Too Much Work? What To Say When You're Asked To Do More

Hey Guys,

Perhaps you can relate to a client of mine who recently got pissed off from an unreasonable work load. She said to me,

“Stella, I need a way to keep my emotions at home. I need a better poker face.” 

Her emotions aren't the problem. See below for how to handle your negative vibes in a positive way and avoid taking on more work!

My client had received feedback from her VP that when she’s unhappy, the whole office knows it. When she’s engaged, she’s a star, but when she’s not, everyone knows that she’s unhappy.  

Based on my recent newsletter, you know that moods are contagious. 

However, the point of my sharing the research about how emotions are infectious is not to encourage you to hide your emotions or to keep them at bay

In fact, after breaking down scene by scene what happened in my client’s experience, we discovered that it’s actually her “hiding” that causes the negative reverberations that everyone else is feeling.

I asked for a play-by-play of what happens when she’s oozing her negative energy.

She told me that when she’s in her cubicle, usually on a call, someone will ask her to add another project to her plate even though she’s currently handling twice the amount of projects she should without an assistant. 

I’d say that’s definitely cause to be frustrated. 

When this happens, she says that everyone else, including those on the phone, can sense that she’s pissed off. 

How might they know that?

“Well, I’m usually sighing, I cross my arms, roll my eyes, and it’s in my tone.”


I said, “Jane, holding back your emotions is backfiring.”

The reason you’re experiencing those emotions in the first place is because they’re signaling something.

That’s what emotions do, they signal. And you’re trying to ignore the data they’re sending your way which is, “Attention, attention! Taking on another project may not be ideal."

Ignoring the data and accepting conditions that don't support your doing your job well, that all makes you feel powerless. 

And when you feel powerless, well, that just adds more fuel to the fire.

Rather than trying to hide your emotions, you should embrace the data they’re sending your way and express your truth. Actually lean into the emotions to help you ask for what you need.

Here's a sample script of what to say when you get pissed off for getting too much work: 

1) Acknowledge how the project is important and how you really want to help. This helps people feel seen.  Be authentic. 

  • “Guys, I can see how this project is vital to your kicking butt at the conference.
  • I’d love to tackle it.
  • I'm dedicated to helping you deliver and represent our company. I know that you're counting on me.”   

2) State the facts, describe what you have going on (without complaining): 

  • "Let me describe what I have going on, so you can assess whether I'm the right one for this job.
  • I’m currently managing 15 projects, which is seven more than I'm scoped to do. Two of these projects are for Bob, the VP of Sales, and Sally, the CEO.
  • They also are due when you want me to deliver your project. Unfortunately, I have no support staff now.” 

3) What are the consequences if you say, Yes:

  • "If I say YES right now, it means that something has to give - I’m going to have to compromise something else I’m working on or deliver it in a manner that doesn’t meet my standards of excellence.
  • It also means that I have to break my commitments to Bob and Sally.”  

4) Restate your commitment and your dedication to doing great work and explain why things may take as long as they do: 

  • "Let me help you understand the behind the scenes of doing this well....
  • I’m committed to providing high quality work, which means the following steps have to happen: First...then....”

5) Ask them to help you figure out a solution. Describe your willingness to be creative and support them, but ask them to help you think it through. If they don't, you just have to say, NO. 

  • "So, given these circumstances, help me figure out how I can make you happy.
  • I'm open to hearing your ideas on how else we can make this work.
  • Perhaps we assign it to Angela? Or we can speak to my VP about getting some additional staff?” 

Notice the difference between stuffing your emotions down (which results in passive aggressive sighs) and expressing your needs? 

A lot of times, we forget we have more control and choice than we think. 

 This immediately cuts the tension for several reasons. 

1) You’re not ignoring your emotions. I always say that emotions are like children. The more you ignore them, the louder they get.

2) You’re enrolling others in helping you resolve your situation from an authentic stance rather than a manipulative or passive-aggressive position.

Don’t ignore the emotion, let it guide you in evaluating what you need and speaking truthfully.  

If you aren’t able to do this in the moment (which I admit isn’t easy), try getting yourself into a calm state before making your request. 

How did this land for you? Please shoot me an e-mail and let me know what you think!



Stella GrizontComment