Many people have an understandably hard time saying “no” when a manager or co-worker asks them to take on extra responsibilities at work. However, if you are either working through treatment or returning to work after taking time off, being able to say “no” to non-essential projects can be an important part of making sure there is enough free time in your schedule for healing and self-care.
The key to setting effective boundaries in the workplace is crafting language that feels natural for you and communicates the “no” message in a way that is still professional and team oriented. In other words, you want to acknowledge the request and express appreciation that this responsibility is being offered to you, but also let the person asking know that your plate is full right now. For example:
- “I appreciate that you thought of me for this project. However, I’m a bit swamped this week and am concerned about my ability to get this back to you in a timely manner.”
- “Thank you for offering me these additional shifts. Unfortunately, I’m short on time at the moment as I have some family obligations to attend to. But I’d love to talk about this possibility again in a few months, once the situation has settled down.”
You’ll notice that both of these examples, the person speaking does not mention cancer. Rather, he/she provides a general reason why right now is not an ideal time, then turns the conversation back to an area that casts a professional light.
Although it is sometimes difficult to say no, doing so may actually help you become a better employee in the long run. You won’t feel overburdened with extra projects or trapped by every “ask” you receive. In fact, the “professional no” is a skill that is likely to continue paying off well into your recovery.