How do I say NO to a request to be the party planner extraordinaire at work? I used to enjoy helping to coordinate the office potlucks, but lately it’s way too much of a hassle and not enjoyable at all. I’m sick of the complainers, the ones that decline and state that they don’t wish to contribute yet freely help themselves to the buffet, etc. It really bothers me, and now I am really discouraged and no longer wish to be the one that collects the money, runs around town buying items, cooking for hours the night before the event, carting everything to work, making multiple trips from the parking lot into the office with all the food and supplies, etc. How do I say NO when the bosses ask me to do this next time?
L. F., Buffalo, NY
It’s really not a question of if you say “No,” it’s when you say it that matters. Just imagine the following: Your boss has no inkling that you are pulling your hair out organizing events or that employees are at best lukewarm about participating. So when he asks you to organize the next event, he is expecting the usual positive response. Instead he hears a vehement “No” followed by your litany of reasons for declining the task. His excitement about having an event he thinks is well appreciated is dashed. Assuming he doesn’t then tell you to do it anyway, he’s left with the added hassle of finding another employee to take it on at the last minute.
Imagine instead that you ask to meet with your boss well before the next event. At the meeting you explain the problems you are having: The events are difficult to organize. The employees don’t seem to appreciate them or the company or the boss for having them. They even bemoan having to attend. You suggest that the company take a hiatus from having events because of the lack of employee interest. You and he go on to discuss the pros and cons of the events and the demands they put on you at work and the extra effort you put in on your own time. He would like the events to continue, so you raise the options of other people being tasked to organize them or at least to assist you. Now, take what you just imagined and put it into practice.
By approaching your boss about a problem and offering a solution and by doing it at a time other than when he already has his mind set on having another event, you have the best chance of changing the situation and looking like a problem solver rather than a problem creator.