Aug 17, 2023 | 3
Minute Read

How to Shift Your Mindset From Accommodating to Prioritizing


If you dislike conflict in the workplace, you’re not alone—- 56% of employees who experienced conflict at work reported that it led them to stress, anxiety, and depression. 40% reported being less motivated, according to Gitnux. 

One of the most common ways to mitigate conflict is to embrace an accommodating mindset, which can bring problems. A heads-down, get-it-done mentality helps keep an organization moving forward, but in the long term, it leads to burnout, exhaustion, stress, and a myriad of other issues inside the workplace. 

Part of being well-liked and seen as helpful is going out of your way to take things off the plates of others and saying yes to anything or anyone that needs it. If you’ve noticed this accommodating behavior has negatively impacted your career, consider a pivot to prioritization and pragmatism. If you change your behavior, however, you must be prepared for backlash. 

Here are three things that happen when you change your behavior and ways to prevent negative perceptions and protect your peace!


Negative Perceptions

If people are used to you saying yes, they're used to having their work supported, and they are used to depending on you to get it done. You may even pride yourself on that, and that’s okay. 

That’s why being seen as unhelpful may hurt the most — because it’s like all those brownie points you racked up don’t matter. The truth is, in business, brownie points don’t exist: metrics, KPIs, and results do. 

Your peers may be so accustomed to accommodation that any deviation from this behavior could cause confusion and frustration. While preparing for pushback is essential, remember that saying no does not mean you’re not being helpful. 


The Solution: Communicate and Delegate 

When saying no, make sure to communicate how the task at hand impacts your productivity, engagement, and mental state. Others might simply be absorbed in their own responsibilities and unthinking of the impact it has on you. By pointing it out, you can re-establish some boundaries and help them think about others and not just their needs. 

You can also offer alternative solutions rather than completing the task, like volunteering to check the work they complete instead of doing it yourself. It’s important to establish that it’s a team effort and that you’d like to focus on your part of the project and help them with theirs. 


The Topic of Office Gossip

There’s nothing worse than gossip at work — especially when you’re the topic of conversation. Most people want to feel fulfilled in their job, like they’ve made a difference, not that they need to win a popularity contest. 

When the office chatter starts, it can negatively affect self-confidence in your role, especially if you are attempting to be more direct or confident.

The Solution: Focus On Your Circle of Control

Your colleagues may see the new approach as rude or abrupt, so use adaptive language to bring them along for the journey. Be kind and respectful in your approach in your pivot, and ensure you’re sharing your why and focusing on solutions rather than problems. 

What others think about you is outside your circle of control— your choice of words, communication approach, and response to criticism are within your control. If you’re curious to learn more about circles of control, TTI Success Insights’ President, Ron Price, has a great book about it. 

If things are getting especially difficult, it’s always valid to consider addressing any negative gossip head-on by speaking directly with colleagues expressing the issue. This is the fastest way to clear up any misunderstandings; it can help build your reputation as someone who simply won’t let issues slide. 


Roadblocks to Advancement 

One of the hardest things about changing your approach from accommodating to pragmatic is, as we discussed, how other people will perceive you. Your leaders may view the shift from accommodating to pragmatic as an unwillingness to “go above and beyond”, perceiving you as difficult to work with or abrasive.


The Solution: Increase Transparency And Advocate For Yourself

A good way to stave off these negative perceptions is to report on what you are doing and share the effects. If you’re used to accommodating others, they might be unaware of your actual workload or unsure of exactly how much you’re doing for the team and company overall. Re-establish your prioritized duties with your boss and share that you do want to help on projects but are unable to do that alone with no support. 

You might still experience backlash from putting up these boundaries in the form of being passed up for leadership opportunities or role changes. It’s important to keep everything in perspective and remember that, for the long term, preventing burnout should be a priority. 

Promotions are not the only way to measure how far you’ve come— when you start prioritizing your role and goals and delivering results, your work will speak for itself. 


Moving Forward With Prioritization 

Overall, making the pivot from always saying “yes” to something like “let me get back to you” will always come with challenges. What’s important is how you respond to them and communicate with those people that are used to how things have been in the past. 

Personal and professional growth takes time, and the only person who will prioritize your career is you. Focus on communication, embrace your circle of control, and advocate for yourself. This work will improve your experience at work as well as your workplace culture; after all, a rising tide lifts all boats. 

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Jessica Boyle