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Nov 17, 2022
Protecting Yourself From Taking on Too Much Work

Last year, more than 47 million U.S. workers left their jobs in pursuit of higher pay, greater job flexibility, and a better work-life balance. With many companies struggling to fill roles, unmet work is often delegated to remaining employees or contractors. In these strained work environments, how do you protect yourself from taking on too much work?

If you're someone who regularly says yes to the extra work, here are some ideas on how to identify when it's the right time to push back and how to set your boundaries in a professional way.

Push back if the extra work negatively impacts your main job duties

Agreeing to help out your understaffed company can demonstrate a collaborative spirit; however, if additional assignments distract you from your primary responsibilities, taking them on won’t benefit you or your company. In that case, consider pushing back so you can focus on providing the work you were hired to do. Setting boundaries can include a brief and sincere explanation of how your primary work will be adversely affected if you added your time and attention elsewhere. You can also talk to your manager about capacity planning, particularly if your primary responsibilities are no longer a priority and something else is time sensitive. This can be especially helpful to contractors who are facing scope creep where the tasks begin to expand–or creep–beyond the contracted agreement.

Push back if the extra work doesn’t serve your personal and professional growth

Being pulled into work that’s outside your job description is common and sometimes even necessary in the day-to-day workflow. Yet, if the extra work doesn’t help your personal growth or contribute to your career in substantive ways, think about pushing back. You can set boundaries by brainstorming how you can help in smaller, more manageable ways. Or, if you’re open to the new opportunity, you can consider discussing whether your additional job duties will come with increased pay or be part of a process that could lead to a promotion.

Push back if the extra work is unclear and open-ended

It’s easy to agree to additional assignments before knowing all the work they’ll entail. Make sure to ask essential questions about the task expectations and time duration of the new responsibilities before signing on. If you receive answers that are vague and don’t include a timeframe, think about pushing back–would you commit to a project without knowing the full scope or deadline? You can set your boundaries by expressing gratitude for the new opportunity while also acknowledging that you don’t feel comfortable taking on extra duties without more information.

We can create better work environments for ourselves by establishing boundaries in a conscientious manner and pushing back for appropriate reasons. 

How do you say no to additional tasks outside of your work scope? Share your perspective with us below.