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As special educators, we often feel obligated to do more than our job requires. The job description becomes blurrier and blurrier with time as we get more job responsibilities tacked on with time–you know you can do that Educational Testing, write that report, and work with kids in small groups, all while following an inclusion model, right? All of this extra responsibility means we have less time to give to others who might demand more of our time. At some point, to avoid burnout, you must say no to something. But what happens if you’re in the middle of doing something and someone wants you to do something else? More importantly, what happens if someone higher up than you “requests” that you take on an extra responsibility? How do you say “no” to extra responsibilities when you already feel overwhelmed without (a) jeopardizing your job or (b) making yourself look bad?
Just Say No! How To Do It the Right Way.
- Weigh Out the Consequences. First, make sure you weigh out the consequences of saying “no.” If you have less experience than other teachers, you probably have less leverage for declining a request. As a more experienced teacher, though, saying yes to one experience might get in the way of your real goals or make you feel burned out or exhausted.
- Take Time to Consider the Request. Before you answer the question about the opportunity, ask for time to consider the request. State that you need time to consider how the opportunity or assignment will affect your existing schedule and workload. Take this time to think about how saying no will impact your career before answering.
- Offer Some Alternatives. If you decide not to do it, try to help in some way. See if you can contribute in a different way or if it’s a project, see if you can get an extended deadline.
- Answer in Person. You cannot judge a person’s tone by email, so make sure to answer in person so that your answer does not come off the wrong way. Your willingness to work with your employer may not come off that way via email. You’ll want to deliver in person so that your message does not get misunderstood.
- Keep It Simple. Stay away from the details in your explanation. If you give your entire calendar out, the importance of your other responsibilities may get challenged. Just give a simple explanation about why you cannot complete the task.
- Don’t Put Yourself Down. If the person attempts to flatter you in order to persuade you to do the project or assignment anyway, don’t respond by putting yourself down. Instead, lay out all of your current responsibilities. It’s better to explain why you cannot do it (how busy you are) than to devalue yourself.
- Ask for Help. If the project or assignment conflicts with something you’re already working on, and your Principal asks you to take on something else, give a simple explanation that you’ve already committed to something else and ask for help prioritizing between the two. “I’d love to help you with this project. I have X responsibility for Students XYZ by February 2nd. How much time can I have to get this project back to you?” Again, you want to keep this really simple.
Saying “No” doesn’t have to be a negative thing. You can assert yourself at work, keep your peace of mind, and still look like a team player. Just say no the right way!
Have you ever had a situation at work where you had to turn down an opportunity? How did you handle it?