Move Up In Your Career: Part 1


Think of a time when your boss or a customer asked you to do extra work or to meet a tough deadline. You were already over-committed but bit your tongue, agreed and then had to work late, cancel your mammogram or miss out on family plans. Perhaps your girlfriends begged you to go out on a Friday night when you desperately needed to lay on our couch with a glass of wine! You rolled your eyes and texted back a feeble “yes” to avoid hurting anyone’s feelings, when you really wanted to say, “NO!”

The issue. We women tend to be very nurturing and are socialized to take care of others. Many of our mothers taught us, by example, to do this even if there is cost to ourselves. We think we are responsible for how others feel. We are afraid we will hurt others or appear to be unsupportive and, at all costs, must avoid looking selfish!

The cost. By fearing what others will think and saying yes when you mean no…

  • You agree to things you don’t want to do and do them half-heartedly or with resentment.
  • You lie to and disappoint your inner self and weaken self-trust.
  • You blame others and feel powerless and angry.
  • You make promises that cost you loss of P.I.E.S. energy (physical, intellectual, emotional or spiritual energy).
  • You agree to deadlines, extra workload, and over-commit requiring you to make sacrifices that impact your health, your family and, ultimately, your career.

Tips and tools. We’re not talking about suddenly becoming rude or shirking responsibilities and disregarding the needs of others. What I’m proposing is moving through fear and taking a more confident stand for yourself by saying what you need and telling the truth.

Listen to your GPS! You were born with a built-in emotional guidance system, your emotions. It’s as if you have a ‘Happy Meter’ in your stomach with a 1-10 scale, where 10 is the happiest. Notice when your rating drops. You likely have a need not being met or have just agreed to do something you don’t want to do.

Put on your oxygen mask first! Just as the airlines admonish, self-care will allow you to give more to your career and family. Excessive self-sacrifice to please others and avoiding ‘no’ is costly.

Say no by saying, “Yes, and…” When asked for help or to take on a project that impinges on other priorities or exceeds your capacity or talent, consider 1. a clear no, 2. directing people to other resources or 3. negotiating to complete a smaller portion of the work or a later deadline you can commit to with integrity. For example, I helped a senior executive reclaim three hours each work day by teaching him to empower and develop his new employees rather than his old habit of dropping everything to answer every question in detail. He didn’t realize he was enabling his team and making them dependent on him while not getting his work done! He learned to answer the “Can you help me?” question by saying, “Yes, and the answer is online here.” Or, “Yes, and your manager can help you.” Or, “I’ll show you the first few steps and then try it on our own.” Only 5 percent returned for more help. He used the extra time to focus on his career advancement goal to help the company reduce costs!

You have the right to change your mind! How often have you made a commitment to a project and then new information changes everything? Your resources are reduced, you get sick or there’s a delay. Ah, but you want to keep your word and be loyal and dedicated, right?! Remember! It is acceptable and reasonable to revisit agreements with others and requalify your “yes” and renegotiate based on new information.

Good news! When you begin saying what you really think and need, you’ll be surprised how well others take care of themselves and understand! You’ll give others permission to be true to themselves. Resolve today to test one recurring situation, at work or at home, where you can start saying no or try out a “Yes, and…” to be true to you!

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About Gail Sussman Miller

Gail Sussman Miller, chief obstacle buster at Inspired Choice, is an expert at inspiring executives to take courageous action and be more effective in job search and career advancement by using a mission-driven emotionally intelligent approach. She also facilitates monthly networking meetings for Chicago executives in career transition for ExecuNet. Ms. Sussman Miller especially loves coaching women to more powerfully lead their careers and the world. She offers TCW readers her free eBook, 10 Secrets of Emotional Intelligence, to help you move through fear and boost career success at