Issue: Saying No

April 2, 2010

I meet a lot of DoSes and I’m always amazed at how busy everyone is.

DoSes who do fifteen hours of teaching.

DoSes who put in more than fifty office hours a week.

DoSes involved in marketing. DoSes involved in sales. DoSes involved in finance.

I meet a lot of DoSes – and quite frankly we’re a ¬†fairly knackered bunch!

It seems we just can’t say ‘no’. Let’s imagine the director comes in and says ‘hey, as it’s a quiet period I was just thinking that you could take on a bit more teaching – starting with these five hours here.’

Now let’s imagine your response – You look the director in the eyes, smile and say ‘You know, it’s a shame as I’m sure I’d be perfect fo those lessons, but with the fifteen other projects I’ve got going on I just don’t think I’d have the time to commit to that.’ Can you imagine?

Is it guilt that stops us from doing this? Is it just that we don’t like letting people down. Are we scared that people might start questioning our commitment? (I suspect that we secretly enjoy the status of being ‘superbusy’ or the ‘only one who works around here’…therein lies the path to madness…)

It doesn’t help that there’s quite a lot of mystery involved in the role of the DoS – I suspect a lot of colleagues have no idea just how much work we do! This leads to many a raised eyebrow when we do refuse to do something. This guy’s just the DoS. He spends all day on YouTube and having coffee with students…Of course he’s got time to do this…

However, for the sake of our own sanity and for the good of our schools we have to learn to say ‘no’.

It helps to have a really clear idea of what projects need our attention. It helps to plan out each week in advance so we can see at a glance just how much time we have available. That way you can assess each request and decide if it’s important enough to do and if you have the time to do it.

There’s only so much you can do. So the next time the director comes into the office and suggests you take on another five hours teaching you know what to say.

  • Be polite
  • Explain why you feel unable to accept their kind offer of more work
  • Suggest an alternative
  • If you really can’t say ‘no’, ask what projects you should stop doing in order to find the time for the new one.

There’s lots of online advice on saying no,9171,1597505,00.html

William Ury, author of the book ‘The Power of a Positive No’ (mentioned in the Time article) has his own website – He offers a free tip sheet on saying no –

Do you find it difficult to say no? Please leave your comments.