Why It's Better to Say No
Often, saying no is better than saying yes. In the long run, there's serious value in doing fewer things.
The boss asks you just this one time to take on one extra project. Your entire team is pressed for time. You'd like to be a team player. So you say Yes.
Just this one time ends up becoming a regular thing. You find yourself working long hours and weekends to keep your head above water. The stress of long hours limits your time with family, tires you out, increases your anxiety. You eventually decide it's time to search for a new job.
Employee 3 months into Amazon asks me for a mentorship meeting.
Alejandro: "I think I'm going to give my manager my 2-week notice. Amazon just isn't for me. I have been working 10 hour days and most weekends. I'm exhausted."
Me: "Have you told your manager you have too much work? Have you refused to work on the weekends?"
Alejandro: "No, I couldn't do that."
Many employees consider their only options are to either do their work, or quit. This short sighted view hurts the employee, their manager, and their company.
Weighing the Benefits of Overwork
We can briefly get more work out of employees. While there are plenty of studies showing that longer hours tend to be less productive hours, you can still squeeze one more project out of your workers. If that one project is the most critical project for the year, it may be worth an increased risk of needing to replace an employee.
Our projects are rarely that critical. Building a team of employees to repeatedly deliver value is often said to be a marathon, not a sprint. In the long run, a tenured team working sustainable hours will accomplish more than an overworked team. The long hours of overworked teams cannot compete with the lost productivity spent on re-hiring employees.