One Good Habit All Associates Need to Break

AuthorAllison Wolf
DateDecember 09, 2016

Miranda is stressed out and fighting fires on all her files. A slew of sudden departures and maternity leaves have left her as the lone associate in a busy corporate practice. She has more work than she can handle and is behind on it all despite working long days and taking no holidays. Yet when a partner comes by to ask for her assistance on a large transaction that is heating up, she finds herself agreeing even though she knows something is going to give.

Are you like Miranda?

  • When asked for help is your first and immediate answer Yes, and thinking about the repercussions a distant second?
  • Are you afraid to say No, for fear of letting someone down, of disappointing someone, or of other negative consequences that could result?
  • Do you say Yes to things that you do not want to do?
  • Do you put your own priorities and commitments last?
  • Do you feel stressed and exhausted as a result of taking on more than you can handle?
  • When you do tell someone No you are you plagued by guilt and regret?

I am writing this article on the principal that it takes one to know one. Like Miranda, I learned from a young age the value of people pleasing. I quickly realised the advantages of saying Yes to all requests for help. This was highly effective for making friends, building trust, becoming valued, and climbing the career ladder.

There comes a point though for all of us when this belief no longer serves us well, when it hinders our ability to discern what is most important and prevents us from making choices.

As your popularity with internal and external clients rises along with the complexity of your work a new habit is called for.

When you start a family and add a whole set of new parental commitments to your life a new work habit is called for.

When the cracks in your practice start to appear – missed deadlines, work handed in late, reduced performance – a new work habit is called for.

That habit is called the Positive No.

It is important to say No when:

  • When it will take time away from priorities:
  • When you’re stressed or overwhelmed
  • When you’re already doing too much
  • When you’re tired or sick
  • When it doesn’t align with your priorities or prior commitments

There is no question that saying No can be challenging. The best resource I have found is William Ury’s book The Power of a Positive No. Ury, one of the world’s top negotiators, explains how to say No in a way that is effective, sustains relationships, and is respectful. To learn more about delivering a...

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