Many people wrongly believe that the path to success is to be the “yes, can do” person in their organizations. While that approach shows willingness to take responsibility, it has the shortcoming of getting employees spread too thin and losing focus on what will help them excel.


Instead, here are steps you can take to keep your focus and thrive.

  1. Be clear about what your hopes are for your career and which skills and abilities you need to develop to get there.
  2. Find regular opportunities to review this information with your boss.
  3. If you’re asked to take on a responsibility that’s off target for you, practice responding with “yes, and,” “saying no nicely,” and “can you help me prioritize?”


Here are some illustrations:

Your boss asks you to take on a task that’s off the mark for you, but you are the best option to handle it.

Say, “Yes, and can we review the next assignment so that I can get on track with the career growth that we discussed?”


You are being asked once again to do a task that you’ve made clear isn’t on target for you and other persons on the team could complete it but the boss just finds it easier to work with you.

Say, “I want our team to excel and appreciate you considering me as a go to person. As we have discussed, one of the ways in which I can be more helpful now and in the future is to focus on the types of assignments that we discussed. I’m concerned that taking up this job will stymie those efforts. Can I work with you to support another employee picking up responsibility for this task?


You feel boxed in because your organization doesn’t have other employees to turn to get a job done.

Say, “I want to do quality work that reflects well on the organization and me. If I take on this additional task, I’m concerned about impacting other key priorities and deadlines. Can we take a few minutes to review what else I have on my plate and how to prioritize the efforts? Maybe, there are some ways to redefine the scope or timing of items to find better value for the organization.


When thoughtfully presented, boundaries are good for both you and your organization. Take time to think strategically about the boundaries you set and how you communicate them so that others understand and support you.