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How do I say ‘No’ and still be a team player?

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Question: “I am part of a team of assistants for a dozen bosses.  We all sit near each other with a lead member, an intermediate and a junior.  I am the junior member.  The intermediate member acts like she is very busy with her assignments, however, she constantly asks me to take over her tasks because she states that she is too busy.  I have plenty of assignments myself, but I am hungry to learn more.  So I have accepted some of these requests.  It is becoming burdensome to continue picking up her work.  How can I communicate this to her without sounding like I am not a team player?” — Jeani Easterly

Comments

The tough part about taking over tasks "temporarily" is that now they become tasks you are "expected" to perform. As much of a pain as it is, you need to document everything you do and all of the additional tasks you have taken on and note the time it takes to complete these tasks. This will show her and anyone else that is concerned what you are doing and why you can't take on anymore and to establish priorities. It will also serve as backup when you are given a review.

Several factors would determine how I would respond to this situation. First, is the intermediate member TRULY too busy to do her own work? And are you receiving the proper recognition at evaluation time for doing this extra work? Being a team player is a wonderful thing, but being dumped on and not compensated for it is not. Finally, if you really are hungry to learn more and will recieve the proper recognition for taking on extra tasks and (more importantly) continue to perform your tasks without sacrificing quality, I'd say go for it. This is a great way to get yourself noticed not only as a team player but also an asset to your organization.

I agree that you need to document everything you do. However, it is the responsibility of the lead person (that's why she's the lead person) to distribute the work. I would suggest that you request a meeting with the lead and the intermediate to discuss workload and responsibilities. Maybe the intermediate really is too busy and needs some of her work redistributed, or maybe she's passing off her "drudge" work assignments to you so that she can concentrate of the work that will be meaningful for her performance evaluation. The tone of the meeting request for you is : you are the junior, you want to learn as much as possible to enhance your status as a team player, etc.

I agree that you need to document everything you do. However, it is the responsibility of the lead person (that's why she's the lead person) to distribute the work. I would suggest that you request a meeting with the lead and the intermediate to discuss workload and responsibilities. Maybe the intermediate really is too busy and needs some of her work redistributed, or maybe she's passing off her "drudge" work assignments to you so that she can concentrate of the work that will be meaningful for her performance evaluation. The tone of the meeting request for you is : you are the junior, you want to learn as much as possible to enhance your status as a team player, etc.

There are many good suggestions here. I would suggest a similar approach, document what you do in say a weeks time and present that to the lead assistant. Just like Anon said request a meeting and bring to their attention that the intermediate has informed you that she needs your help and while you are more than happy to help, learn and grow some of your and her assignments may need to be redistributed amoungnst the group. You do not want your quality of work to decrease, you want to be a team player and you need their direction on the best way to do that. Let the lead figure out if the intermediate is actually too busy. Becoming too busy is never a problem when you are working your way up, just like a baby they get plump before a growth spurt. Good Luck.

She is using you to do her job and you need to stop that righ now! Unfortunately you probably set this up unwittingly because you were just trying to help a fellow worker. My solution: Tell her pleasantly and firmly that you don't believe you can add any additional work to your schedule right now. Smile and continue with what you were doing.

Well,it is the fate of all juniors in the organisation to work hard. If you really want to get some position you need to work hard, I can imagine that for some it is not possible to refuse palinly and to call meeting with senior, they cant do like this, the only solution, I feel is and what I usually encountered is, to simply do utmost to do the work what you are told, and if you cant coup with that, tell her directly,with similing face and polite tone this: My dear & sweet Mam, I love to do all your work but if I get the time, I'll do it, other wise you are wise and I am otherwise. Best of Luck

Being a team player does not mean you have to do someone else's work. I agree that you need to make sure you document everything you do. I would also take the direct but diplomatic approach and let her know that you can no longer pick up her slack. If it is something that she truly cannot accomplish because she is too busy, then ask her to request from both your supervisors and you will do the same that you permanently take on her task. This will put her on notice. If you take this approach, you need to be willing to take on the task though.

Ask the intermediate person to help you prioritize.
Say something like "I really like that you trust me to help you work on these duties, but I'm getting a little overwhelmed. Do you have any advice, or could you help me decide which tasks take priority over others?"
You get your point across but keep your working relationship (and your team-player rep) intact.

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