Saying No at Work

by Getrude Orodo

A single shift can be composed of several requests from patients, doctors, nurses and patients’ relatives:

Could you answer the phone?

Can you pass me a continuation sheet?

Could you get me another blanket or pillow?

Do you want to go for break now?

Can you take these bloods for me?

Can you come help me catheterize this patient?

Can we swap shifts next week?

Can you work tomorrow night?

Could you go tell my mom I am thinking about her?

This goes on and on to the end of the shift, including; Can you hand over first?

It may not be practical to perform all these requests. In a previous shift one of the doctors kept asking me to take blood samples from patients. I took the samples to the point of starting my midday drug round some minutes to two, and this was after the charge nurse intervened. This in turn messed up my whole day. I ended up leaving work several minutes later, long after the doctor had left.

Clearly, agreeing to every request may leave you overwhelmed with your own work. It means prioritizing someone else’s need and wants over your own needs. While it is good to help, it shouldn’t be at the expense of your own work and emotions.

The art of saying no can be a challenge. It is more difficult when you are a newbie. Saying yes is simple. It makes you more likable. More of a team player. On some occasions you may say no but you feel the need to accompany it with an excuse and apology which may involve a lie.

The only solution here is to be brave enough to be disliked. Many times, we perceive the dislike anyway. Sometimes after you say no, the person asking will ask someone else and forget about you almost immediately. It takes some growth to know when to decline to a request and be unapologetic about it because it was reasonable to do so.

Another way to rationalize saying no is thinking about delayed gratification. Say no now, feel uncomfortable for a few minutes and then be at peace for the rest of time. This sounds much better compared to saying yes and then fulfilling the request halfheartedly.

While it is important to help at work, help when you can without feelings of resentment. This is also a form of self-care at work.

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