Wellbeing at Avanade: Knowing when to say "no"
- Posted on September 6, 2022
- Estimated reading time 3 minutes
“Jeremy, slow down, there is no way you can sign up for everything!” This frequent refrain from my ninth-grade guidance counselor have stuck with me to this day, but they’ve never truly slowed me down. From the start of my childhood, until I graduated high school, I attended seven different schools (three different high schools alone). Whenever I would join a new school, I could not wait for the career fair, where I knew I would have the opportunity to sign up for as many organizations as I could. I often would be a part of a sport every season, student council, art club, drama club, etc. This was my “secret” technique to not only gain new skills but meet new people as well.
My inner socialite never slowed down and continued these behaviors into college, where I joined the basketball team, student government association, speech and debate team, fraternity, and many other student organizations all at the same time. Although I did meet my goals of learning new skills, meeting new people from across the world, and opening my horizons to new opportunities, I was often stretched very thin and by my senior year, felt overwhelmed. That’s when my father gave me a bit of very valuable advice: “You can be a jack of all trades or a master of none.” As I thought about those words of wisdom, I began to scale back on the many extracurricular activities I was a part of and focused on the one singular task of graduating, which I was able to successfully accomplish then began my career at Avanade.
The background I have described above shows how and somewhat why I ended up feeling burnout two years ago in the middle of the pandemic. Prior to my current role, I was a part of our consulting practice for seven years as a business analyst, working across a wide range of roles from QA tester to project manager. A part of my personal brand is being a Swiss army knife type of team member who is ready to plug and play at a moment’s notice. At the same time, there is a strategic balance and method to “saying yes” once you are in your career. Take on too much, and you risk the quality of your work suffering. Alarmingly, I saw my performance at work and my fervor for the work dwindle day by day.
As consultants, we are used to working remotely, mostly on Fridays when not traveling, but I personally was not prepared to handle how big a shift that would become for me. I was in client calls virtually all day, and when I added the “plus one” activities I was involved in, my days became very long. To make matters worse, I was planning a wedding and dealing with the outside world. The societal impacts of George Floyd’s murder seemed to stir the soul of nearly every American, particularly African Americans. To say the least, it was an extremely taxing time for me, and I had to learn to say no, so that I could say yes to more. Thus, the process to purge and streamline (our favorite word as consultants) my efforts began.
In addition to my father’s words of wisdom, I remembered advice my mother gave me as well: “No one man is an island.” So, from these pieces of advice I began to communicate with my team lead to ensure I did not have to be in every meeting. I was even contacted by HR because I had an extraordinary amount of PTO hours that if I did not use, I would lose. I always felt that my commitment to my work was more important than anything; but that is just not true.
I did three key things to manage my stress and workload; first was to clearly communicate needs and boundaries. Second, be clear on what is truly urgent. Like good product management, we must prioritize our tasks and commitments to gain the best outcome. And third, make your sure your “no” is confident and backed with plan. For my wedding week, I took two whole weeks off, which I had never done in my career. I felt terrible doing so, but also, I provided a plan while I was away so that my team would be fine and they indeed everything went well. One of the reasons I have stayed at Avanade is my amazing project team, who is understanding and super supportive.
I always say, people power is what has kept me and will keep me here at Avanade. The way we lean in to truly listen to each other and show kindness. The empathy shown to me has helped and supported me through my challenges, and I feel safe and comfortable in a culture that I know values my personal well-being. Platforms such as this blog post you are reading have provided me with the opportunity to know that I am not alone and that we must take care of ourselves, first by understanding when and how to “say no” and to keep all communication lines open. Thank you, Avanade.