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Why more employees need to learn to say ‘no’ this time of year

By Jack Campbell | |5 minute read

Burnout is prevalent in the modern workforce, as many are short on skilled workers while expectations remain high. As the end of the year approaches and many employers scramble to stay ahead, sometimes, simply saying “no” could help employees to avoid crashing.

“Am I the only one who is seeing a lot of really tired people attempting to get through each day without collapsing,” commented mental health expert Tracey Horton.

“We are still very much in post-pandemic crisis mode. While life has returned to normal for people, their bodies are still trying to process everything that has happened over the last few years and get back into some type of normal rhythm.”


This time of year, in particular, can be draining for many as people juggle the end-of-year work rush, social events, and family responsibilities.

“The process starts with realising you’re not alone. According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, 64 per cent of those who already struggle with their mental health say that the holidays make their conditions worse,” said Ms Horton.

“If you are like everyone else, in the last three months, your work productivity has been a huge push just to keep up, and now your social life is blowing up as summer and Christmas collide in December. You will go out to attend functions, work gatherings, social events with friends and family, but you really don’t want to. You would rather just stay at home with a glass of wine and chill on the deck or lay on the lounge and binge Netflix.”

She continued: “The important thing to remember is that you are not alone. In fact, you are the majority at the moment. So, before you collapse in front of everyone, what can you do when you are too tired to even holiday and rejuvenate yourself? There are some simple things you can do.”

So, how can people push back against these overwhelming responsibilities? Ms Horton said the first step is to “learn to say no”.

“Learning to say no is a difficult process but a very important one. You can’t expect to be a good partner and loved one for others if you don’t look after yourself,” she explained.

“If you are feeling overwhelmed or overbooked, work out which events or activities bring you joy and relaxation and which ones don’t. Be brutal, starting culling things and don’t feel guilty about it.”

Saying no doesn’t necessarily mean you’re evading any responsibility. This can be unrealistic for many, especially those who have others relying on their attentiveness. To combat this, Ms Horton outlined some approaches that can help alleviate the risk of burnout:

  • Pass the baton to someone else.
  • Schedule downtime.
  • Delegate.
  • Set realistic expectations.
  • Add supplements to your diet.



Employees experience burnout when their physical or emotional reserves are depleted. Usually, persistent tension or dissatisfaction causes this to happen. The workplace atmosphere might occasionally be the reason. Workplace stress, a lack of resources and support, and aggressive deadlines can all cause burnout.

Jack Campbell

Jack Campbell

Jack is the editor at HR Leader.