Pushover pitfall: Are you saying ‘yes’ too often at work?

At first, it made you feel good — even important — when your colleagues would come to you for help. They told you they needed you. They could only trust you to do the job right. But then, the number of requests started to balloon. Even your boss got into the act, delegating more and more responsibility to you because they felt they could only rely on you.

Now, you’re tempted to lock your office door, turn off the lights and hide under your desk so everyone will leave you alone. You’re experiencing the plight of the office pushover. You’ve said “yes” so many times, you worry what will happen if you say “no”. You don’t want to let anyone down, or have your colleagues or boss think you’re not reliable, but you know something has to give.

Here are three tips for making a change:

Push back (gently)

Accept that you’re on the hook for the work you’ve already promised to do. But don’t take on anything else as a favour until you’ve tackled your current to-do list. When a colleague (or your boss) asks to pass on yet another task to you, refuse politely and suggest an alternative, “I’m sorry, but I can’t help out on this one. Maybe Maria or Joe could assist this time?” or “We’re all pretty overloaded right now. Maybe we should consider arranging some temporary help?”

Consider how helping others might benefit you

Assisting your colleagues can be a positive thing, but don’t feel compelled to do so just because you think it will help you earn “likeability points” at the office. Choose extra assignments carefully; the tasks you take on should complement your own work or enhance it. If making a good impression is important to you, look for opportunities to pitch in on time-sensitive or high-profile projects instead of trying to collect the most stuff in your inbox.

Prioritise your life

If you find you don’t have time to take a coffee break, let alone lunch, and you’re often staying late at the office just so you can finish your own work, you need to put on the brakes. Work is part of life, but it shouldn’t be your life. Working long hours regularly and leaving little room in your schedule for anything else won’t just create stress, it could lead to burnout.

Remember, helping out your coworkers is fine, unless they start treating you like a doormat. The next time someone asks for a favour, don’t consider accepting the task your only option.

For more information, read our article on How to confidently and respectfully say no to your coworkers.

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