The Wall Street Journal: Say No to Busywork and Supercharge Your Career

Woman saying No! at work
Image via iStock.

When you get hired for a job it is pretty common practice that the responsibilities that are outlined at the start of your employment are not going to be all-encompassing.

So basically other similar duties might get asked of you in time. But other times you might get asked to pitch in on something outside the scope of your job as a favor.

Though as The Wall Street Journal warns, such favors can often turn into a regular occurrence that you are not getting paid extra for.

It’s one thing if those new tasks mark a shift in your job role. But when you are still expected to perform all the same duties as before and have major projects you need to finish, those new responsibilities add up.

By trying to be helpful and be a team player all the time, you can actually make yourself a worse performer. This is why you need to learn how to decline sometimes.

Unfortunately, you can’t just reject all tasks not directly related to your job. Trying to do so will build a bad reputation for you and could ultimately lead to you being replaced.

So when it comes to something like training new employees or helping with a big event, you have to be understanding.

But if it’s something like updating a spreadsheet or filing system, you probably have more leeway to stop and consider why you specifically need to do that.

In such situations, you can try and compromise with the asker and explain how you have a really big assignment right now, and could somebody else help with the spreadsheet since you did it last time.

Resist that inclination to immediately acquiesce to any request. You don’t want to become a doormat.

It can be a learning process to figure out how to protect a good balance in your work life. Consider what obligations you are being measured on in your year-end reviews.

Consider what is likely to help get you noticed for a promotion. And consider what would just eat up time that you need for more urgent matters.

Sometimes if you do not set limits on what you are willing to do for others, it only results in you giving more than you can afford.

For more on how to establish boundaries on not letting extraneous work responsibilities creep in, look at what The Wall Street Journal recommends here.


Dr. Jon Tam talks offer five ways to say no to people at work by setting healthy boundaries.


Wilmington University, the sponsor of DELCO Today — Career Corner, is a private, open-access institution that serves more than 20,000 adults, including those seeking advancement through higher education and traditional-age students who aspire to become successful global citizens.

One of the most affordable private universities in the Delaware Valley, WilmU is committed to the idea that finishing an undergraduate degree or obtaining a master’s or doctoral degree can be affordable and accessible.

The University offers over 200 accredited and career-relevant degree and certificate programs in flexible online and hybrid formats designed to accommodate adults of all ages who work full- or part-time or juggle demanding career, family, and personal schedules.

Learn more about WilmU here or register to attend one of the University’s webinars. You will find information about academic programs, flexible scheduling options, tuition, admissions, student services, athletics, and more.