Success can be gained by being a “yes” person. Especially in corporate environments, being easy to get along with, amicable, and always willing to help, could be your pathway to longevity in a company, and staying first on the list for a promotion.

This is not always possible though. There is a point when saying “yes” to everything includes responsibilities that clash with each other, too large a workload, or added pressure to your own family and personal commitments.

The solution to being successful in a corporate career, is learning how to manage your responsibilities, and learning how to say “no” at work, without your employers and co-workers considering that you are lazy or uncommitted.

The real pressures of saying “yes”

Employers know the control they have over their employees, their careers, their finances and their progression in life. Unfortunately, their understanding of this often leads to bullying tactics — for example, a supervisor will pressure you into taking extra responsibilities.

The US Workplace Bullying Survey (2007) was the largest scientific survey of bullying in America. It concluded that bullying in the workplace is 400 per cent more likely than illegal or discriminatory harassment. It places real stress on workers, and workplace bullies are predominantly bosses, or people with supervisory power.

Bullying leaves employees feeling they always need to say “yes” to demands, for fear of losing their job and failing in their career. If you have huge financial demands, including a mortgage and a family, saying “no” can be very difficult to do.

Learn how to succeed, while still saying “no”

If you don’t want your career to be the only highlight in your life, you will need to learn how to balance your priorities, and occasionally say “no”, without seeming lazy.

The secret is not what you say, but how you say it. This includes your commitment to the conversation at hand, your use of body language, tone of voice, and your dedication to achieving a win-win situation. Here are some tips:

Listen attentively

When someone approaches you with a request, show you are interested. Often, the first sign of extra responsibility is stress, and this can be conveyed to your requestor as negativity towards him, and rejection of his needs.

Stay calm and be interested in his new ideas or projects. Show support for what he desires to achieve and clearly communicate this. Remember, you are not dissatisfied with him or his goals, just your personal ability to help see them through successfully.

Avoid e-mails

If you need to say “no”, say it in person, rather than over an e-mail. If this is not possible, pick up the phone. First, the person will recognise through this that you are making his interests a priority, and are not avoiding contact with him. Second, face-to-face and verbal communication provides much more conviction, and e-mail communication can often be misunderstood.

Offer an alternative solution

If you are unable to help, explain that you would like to see results, but you are unable to help personally. Clearly and confidently state the reasons you are unable to assist, and offer solutions that don’t involve your commitment:

* If I helped you, I couldn’t allocate time for at least three months. This looks like a project you need a quick turnaround for, and I can refer you to someone else who may achieve this faster for you.”

* “I am not the best at this type of work, as it seems you require a specialised approach. If I learned these tasks it would take longer than I could afford. Is there someone you know who already has these skills and could get started ASAP?”

* “My other supervisor has asked me to do X. I am unsure which is more important. Are you able to arrange the priority between yourselves and notify me of this?”

Announce that you are busy ahead of time

You convey how you should be treated. When you are at work, stay focused and be publicly clear about your priorities. Explain to people that you are committed to achieving certain goals, and that you will be unavailable for any other requirements until a later date. If you act busy, everyone will recognise this, and avoid piling on those extra pressures.