Korn Ferry Survey: Professionals More Emboldened to Say No to Projects Today Than Before the Pandemic and Intensifying Labor Shortage

Los Angeles, June 7, 2022 – A new Korn Ferry survey (NYSE: KFY) shows that while professionals feel more comfortable saying no to new projects today, a large percentage still won’t turn away extra work.

More than half of the respondents (52%) say they don’t feel comfortable turning down a project that their boss asks them to take on, even if they are too busy. However, nearly half (47%) say that if they do turn away work, they feel more comfortable doing so now than they did before the pandemic and labor shortage, and 62% say they feel more emboldened today to demand better work-life balance.

“The past couple of years have been a wakeup call. Many professionals realize that a constant focus on work at the expense of family, friends and free time can be unhealthy and counterproductive,” said Korn Ferry Senior Director and Employee Engagement Specialist Mark Royal.

And while professionals indicate they are saying no to projects more often now, nearly two-thirds of respondents (65%) say they’ve resented their boss for expecting them to take on so much work, and 37% say they have faced repercussions for turning down work projects.

“It’s incumbent upon managers to monitor the workloads of team members and to shift priorities instead of simply piling on more tasks,” said Royal.

More than half (52%) say that if they already have a full plate, they will work with their manager to put less important work on hold so they can tackle a priority project. However, nearly a third (31%) say they will keep all their tasks and work longer to accomplish everything.

“With fewer workers available, companies need to be creative about how they get things done,” said Royal. “It’s no longer OK to say, ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it.’ Managers need to ensure they have the right people, doing the right things, in the right ways.”

Nearly three-quarters (71%) of respondents say that if they were given a task that they saw as ineffective, they’d offer their boss alternatives that would yield more meaningful outcomes. More than two-thirds (67%) say that when their manager asks them to take on a project, the manager explains why it will be of benefit to the team and/or organization.

About the survey: The Korn Ferry survey of 416 professionals took place in late May 2022.

Survey results:

Do you feel comfortable turning down a project your boss asks you to take on, even if you are too busy?

Yes                                                                                                      48%

No                                                                                                       52%


If you have turned down projects, are you doing it more now than at the start of the pandemic/labor shortage?

I’m turning down more projects now                                                   47%

I turned down more projects before the pandemic/labor shortage    11%

I don’t turn down projects                                                                      42%


Do you feel more emboldened to insist on a better work life balance from your company since the U.S. labor shortage started?

Yes                                                                                                      62%

No                                                                                                       38%


Have you ever experienced repercussions for turning down a work project?

Yes                                                                                                      37%

No                                                                                                       63%


Have you ever resented your boss because he/she asked you to take too much on?

Yes                                                                                                      65%

No                                                                                                       35%


Would you feel comfortable telling your boss that a task he/she asked you to complete would not provide a meaningful outcome?

Yes                                                                                                        21%

Yes but I would offer alternatives to make it more meaningful          71%

No I would still take on the project and not say anything                   8%


Does your boss usually explain how a new task will benefit your team or organization?

Yes                                                                                                      67%

No                                                                                                       33%


If you don’t have time to take on a project, what you most likely do?

Work with my boss to put on hold less important tasks                     52%

Suggest another colleague take on the new task                                  17%

Keep all of my tasks and work longer to accomplish everything       31%


About Korn Ferry

Korn Ferry is a global organizational consulting firm. We work with our clients to design optimal organization structures, roles, and responsibilities. We help them hire the right people and advise them on how to reward and motivate their workforce while developing professionals as they navigate and advance their careers.

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Tracy Kurschner



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