Saying No

Posted: April 24, 2015 in Uncategorized
flickr photo by Horia Varlan shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

flickr photo by Horia Varlan shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

So, I’ve been thinking about saying no. I’m not good at it. I described myself the other day as a recovering oldest child, and I think that says a lot. I’m the oldest of my siblings, the only girl. I have a hard time saying no to requests to do things. I want everyone to be happy. When I had my first kid, I got better at asking for help, which isn’t the same thing exactly, but it’s related.

Now that my kids are older, and I have a job that is not all about being in the classroom, I’m finding the requests are coming in fast and furious. When you are a classroom teacher, people, administrative people, ask you to do things. And, you and they know that most of your day is already spoken for, without any meeting requests being accepted or even suggested. Now that my schedule is not pre-populated with teaching it might appear to be open. Emphasis here is on appear.

Back to the requests. Some of them are great opportunities, like being on search committees. Searches may be time consuming, but they are also super interesting. I love it. Then there are the requests that seem interesting or flattering, and later you realize later you just got the wool pulled over your eyes. It’s a thankless task that the most recent victim doer-of just got out of doing and now someone needs to do it.

However, sometimes the reason to say yes to a task is not the task itself but the company you will keep in doing it. Sounds like more saying yes.

Then, sometimes it’s an opportunity to do something new or different. More yes.

So, I am wondering, when should I say no?

  1. Maggie says:

    Great post! Two of my go-to questions when I interview an administrator is to ask, “When do you say no?” and “How do you say no?” Sometimes an inability to say no is a reaction to not playing well with others. Sometimes it is a warning sign that the individual is a disaster at time management. And, of course, sometimes the person believes they simply can’t say no, yet, by drowning in missed assignments and broken promises, they are actually saying it quite vigorously.

    Yet educational administration is filled with excellent, hard-working people who love to say yes. I’d love to grapple with that challenge, I’d relish the chance to work on that unanticipated/unimagined task, I’d love to show you what I can do. More than a few people have written books on the happiness and power that is uncorked with “yes.”

    When do I say no? After all these years, I know when my bandwidth is not going to allow me to deliver, and my ego is solid enough to be able to admit so when approached. And I know when I am in conflict with the various needs on the home front. That’s always compelling for me. I am not yet successful at knowing when I’m needed on the self front – the appeal of the challenge, the appeal of doing good work, they are still strong drivers for me. But if all is solid at home, and I’m feeling I can take a good crack at it, I smile and forget the no, and go with “YES!”

    Thanks for sparking the contemplation.

  2. mseiteljorg says:

    Maggie, I have been thinking about your administrator questions. I need to remember them both. How to say no is a huge question and depends so much on the situation. I think I’ll save that for another post.

    Your “when I say no” list resonates with me. I also feel pretty confident saying no when I know I just can’t get the job done because of time, either at home or school. And, I am also not successful at putting the “time for self” into the mix of considerations.

    What I also notice is that I am often in a group of other administrators who all have administrative assistants. (I do not have or mostly need an administrative assistant.) And when there is a job/task that needs doing that is largely an administrative task that requires a bit of oversight, it means that if I take on the task, I do it. For others it means that they could check in and supervise the big stuff and have an assistant take care of the rest. I am testing out volunteering while at the same time asking whose assistant can help me, but it can be awkward.

    Thanks for reading and commenting.

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