new work actually leads to delayed deliveries, poor predictability and exhausted and overburdened teams, the conversation takes a totally different perspective.
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When we worship at the altar of success, when that is the only defining measurement of our worth, things can get really messy. I hate that I’m talking from experience, but it’s true. I hope this story inspires you to slow down not only to relieve the stress in your workplace but also to help you show up for your teams and yourself.
And as always, if you love this post, could you do me a favor and share it with your colleagues and friends? I strongly believe that this is a vital message, and I think it’s essential that we get it out into the world.
All right, my friend. Thank you so very much for tuning in. I’ll see you next week, same time, same place. Have a wonderful day!
Meet the Author
Sonya Siderova is a passionate product manager and a driving force behind Nave, a Kanban analytics suite that helps teams improve their delivery speed through data-driven decision making. When she's not catering to her two little ones, you might find Sonya absorbed in a good heavyweight boxing match or behind a screen crafting a new blog post.