Recently HBR published a post on the power of saying “no”. The synopsis being: good bosses should encourage and coach their team members to say no more often, to avoid overcommitting.

Please read and share it - because it is so, so important.

This was a hard-learned lesson for me. Coming from India, the concept of always saying “yes” to authority was culturally embedded in me. And my career and mental health suffered because of it. It took a long time to weed that out, and some expert mentorship. I even went to martial arts classes to get over my conflict-avoidance syndrome. You might say the bad habits got choked out of me on the practice mats :)

Once I had beaten the disease though, I saw symptoms of it all around me:

  • My neighbor works at one of the best large consulting firms in the world… one that regularly wins “Best Places to Work” awards. And yet, he has been working 70-80 hour weeks (including weekends) for a few months. When I asked him what the problem was, he said: “My boss just can’t say no to any client requests. And then he dumps all the work on us.” Doesn’t sound very Best Places-like to me.

  • I once had the CEO of an offshoring firm tell me, “If I keep my people at 125% utilization, they will be too busy to look for a new job.” Wow. Predatory bosses know how to take advantage of such employees.

For people-pleasers and conflict-avoiders, learning how to say No will be the most important step you take towards personal and professional well-being.