Let us say you have two colleagues, both of whom are very good at what they do and they are each other’s peers.
One person, as a matter of policy, or because of other reasons, professes an inability to multi-task or be an active contributor to 3 or 4 different projects at the same time. And we aren’t talking about projects requiring you to be in Bali, Belgrade, Bangalore and Bellevue all at the same time – nothing quite that exotic. She (assume its a she) makes it very clear at every opportunity that she just can’t work on multiple important projects at the same time – her bosses know it, her colleagues know it and perhaps even her clients know it (hopefully not). Colleagues have been known to make snide remarks about her and roll their eyes about her multi-tasking abilities (or lack thereof).
The other colleague though is considered a go-to person. Regardless of the amount of work she has (let us make it simpler by assuming they are both female…they might both as well have been male) on her plate at any given time, she seldom says no and either works a lot and gets stuff done, by herself, in most cases, or gets it done by delegating it to others and then works a lot to manage them through completion. When she does it herself, she earns kudos and her “go-to” reputation is further cemented. When she delegates, she gives credit where its due, etc., so she’s a good employee that way too.
The question is – who is ultimately coming out ahead of the game?
The first person, because, while she is the butt of the occasional joke, has successfully drawn her boundaries at work and “succeeds” by delivering very well on the limited number of things she commits to?
Or the second person, who is seen as the go-to person, but whose boundaries are rather weak because of her inability to say no and consequently works day and night to successfully deliver on all the fronts she gets engaged on?
I would like to think that the 2nd one is more successful in the “long run” but then again, as someone said, in the long run, we are all dead. So shouldn’t the first one be considered more successful because she sets her expectations very clearly, does a good job on the things she commits to and everyone around her has been primed to work with her on her terms?
To be honest though, I don’t mention rewards and bonuses and how these two people get compensated, so my question is in some sense incomplete. Still, I think its a very important one that every engaged and ambitious employee must answer for themselves at some point in their lives. More so because most work places contain both types of employees, not to mention hangers-on and sycophants.
A quick Google search turns up articles from varied sources – Monster, Forbes, Careerbuilder and even Oprah, among others – all of which actually advocate the power of “no” as a way to retain your sanity and balance your life, but urge you at the same time to fully understand that saying “no” has consequences, both short and long-term ones, in terms of foregone opportunities and such.
What, dear reader, do you think?