From employer demands for increased productivity to new colleagues looking to fill their shoes, employees are feeling more pressure in the workplace than ever before. With all of this pressure, when is it OK for employees to just say no to one of the many requests that come their way?

It’s time to put an end to those two little letters that can cause anxiety in some individuals. Saying no doesn’t always make someone lazy, antisocial or unprofessional. Rather, it could mean they’re aware of their capacity and current state of balance and are mindful enough to make that a priority. Keep in mind though that’s it’s not always appropriate or even an option to decline to assist someone. If everyone said no when it wasn’t ideal for them, people wouldn’t accomplish anything.

Read: Trust, involvement and developing staff the keys to boosting employee engagement

Providing your employees with clear expectations and priorities can dramatically alleviate the amount of anxiety employees may feel about accepting and declining projects. Also, employees with a distinct understanding of what their employer expects of them and how to prioritize the multitude of requests that come their way feel a much higher level of psychological safety. They’re comfortable taking on new tasks, maintaining their typical workload and declining projects or requests that are a lower priority or not within their specific set of skills when their plate is too full to maintain a healthy balance. They understand that saying no to most requests won’t jeopardize their position, reputation or friendships in the workplace.

It’s your job as the employer to reinforce that understanding within the entire organization and encourage self-regulation among your employee population. That may include implementing an employee recognition program where peers can nominate one another for recognition or rewards for putting others first whenever possible.

Read: 25% of recognition programs ineffective for millennials: survey

In addition, developing a culture of mutual respect between employees will facilitate the implementation of these possibly new clarifications of expectations and priorities. Employees who respect one another and their individual roles within the organization understand the various demands placed on everyone.

Such mutual respect also translates into employees taking pride in their own work and maintaining their personal balance so they’ll be able to help each other out when distress calls arise. And, if they’re not able to assist, it’s because they have a higher demand to meet first, rather than a lack of desire to help out a fellow employee. It’s also worth mentioning that without civility in employee interactions, the likelihood of employees having a desire to help each other out greatly decreases.

Read: Resilience: your 21st century suit of armour

In an ideal workplace, productivity and performance would take a back seat to employee work-life balance. Unfortunately, that’s just not the case in the majority of organizations. Organizations can’t sacrifice performance and results, so it’s up to the employer to maintain an environment where productivity synchronizes with competing priorities and workloads in order to keep a level of fairness between requests, demands and results.

Karley Middleton ‎is a health and performance consultant at HUB International STRATA Benefits Consulting in Winnipeg. These views are those of the author and not necessarily those of Benefits Canada.
Copyright © 2018 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on

Join us on Twitter

Add a comment

Have your say on this topic! Comments that are thought to be disrespectful or offensive may be removed by our Benefits Canada admins. Thanks!

* These fields are required.
Field required
Field required
Field required