The “Yes” trap

How often have you been asked a question like “Can you just do x for me?” by someone senior when you are already overloaded? If you have, then you know that feeling you get, the one that’s like having voice on one shoulder telling you to say no, and a voice on the other shoulder telling you to say yes.  

Homer simpson

The little red character says, “I want to please this person,” “They’re overloaded too,” “It might count against me if I say no,” “The job needs doing,” “It’s hard to say no,” and it can be irresistible. 

The other character says “But you know quality will drop on everything if you do it,” “You already have too much on your plate,” “Everything will be late,” “You just don’t have time to do anything extra.”

So what do you do. The easy thing is to say “yes”, then accept all the pitfalls, maybe stay late or work at home in the evening. The hard thing is to do what you know is the right thing, to say “no, I’m sorry I am already maxed out”. 

Ironically if this was an agile backlog for a team, you’d have no problem in saying “no,” or perhaps, I can add this but I would have to drop that to make space for it, but when it comes to our personal work, we often don’t look after ourselves the same way we’d look after our team.

Treat your own backlog like that of an agile team. It’s okay to take on extra work as long as you drop / defer other work to make space for it.

If you’re already scrum master for one team, if you’re asked to take a second team on, you can probably do it, but quality will drop. Add a third and almost every complaint out of your mouth will start “I just don’t have time to deal with this right now.” Like all things, you can do quantity or you can do quality, but one of them has to give. Choose which version of yourself you want to face in the mirror and make your decision.

This has been a party political message on behalf of the people who hang around on your right hand shoulder telling you to do the right thing, even though it can be hard.