First some background: I’ve known Scott Allen for several years; a few of months ago I asked him if he would serve on my Board and he said yes. I was thrilled because we’re launching a new product Q3 and having formal access to Scott’s expertise would help assure its success. A couple of weeks later I received a very apologetic email from Scott explaining that, in fact, that he wouldn’t be able to serve; he was severely over-committed already and the situation was having serious effects on his health, as well as stressing out his family. I replied that I understood, that nothing was more important than his health and family, and that he should try my approach to saying no, because I knew that it worked.
Last week I ran into Scott (online) and asked him how it was going.
Scott said, “You need to do a follow-up to your “just say no” post about how to deal with the hurt feelings and your own guilt about all the people to whom you end up having to say no.”
It sounded like a good idea to me, and I asked Scott if I could reference him as my reason for the follow-up; I think his response provides an excellent description of what happens to most people who finally start saying, “no.”
Scott said, “Absolutely you can name me. I frequently talk about it as the biggest challenge I deal with; besides, it helps give some credibility to the fact that I really don’t just blow people off, which I know is what a lot of people think. They’re bitching about the fact that I’m not available on Skype or IMs, but I had to shut them off just to get some work done!”
What Scott’s facing as he learns to say no is the backlash that happens when you back off from what, in the corporate world, are known as extreme jobs. Defined by Sylvia Hewlett and Carolyn Luce, in a December 2006 Harvard Business Review article, (Extreme Jobs – The Dangerous Allure of the 70-Hour Workweek) they identified 10 common characteristics, the five worst being
- unpredictable flow of work with constant interruptions and emergencies;
- fast-paced multi-task work with tight deadlines;
- frequent work-related events outside regular work hours;
- availability to clients and customers 24/7; and a
- large amount of travel.
But while the corporate world may reward extreme workers, individuals, consultants, contractors, and solopreneurs often work that way from sheer necessity—or so they tell themselves.
The fifth may not apply, but ask anyone who is self-employed if the first four do and you’ll hear a resounding, “Yes!” And, as Scott points out, stress usually increases when you finally start saying “no” and the expectations that you’ve fostered come back and bite you.
So, for Scott, and all of you struggling with the aftermath of no, I’m going to spend this week offering up short, useable ways to reduce the stress and disarm the reactions, in order to encourage you to start/continue saying, “No.”